The Church's Great Omission: The Pattern of Discipleship, Part 2 (Philippians Sermon 17 of 24)
February 22, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Marks and Purposes, Means of Grace Within the Church
I. Introduction: The Quiet Beginnings of the Mighty Church
We are focusing today on Philippians 3:17 and we're looking at a pattern of discipleship for the second week, "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Philippians 3:17, partner verse is Philippians 4:9, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice, and the God of peace will be with you." If you were to trace the mighty Mississippi River back to its origin, you would find it begins as a trickle flowing out of Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota. From there, the river grows and flows 2,348 miles until it dumps into the Gulf of Mexico below New Orleans.
Millions, and millions, and millions of gallons of water. The Mississippi River drains 33 states, its watershed covers one half our nation. Fosters cities, commerce, transports people and goods, provides habitat for fish and all kinds of animals, and it's an immense thing created by God. And it all starts with a tiny little trickle up there at Lake Itasca. I've never seen that trickle, I'd like to go and visit it someday. But if in like manner, you were to trace the human origins, human origins now, of the mighty river which is the Church of Jesus Christ. It began one afternoon around the time of the Ministry of John the Baptist, this mighty thing called the Church of Jesus Christ, which has already spread to almost every tribe, and language, and people, and nation, began in an afternoon.
It was an exciting time at that point. The Ministry of John the Baptist was really taking off and there were Jews coming from all over the nation, coming there to hear this wild man preach, to look at him and to be baptized. What a strange thing that John would be baptizing Jews. That was an initiation rite for us dirty pagans. As gentiles, if we wanted to become Jews, we would be washed and cleansed of all our pagan idolatries. But John was baptizing Jews, and so there were huge throngs coming to hear, and preach, and to see the baptism of repentance for sins. One day at a small place called Bethany beyond the Jordan, a day like any other during that time in Israel's history, an obscure man stood in front of John, and if you had been near John and knew him well enough, you would have noticed an incredible change in his demeanor.
John looked perhaps stunned or overwhelmed, amazed as this unknown man stood in front of him. And perhaps only a few people around John heard the change in his tone of voice, a sense of wonder and awe, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" And the response by this obscure stranger would have been incomprehensible, "Let it be so now… we must fulfill all righteousness." That would have gone over your head. You would have said, "What are they talking about?" And then like everybody else, the obscure stranger submitted to baptism. And the next day the Church began. Jesus was just walking along and John saw Him, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God." That's all. And two of John's disciples, his daily followers that John was teaching at that point, heard him say it, and they followed Jesus.
Jesus turned around and saw them following and asked them a question. Jesus is always asking questions, one thing you learn about Jesus, He's always asking questions, and here He asked them a question, "What do you want?" And they said, "Rabbi," which means teacher, "Where are you staying?" "Come," He replied, "and you will see." And so those two disciples went and they saw where He was staying, and they spent that day with Him. It was about the 10th hour, now the Jewish clock begins at six in the morning so that would be about four in the afternoon by my understanding. About four in afternoon, they went and spent some time with Jesus. That's how it started.
This is the quiet beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church that would spread from shore to shore began with what the British would call "an afternoon tea." A little time with Jesus spent wherever it was He was staying. And now it's spread from shore to shore, to almost every tribe, and language, and people, and nation. And it began with a simple concept, discipleship focused on time spent with Jesus. And Jesus in the end would call to Himself 12 who He named apostles, and He would pour Himself into those men, especially three in particular, and He would build a church on that. And He would command them to follow His same pattern of discipleship to the ends of the Earth.
Now, I believe that the Apostle Paul was following that pattern. I believe he was calling others to, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." Kind of do ministry the way Jesus did. "That's what I'm doing," the Apostle Paul would say. To some degree, we've come at this topic backwards. Logically we would really begin with Christ's pattern of discipleship, and then we'd go to Paul's, but I thought it'd be better to start with Paul because we're following him in Philippians. And we've seen that Paul said in Verse 17:3, "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." And Verse 9:4 again, "Whatever you have learned, or received, or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you." Last week from this, we saw two aspects of discipleship, a pattern of doctrine resulting in a pattern of Godly living. Doctrine, transforming life, and the two of them indispensable. Not just doctrine, not just lifestyle, but doctrine resulting in lifestyle, the two of them together, a pattern of discipleship. This we saw was supported by many scriptures.
