Jesus left a very clear command in Matt 28 to “to go and make disciples of all nations”. It seems in the western church we have failed to do this as evidenced by the huge fall off form church during COVID.
If we look at the life of Jesus he taught many, but he only focussed on the twelve. So often in modern church we have relied on either the culture of the church, and a programmatic approach to discipleship and it has failed.
We also have probably put to much emphasis on behaviour and outcomes Leading to (sin management) rather than inner transformation. Romans 12 tells us that the transformation comes from the renewing of our mind. The need is therefore about who I am/ becoming (identity) rather than what I have or want to become (role).
We need to think again, and we need to be more hands on and more deliberate.
I also think we should to be more extensive in our focus, rather than the more historical evangelical approach of teaching of behaviours. What do I think the main elements should be.
Transparency and accountability – this I think is only overcome by one on one meetings or very small accountability groups.
We are looking for the changed inner man with certain likely outcomes perhaps we might summarise like this;
Biblically literate ( within their context)
Pure of speech.
Gal 5 Fruit of the Spirit.
Jesus gave some obvious discipleship commands which were clear and obvious
When you fast.
When you pray
When you give to the poor.
Mathew 5,6, and 7 gives the imperatives.
Perhaps what is less obvious is the discipling in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
There are two aspects to this which I want to briefly touch on today.
The formational aspects - the private spiritual disciplines where we permit God to form and shape us.
These are the disciplines of reflection, meditation, silence , solitude, listening, surrender, simplicity, journaling, the memorising of scripture, to mention a few.
They require a degree of self-control and self-examination giving God (the Holy Spirit) full permission to work in our lives.
They need to be lifelong patterns and habits, reinforced with accountability.
Out of the overflow of these we minister to others. We are full of the Holy Spirit and we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit in our lives, for example:
giving breaks the power of money,
serving breaks the lower of selfishness,
fasting breaks the power of greed, and so on.
There is a very clear move of God in the church today to rediscover these disciplines.
There is however a second aspect of this and that is ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit. and this requires other elements, prayer, listening and faith, are perhaps the most obvious ones.
Paul in 1 Cor 14 uses the phrase “eagerly desire the spiritual gifts especially the gift of prophecy”.
It is very important that we teach (disciple our people) in how to do this. At the very heart of this is teaching and modelling, is how to hear God’s voice and how to act on it appropriately and fruitfully.
On old phrase for this process is “the meeting place, is the learning place for the market place”. We practice in church so we can so we can do this stuff in everyday life to extend the Kingdom.
Now it is essential for us that we do this in the context of our kingdom theology. What do I mean by that? We are a people who should, and do expect the power of the kingdom to break in at any time. The age to come invades the present and God’s power is released.
That is when healing appears.
That is when anointing / empowering appears.
That is when deliverance appears.
The 5 step healing model, is only a model, which is based on how Jesus did it but essentially it helps us to get started.
In summary we can and must teach our people models of new behaviours but they must be undergirded by being disciples of the things of the Holy Spirit, both formational for us and extending the kingdom for the lost world.
We need to teach our people spiritual disciplines for transformation, and how to hear God and move in the power of spiritual gifts for extending the kingdom.