Before we disciple, we must be a disciple, from “Embodying Our Faith”

As we have discussed, one of the church’s responsibilities is discipleship; and that discipleship in the 21st century looks differently than it had in previous generations. Before we learn these new approaches, we must first remember that we, too, are disciples; and therefore we must assess and constantly seek to improve our own spiritual formation.

The first step is looking at the mixture of church and discipleship with the right attitude. We can be rightly apprehensive about integrating evangelism and discipleship into the fabric of our regular church life. For generations, we have looked at church as a place where we seek refuge. As Tim Morey states, “Ministry is messy, evangelism is painful and, as the disciples discovered, living out the mission of God can lead to major headaches.”[1] But Morey explains that it is in the midst of this messiness in which we find our true spiritual fulfillment.

“God works in conjunction with our actions, working change in our character through his grace. As a result, our action makes a tremendous difference in the way we grow as Christians.”[2]

So how do we go about in further developing our faith? Morey uses a study by Dallas Willard, philosophy professor at University of Southern California, which helps teach the elements necessary for spiritual change to occur. Willard describes this as the ‘reliable pattern’ of personal transformation. “[A] person must have a vision for what he or she can become, the intention to work toward the accomplishment of this vision and the means to fulfill that vision…the church must foster all three of these elements in order to help its people toward genuine transformation.”[3]

At some point, we should stop and gauge how well this model of transformation is working. But how? Is it based on the amount of prayer and Bible study we have ‘clocked?’ Is it based on our church attendance? The answer lies in our increased Christ-likeness. “It is in our ordinary, everyday behavior that we will see whether or not the disciplines are having an effect on us.”[4]

As we began by assessing the right attitudes of mixing the refuge of church with the messiness of disciplemaking, we must also remember to have the right attitude once we are ready to embark on the disciplemaking process itself. We, the church, are prone to developing formulaic plans for growth, overemphasizing information and trying to micromanage our disciple makers. To make disciples out of postmodern people, Morey suggests we relate to them with the following attitudes, or posture: by serving in authenticity and humility; becoming listeners; being storytellers; making room for the mysteries of God; making an ally of pop culture; embracing the mystical elements of faith; and avoiding a shrunken gospel.

Morey concludes that for an embodied apologetic to be effective, it can’t be a once-in-a-while approach. It must be woven into the fabric of the church culture.

[1] Tim Morey, Embodying Our Faith: Becoming a Living, Sharing, Practicing Church (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books) 103.

[2] Ibid. 105.

[3] Ibid. 105.

[4] Ibid. 114.

4 thoughts on “Before we disciple, we must be a disciple, from “Embodying Our Faith”

  1. Pingback: Compassion as an apologetic | A Closer Look

  2. Pingback: On being a disciple maker | A Closer Look

  3. Pingback: Missional Disciplemaking – Apprenticeship | Abnormal Anabaptist

  4. Pingback: Missional Disciplemaking – Apprenticeship | MennoNerds

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