1 Corinthians 11:1, I've already alluded to several times this morning, "Join with others," he says there, "Be imitators of me just as I also am of Christ. I'm following Christ, you follow me." We saw also last week in 2 Thessalonians 3:6 and following, "Now we command you brethren in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you receive from us," very strong word. Just like we have in Philippians 3:17, the tupos, the type, the pattern of life in Philippians 3:17, we have what was passed on, the tradition of life as we talked about in 2 Thessalonians 3. And then, 1 Corinthians 4:15 through 17. Again, from last week, "Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ," said Paul to the Corinthians, "you do not have many fathers. For in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you to imitate me. For this reason, I'm sending you Timothy, my son whom I love who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus which agrees with what I teach in every church."
The pattern of doctrine resulting in a lifestyle. And he said, "I'm sending you Timothy because he kind of knows what I do. He's my son in the faith. And so he imitates me very well, and so he'll help you imitate me as well."
Now, I talked to you last week about how audacious all of this is, that any sinner, any human being would stand up and say, "Follow me and God will be with you." But I think this is exactly what our church needs. This is exactly what not just this local church, but the church in America needs, is men and women who are willing to say the same thing. Not just with their mouths, but with their lives. There is such a great divide I think in the American church between doctrine and living. We believe a bunch of things and we have a hard time living them out. And I think that God's answer is discipleship. It's bringing the two together so that doctrine results in transformed lifestyle. And I think there are some things that you really can't learn from a book. I think you just learn them by living them. You learn them by seeing it exemplified by having somebody with the courage to say, "Follow me and I'll show you how to do that." And I think we need that in our church.
II. Christ’s Pattern of Discipleship
Now, this is all review, Paul's pattern of discipleship. This morning, I want to spend time on Christ's pattern of discipleship. In John 13:15, Jesus said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." Now, there he's talking about the foot washing, but I think it's not a stretch to say that this was intended in many more areas than just foot washing. He intended to give us an example. We know this, definitely in 1 Peter 2 in which he intended to give us an example of how to suffer in a Godly manner. And so also, I think he came to give us an example of how to build a church. "You build a church the way I have." Well, how did Jesus build the church? Well, that is the central question the two books that have changed my life sought to answer. One of them this AB Bruce's book, "The Training of the Twelve." Now, Bruce's book, "The Training of the Twelve" is about 100 years old, his son FF Bruce, the great commentator on scripture well known to many, but it was his father who wrote this book and basically, all he's doing is just a New Testament study on how Jesus discipled the 12. And he just goes through the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and just puts it together in how Jesus shaped and molded the 12.
The cover art from the book is on the cover of your bulletin. I've used it one other time before, but I love it. I've never forgotten it. It's the master's hands shaping the clay on the wheel, and how Jesus was just using every interaction to just shape the lives of the 12, shaping their lives, preparing them for what was to come. A wedding together of incredible doctrine with perfect example, and Jesus just shaping them at every moment, preparing for what was to come. And that affected my life greatly, The Training of the Twelve. But even more I think in a clear way is Robert Coleman's book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, first published in 1963. And I'd just like to give you kind of a summary of the eight steps that he notices in Christ's pattern of discipleship. You really should read the book. You could read it in about two hours or less. It's a very short book, and brief, and to the point. In it, he looks at eight things that Jesus did, eight steps, which together I think formulate his pattern of discipleship. Selection, that is he chose men to work with. Association, that is he spent time with them. Consecration, he totally devoted himself to them and to the Father on their behalf and expected them to devote themselves as well to him, consecration.
Impartation, he gave himself away, Christ did, gave of himself. Demonstration, that is he lived it out in front of them and did not expect them to do anything that he hadn't first displayed in his life. He lived it out by lifestyle, demonstration. Delegation, he gave them work to do, he gave them projects, sent them out to do things and then came back and assessed how it went, delegation. Supervision, he didn't just send them out and then when they came back they were on to something else, but he worked with them and trained them based on their experiences. He supervised them, he didn't just cut them free. Jesus said later, " I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." There's a sense of intense training there. And then finally, reproduction. He expected them to be fruitful and do the same thing in other people's lives which he had done in theirs. That's it quickly.
But let's look in a little more depth at each of these. First selection. Jesus' methods were not programs. It was not techniques, it was not marketing. His strategy was men. He was working with these twelve men. He was the initiator in the relationship. In Matthew 4:18 and 19 "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers. Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'"
Who initiated that? It was Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee. They followed, He initiated. At the core of this was selection. He chose them for this task. It says in John 15-16, "You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last." And so Jesus selected them. He chose them. It says in Mark 3:13 and 14, "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve, designating them to be apostles so that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach." He chose these 12 at the specific leading of His Heavenly Father. Luke tells us that He spent all night in prayer before He chose the 12.
And so He was with them all night and then He came down and those were the ones He had selected. His principles for the selection were he was looking for men who were willing to learn, who were willing to be consecrated to Him, willing to pick up their cross and follow. We'll talk more about that in a moment, but there were reasons why He chose these men. They are not the men the world would have chosen. You're not going to choose these 12. But Jesus works in a different way than we do. God's ways are not our ways and neither are Jesus' ways our ways. And so he chose these men.
Now, this is where I think the church needs to be like Jesus. Jesus always was ministering to the masses. But his strategy for the world was this; the 12 apostles, and specifically within them three, Peter, John and James that he worked with especially and poured himself into. They were with him in Gethsemane, they were with him on the Mount of Transfiguration. They were with him when Jairus' daughter was raised, the three in particular. So there were kind of concentric circles in Jesus' ministry. Pouring himself into the three, a little less so but still intensively into the 12 and then the disciples that were kind of following him consistently and then the multitudes or the crowds around.
And Coleman puts it this way. He says, "I'm not in any way dismissing the mass evangelistic rally," which is so popular and is kind of the strategy, I guess, of some for reaching the world. We need a set piece room were people come in and listen, get the thing and go out and then you bring in the next group. And this is not God's way. This is one that wasn't Paul's way and it wasn't Christ's. Instead there was the multiplication approach that he sought to use.
Coleman said this, "This is where we must begin just like Jesus. It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first. But the end result will be glorious," listen, "even if we don't live to see it." We're in such a rush aren't we? We want it now, we want to see results immediately. Jesus was going after quality and then quantity. Did he care about quantity? Of course he did. Every tribe, and language, and people, and nation would be represented ultimately by a multitude that no one could count. But his approach was quality first. He was building into these key folks.
Secondly, association. The basic concept here is pretty simple. He stayed with them, he spent time with them and did it constantly. We've already seen this in John 1, the whole thing began with an afternoon with Jesus. We've seen it also in a verse I just quoted but moved through quickly, but take a minute and listen to it again. In Mark 3:13-14, "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve, designated them apostles," listen, "that they might be with him." Secondly, "and that he might send them out to preach." There's a definite order there. First they're going to be with him, and then they're going to go out to preach. They're going to just spend time with Jesus and you're going to see this in Acts when Peter and John are there so bold and courageous. The Sanhedrin looks down and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Their lives had been shaped and molded for three years by the master and they were ready now for their preaching ministry.
We were talking recently about the prices of various seminaries. And one of the wonderful things about being a Southern Baptist is that the cooperative program greatly reduces the cost of going to seminary. Very difficult to get out of seminary with a big debt. Because for the most part you won't and shouldn't be making tons of money in the ministry. And so as a result, to have a huge educational debt is a big problem. We were talking about this topic of how much seminaries cost and the encouragement of cooperative program. And we got to talking about the cost of Jesus' seminary. What was the cost of three years with Jesus?
Well, in one sense it was free. He didn't charge anything. But in another sense he said, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." You want to follow me, you want me to disciple you, you may not know when you'll eat next actually. You know any time I can turn the stones into bread but I'm not actually going to do that frequently. I'll feed the 5,000, you'll have plenty to eat that day. But maybe a few days later you'll be walking through the grain fields and picking heads of grain and eating them because you haven't had anything in a while.
And you may not know where you're going to sleep tonight because you're going to be maybe out in the stars with a rock for your pillow. That's the price tag of enrolling in Jesus' seminary. And more than that, he's going to break you down, he's going to bring you lower than you've ever been in your life. Think about Peter after he had denied knowing Christ. The lowest point of his life. And then he's going to build you back up again and use you like you could never imagine that we would. That was the price. I think it was the cheapest and most expensive seminary in history. The cost of following Jesus. And Jesus spent time with them, he taught them constantly. His lessons were woven together in a way of life. I mean, they'd be walking through the fields and he'd say, "Consider the lilies of the field... Look at the birds of the air." They were out there all the time. He spent time with them.
And all the more as the time drew near for Him to die, He actually kind of closed up shop on the masses and withdrew from them and spent intense time with these 12. In John 11:54 it says, "Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews, instead He withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim where He stayed with his disciples." So there He is, kind of withdrawing, on retreat, as it were, and really pouring Himself into these 12. John 13 through 17 is Jesus' private ministry to His own disciples. He washes their feet. He instructs them about love, and the Holy Spirit, and suffering, and the persecutions that are going to come. And then He prays for them in a lavish and loving way, intensely pouring out prayer, not just for them, but for the world that will hear through their ministry. Pouring Himself out on them.
Thirdly, consecration. Jesus required total obedience. He gave himself fully to them and expected them also to give themselves fully to Him. Jesus, it says in Hebrews in a very mysterious way, learned obedience from what He suffered. Well, they watched that. They watched him suffering in order to obey. And so he expected them to do the same. "If you're not willing to take up your cross and follow", said Jesus, "you are not worthy to be my disciple." They understood completely what this meant, a consecration to the task. Coleman put it this way:
"We must learn this lesson again today. There can be no dilly-dallying around with the commands of Jesus Christ. We are engaged in a warfare, the issues of which are life and death. There could be no insubordination in his command. No one knew better than Jesus that the satanic forces of darkness against them were well organized and equipped to defeat any half-hearted effort of evangelization."
Satan can knock us aside if we make a half-hearted effort to reach the world for Christ. Half-hearted won't do it. And he is well equipped to knock it aside. Instead Jesus said, "We are going to pour into these 12 and get them ready for the real war that's coming."
Fourth, impartation. Christ gave himself away to his disciples. He gave himself totally. I think of Jesus at the cross, you know that this week the movie "The Passion" is coming out and a number of folks are going to see it. But if you were to see that image, whether you see the movie or not is not important, it's still the Scripture that converts, not a movie. Keep that in mind. But at any rate, there is going to be a depiction of Christ when you read the Scripture. Now, when you think about that, think about Jesus dead on the cross and ask, "What more could he have given for his disciples? Was there anything left?" I mean, they already gambled away his clothing in fulfillment of Scripture. There was nothing left, he had given everything he had, and that principle was there throughout his ministry. What I have, I give to you, for your benefit. He imparted himself to them. And then all the more after his resurrection when he breathe on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." He gave of himself directly into their souls through the Holy Spirit. He imparted himself to them. So therefore, in effect, discipleship must be of the same type. Impartation, what I have, I give to you.
Fifth, demonstration. And this has kind of been the point as we've looked at the pattern of discipleship, we see that this is kind of a central theme here. That Jesus didn't command his disciples to do anything that he didn't display or demonstrate before them. It's interesting to know how long he is with them before he finally sends them out to preach in Matthew 10 and then in Luke 10 also. There is the ministry of the 12 going out in Matthew 10, and all the instructions there. And then in Luke 10. But he has been with them, by some calculations, at least a year, and they have seen him do many things before he sends them out. So he is demonstrating them. You see this, I think, especially with prayer, don't you? In Luke 11 it says, "One day Jesus was praying in a certain place…" And they are watching him pray, that must have been something. It must have been something to watch Jesus pray. To watch the look on his face, to watch his body language, the intensity with which he poured out his heart to God. Obviously the highest of this was Gethsemane, but Jesus prayed many times. And as a matter of fact, in some places he even says, "I'm praying for these people that are watching, so that they may know that you sent me." This kind of thing. He is praying so that they can watch him pray. He wants them to have a hunger for prayer.
And so, one time he was praying in a certain place and the disciples came and said, "Lord, teach us to pray, the way John taught his disciples." And so Jesus at that point teaches them in Luke, it's in Luke 11, the Lukan version of the Lord's Prayer, and then there is couple of parables on prayer and a bunch of other instruction. Do you see the beauty of it? There is lifestyle leading into a question in which doctrine is imparted. What a beautiful thing that is. Jesus did it all the time, but especially with soul winning. Especially with soul winning. He would go from place to place and interact with a rich young ruler and see how he would handle that. He'd interact with a Zacchaeus who was too short, and he is up in the tree, and he spent time with him, the tax collector. Or he'd interact with 10 lepers who he'd healed and then one came back, and he would interact with him. Or he'd interact with the money changers in the temple, and how he would deal with that? I mean, they saw him in a variety of settings and focused on winning souls for the Heavenly Kingdom.
I just think that evangelism isn't really ultimately taught in a classroom. You have to go out and do it. And that is why we every month make available opportunities for you to witness. I don't want you ever to say in the end, "My church didn't give me an opportunity to go out and witness." We do it every month. Every month. We even provide ever increasingly wonderful meals, although I'm not one to tell you that because I don't want you coming for the meal, but they really are good. But then you get to do the work of the Father. All right, you get to come and witness. And I just believe that there's just a beautiful dynamic of going out and having experiences and then coming back and saying, "I've got some questions." and then wanting some training out of that. And Jesus did that.
Six, delegation. He didn't just keep showing them. Ultimately he gave them work to do. It says in Luke 9:1, "When Jesus had called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases. And he sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick." So he sends them out. He sends out the 70 in Luke 10. He sends out the 12 in Mathew 10. Then at the end certainly with all the great commissions he definitely sends them out. "As the Father has sent me, even so I'm sending you." So definitely he intended them to go out. He gave them work to do. But before the final great commission there were kind of miniature commissions and work to do along the way. And it wasn't just those mission trips, but there would be little tasks or different things that he would give them to do.
Seventh was supervision. As he gave them these tasks he would keep a check on them. He constantly followed their progress. And real life situations would bring up issues that would then be discussed. Great example of this is in Mathew 17, when Jesus is up on the mountain with his inner circle of three on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, John and James. And they're coming down. So the nine other apostles are still down there waiting for them to come off the mountain. And during that time a father brings his demon-possessed son and they, the nine apostles, are not able to drive out the demon. Now this is already after he gave them authority to drive out demons and they'd returned and said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name." And they're so excited. But now, this time they just can't do it because Jesus isn't there or something.
And the father comes to Jesus as he's coming off the Mount of Transfiguration and said, "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." And then you get this from Jesus, "O unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." And he drove out the demon. Afterward the disciples came up quietly and said, "why couldn't we drive it out?" We did try. We did pray. He said, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith like a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move."
Do you see the dynamic there? The situation would never have popped up in a classroom. It was out in life. And then there was a feedback loop, and a discussion, and further training, supervision.
And then finally reproduction. Christ expected them to reproduce. What he was pouring into them, he wanted them to do for others. He wanted them to grow numerically through this kind of reproduction. This was the goal of the gospel work. And Coleman said it ultimately was the acid test of his ministry. If they didn't reproduce, the whole thing is a failure. But it's not going to be a failure. No way. In the end the spirit will guarantee that they will reproduce in this way. And it has been continuing ever since.
III. The Modern Church’s Failed Pattern of Discipleship
But for me as I look at the church, I want to assess, are we doing this? We looked at these eight patterns that Coleman gave us, and even if you don't necessarily buy all the details of Coleman's analysis, I think that these eight things were things that Jesus did. And my question is, is the modern church doing this? Now I touched on this last time. Some have noted two different approaches toward education. One of them the Greek model and the other one the Hebrew model.
I think a beautiful display of the Greek model is in Acts chapter 17 where the Apostle Paul is here to preach to the Athenians. And Acts 17:21 says this, "All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas." That's the kind of Greek style of teaching. They would sit around and discuss, and debate, and argue over the latest points of ethics, or philosophy, or morality, whatever. And they would kind of work it over and talk about it, and then they'd go home. And then they'd come back the next day and they'd do it again. And they just loved to sit around doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. That is kind of the Greek pattern. And interestingly, I think it eventually affected the universities of Europe and the American educational system. It's basically, withdraw from life, sitting in a place dedicated to the educational process and impartation of a bunch of information, sitting around listening to it, and then you'd go home and try to do it. That's kind of how it works. The Hebrew model is a little bit different. Now I have my understanding or assessment of why these are different. But listen to the Hebrew model.
I think you're going to see this most clearly in Hebrew 6... Sorry, Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7, Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7 in which parents are told to disciple their children, (parenthetically, the best discipleship in the world are Godly Christian parents working with their kids and bringing them to a full and mature faith in Christ. Nothing better than that. We'll talk more about that in a moment). But in Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7, "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts." There's content. You see it? Commandments are to be on your heart. You're to know the law of God. "These commandments are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children." That's like through repetition. That's that word sharpen. Sharpen them into your children. Impress them on your children. "Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up." Doesn't that sound like Jesus? It's just a kind of a lifestyle instruction, a weaving together of instruction with what's really going on in life.
Now my theory is that the Greeks thought that the physical world was evil and that the world of the mind was good. And so what we ought to do is get away from the physical world and kind of sit and talk about pure ideas. But the Hebrew model is that everything God made is good. We know that sin has entered the world, but it's still a good world, and we want a wisdom that's rubber-meets-the-road-ish, if that's a word. Anyway, it's just involved in life, woven together in the way you're really living. We want that kind of a wisdom. Now, let me ask you a question. As you look at the church today, which of those two models more accurately describes what we do for discipleship? I've already asked that question, and I come up with the Athenians, and not the Book of Deuteronomy.
I've come up with kind of us withdrawing from life, sitting in a kind of a dedicated room, talking about content, and then expected to go out and live it. "Do your best. Be praying for you." All right? And then hope that you'll grow. Now, I don't want to sell us short. I believe that many churches and individuals in churches have a mindset of discipleship and things go on throughout the week to that end. Believe me, I'm not minimizing the importance of good, solid teaching and doctrine. The Apostle Paul rented the lecture hall of Tyrannus, and worked and poured in doctrine. There must be there... I've nothing wrong with dedicated rooms in which doctrine is communicated, I'm just saying there's another component that I don't see and it troubles me.
And that is the role modelling woven together with life that was such a big part of what Jesus did and what Paul did. Now, I think, today in evangelical Christianity, parachurch groups do it best. Especially on the college campus. Groups like Campus Crusade for Christ, and InterVarsity, and Navigators, have a vision for discipleship. It's a little unfair because I have to say that college students have the greatest freedom and possibility in one sense to be discipled. But it's not unfair because I think that's great. Use it. Be discipled now. This is exactly the time to do it. When you have a mature mind and freedom in life to just have your life shaped and molded by a mentor.
But I just feel like the church should do it. And so I've been trying to think about that, and how it works. Trying to work it together. How is it that we can be a community of faith? And there is a community involved here. It isn't just one man discipling one younger man, and one woman discipling a younger woman, etcetera. But there is a mutual discipleship that kind of goes on all the time in the community. But, I'm arguing for a man discipling a younger man and a woman discipling a younger woman, more than it's happening. Much more than it's happening.
What's going on? Well, I think the modern lifestyle is the enemy of discipleship. We're too busy. And we're really busy people. And it's almost a mark, or a badge of, I don't know affluence or importance or something, that we're this busy. "Well, I have something on Monday night, and then something again on Tuesday night, and something... " Woah. And there's no room for this. And actually I almost got kind of a sense from some folks in the church, "Is this like another thing we're going to have to do? Kind of on top of all the other things that we're going to do?" And I'm saying, "Do you hear what's going on? What is the great commission?"
"All authority in heaven and Earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age." I want to keep on doing, through generation after generation what I've done for you 12. Teaching them, that's content. To obey, that's lifestyle. That's the great commission. And if we're too busy for that, we're too busy. We have to look again at it. So, I gave myself one more week... This wasn't originally a two part sermon, originally it was just one. But I needed more time to pray through what it is we're supposed to do.
IV. Suggesting a Remedy
And I'm not done answering the question. I'm not done thinking it through. I just see a difference between what I read in these books, especially in Scripture, and the way we're really doing discipleship here. Somebody comes to faith in Christ in our church, what do we do with them? Do we have an idea of how to work with them? Do we have an idea of how to take somebody that says, "Look, I really feel myself to be very young in the faith and I want to grow. What do I do? Do you have an answer for me?" And I'd be convicted by that kind of question. I have a kind of a jumbled answer but I want a clear answer of what it is that we're going to do.
I'm encouraged by the strong word "pattern". Join with others and follow my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern. The typos, the type that we gave you. We knew what we were doing. We weren't making it up as we went along. We understood how to disciple somebody. Five steps, I think, toward a remedy.
Step 1: Identify a Pattern of Discipleship
Step number one for the church and perhaps especially for those that are called to lead the church, is to identify this pattern. Doctrinally and lifestyle, what is the pattern of discipleship? What is a one year, two year, three year pattern that would be reasonable discipleship?
What doctrines do you need to know, in order to be mature? How do you move from milk to meat and at a certain point you'll be fully trained? Doesn't mean you know everything there is to know about Christianity, you'll never know that. The more I study the Bible, the more new things I learn. But that doesn't mean that I'm insufficiently trained in order to disciple somebody else. That's a cop-out. There comes a point which you know enough doctrine in order to mentor, to disciple somebody else. So, what is that? What is the pattern of biblical content to impart? And along with that what is the pattern of Godly character and lifestyle that goes with that?
In five sub-areas that I've got. Godly personal habits, that is Bible intake, memorization, meditation, consistent prayer, fasting, active church life, family devotions, these kind of things. These are the spiritual disciplines that are foundational. A well ordered lifestyle, discipline in sleep, and eating, and lawful pleasures, good ordered home, discipline in speech, faithfully working at your job, these kinds of things, put order to the life, putting sin to death by the Spirit, a regular pattern of facing temptations and seeing victory over that by the power of the Spirit, putting sin to death, an active ministry in which you're using your spiritual gift finding a place of service and using it, in the context of ministering to the body. Passion for missions and evangelism, all that active ministry, and then stewardship. Time, money, relationships, the stuff of life using it like a steward. Those are the kind of five areas I thought that would go into the lifestyle. If you can think of more, come and tell me. I'm learning more and more, but these are the kinds of things we'd want to kind of figure out, when is a person fully trained, so that they understand these things and they're kind of in their lives? So step one identify a pattern of discipleships,
Step 2: Assess yourself
Step two, assess yourself. It says in Romans 12:3 that we should think of ourselves neither too highly nor too lowly but with the measure of faith that the spirit gives. And so you have to assess yourself. Assess yourself, "Do I need to be mentored, or am I really ready actually to be mentored?" Not, "Am I... " or to be a mentor. "Am I perfect?" That's not the question. We already answered that in Philippians 3 earlier. No, you're not. As long as you're here on Earth you're not completed, you're not perfect. We're not looking for perfect people. We're looking for people who are willing to step forward and say, "Follow me as I follow Christ." If on the other hand, you say, "Really I am not, as I look at these areas, there's some disorder or disarray and I'm not ready. I need actually to be trained."
Step 3: Choose someone
Step three is to choose somebody. Pray that God would give you somebody that you could mentor or disciple if you're ready. And if not, then come to us, come to me or some of the other leadership in the church and say, "I want to be trained. Is there somebody who can do that for me?" Or if you know somebody, come and ask them if they would be willing to do it.
Step 4: Set up the relationship
Set up the relationship. Step four, either be discipled, or disciple someone, for a set amount of time. That's so important. I know that we could go on and on and on, and we should go on and on in friendship, but in terms of intensively meeting and training, Jesus did it for three years. And then they were ready. And then continue to meet.
Step 5: Follow Christ’s pattern
And then step five, follow Christ's pattern as set out in Robert Coleman's book. Or if you've got another approach use it, but understand what you're trying to do. The goal is spiritual multiplication. I want to close with a couple of insights. I don't believe that anything in this area is going to change unless we're willing to make some sacrifices. I think we're going to bump into reality. We're going to say, "I'm too busy for this, I can't do anything like this, etcetera." We're going to keep going on. I think instead we have to start thinking strategically. We have to say, "Okay, I'm going to go to that conference, is there somebody I can bring with me?" All right? "I'm going to go out witnessing on Sunday afternoon, I'm planning on being there. I'm going to call somebody and bring them along." Now, the somebody, somebody, somebody, after a while I think for strategic sense should be the same person, the somebody you're focusing on. You see?
But I'm just saying you're laying somebody's life on top of your life. Instead of adding another thing to your life, you're going to make an extra phone call and pick somebody up and go with them. If you have a day full of errands and you know that there's single guy or girl that's got a little freedom on Saturday, you invite them over and say, "Be part of my family. Be part of my thing while I do... Let's work together. Let's spend some time together." Use the present church activities. We're not... Believe me, we're not trying to increase. We don't want to look like the federal government, folks, and we're not always looking, adding more ministries, more subcommittees and all that. That is not where we're heading. Actually praying the opposite direction, trying to simplify so we can do these kinds of things. Hard to do. Hard to do, but that's what we're trying to do. So use church activities. If you're a busy family... Look, I've got four kids growing up in my home. We are busy. We are. We're probably kind of at peak busy-ness right now in my life, is my guess.
All right, does that mean I cannot disciple? No, it doesn't. But what it it means is that we have to be strategic about that and have people into the home, so that they can observe the way that we do family life, let's say. I mean, how valuable would it be, for a godly couple that's got kids growing up, etcetera, to take a newlywed couple and say, "Be with us for awhile. Let's do family life together, so that you can see how we do it."? Would that not be valuable? I mean it's so much better than reading it in a book. Senior adults have as much flexibility, if not more in some cases, than college students. We really do need godly seniors to say, "You know, follow me as I follow Christ", and to spend time with a specific individual, passing on a pattern of discipleship to them.
Now we have some good ministries in our church right now. Heart to Heart started a few years ago as a mentoring ministry, and I think it's doing a wonderful job. I know it could be better, because I know that some of the women set up their meetings but never meet, actually. Well, that won't help, obviously. I don't mean to say that un-gracelessly, but to set up a relationship and you never get together will not accomplish anything. All right, neither will it accomplish as much as if you get together and are just friends together and don't talk about spiritual content. So you don't have a pattern of doctrine and a pattern of godly lifestyle. There's got to be, you know, up at a higher level I think there in some of the relationships. But the men don't even have the organized ministry set up, and that's something we're praying toward, and something we very much would like to see.
I would like to close by just asking that you pray with me for further wisdom in this matter. I mean, I want our church to make disciples, disciples that will last, fruit that will last. If you are here today and you're listening to me talking about this and you realize that it's not a matter of discipleship for you, you're not a follower of Christ, you've never come to faith in Christ. Won't you trust in Christ today? Won't you believe in him for your salvation? Say, "I need to follow Jesus Christ just for salvation." Come and talk...