Category Archives: Discipleship

ReThinking Church And Discipleship

According to the book of Acts, Barnabas only discipled two people. A recently converted Pharisee named Saul, and a young missionary dropout named John Mark. Saul would become the Apostle Paul and write 2/3 of the New Testament. John Mark would write the Gospel of Mark. The power of Christianity is found in discipleship, not large numbers of church attendance. But you must be willing to trade the 2,000 attenders for the two disciples, and few leaders are willing to do so. 

Discipleship Quote 4

“I can find in my undergraduate classes, bright students who do not know that the stars rise and set at night, or even that the Sun is a star.” -The late Carl Sagan, astronomer

For a Christian to not understand the Kingdom of God is on the same embarrassing level as Carl Sagan’s undergraduate student who doesn’t know that the stars rise and set at night, or that the Sun is a star.  (Lesson 1, Page 13)

 

Bumper Sticker Discipleship

“In an age when facilities for rapid communication of the Gospel are available to the Church as never before, we are actually accomplishing less in winning the world for God than before the invention of the horseless carriage.” – Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism

Coleman’s observation is right on point and speaks eloquently to the contemporary Church’s fascination with social media. A fascination, I might add, that has yet to prove it’s effectiveness in furthering the Church’s mission of making disciples. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it is effective. We live in an age of bumper stickers, and I’m not referring to the ones on cars or “flower power” vans. Too “old school”! Today’s bumper stickers are digital. They’re on your computer in the form of pins and tweets and posts and a variety of other social media I won’t even pretend to understand (O.K., I admit I tried Google Calendar and gave up. I use an ol’ fashion Day Planner! Hey, when the internet goes down I’ll still know where I’m supposed to be next Tuesday!). The goal of these electronic bumper stickers is to say something pithy that will go “viral.” Significance and fame in a hashtag. Eternal truth and a following in 140 characters. From what I can see, the net effect of all this “viral” activity is that the average American under the age of 50 now has the attention span of a gnat with ADHD. I’ll be lucky if those gnats were even able to read this far. If so, congratulations. You’re either over the age of 50, not an American or have exercised the willpower to avoid becoming a gnat. And, yes, in case you missed it, digital bumper stickers have infected the Church, too. Welcome to bumper sticker discipleship in an age of Christian gnats with ADHD.
          What caught my attention and resulted in this article was a blog post which I came across several months back. Entitled “40 Lessons In Discipleship,” I was intrigued to read more. But more quickly became less. Having read the post, I went from being intrigued to being somewhat dismayed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very open and interested in people’s thoughts on discipleship. But it quickly became clear that what I was reading was not 40 lessons on discipleship. It was more like 40 personal observations on the technique and process of discipleship. And as if to make my “bumper sticker” point, and all but two of the forty observations contained a character-count made for Twitter! And therein lies the issue which bothers me.
         The American Church (and those we influence around the world) demonstrates a tendency to focus on style, technique, and process, as opposed to substance. As I have noted several times in my own writings, in the Kingdom of God, spiritual maturity is the result of spiritual truth experienced over time. The process of fostering and developing that kind of spiritual maturity is what Scripture calls “discipleship.” Biblical discipleship embodies our life-long commitment to grow spiritually and to authentically live out what we claim to believe about Jesus and the Kingdom. 
          If the author of this post had named it “40 Personal Observations On The Process Of Making Disciples” I probably would have looked at it differently. We all have thoughts and observations on topics which are important to us (my writing this article is a case-in-point). We live in a time when the Church is suffering from an appalling degree of biblical illiteracy. We know the Bible verses we were told to look up in the workbook, but not the Scriptures in their proper context. The result is a profound lack of biblical obedience. That’s what happens when we focus on technique and process, rather than on biblical substance when it comes to making disciples.
          When it comes to the issue of discipleship, the contemporary Church appears stuck between two extremes. On the one extreme, it is focused on style, technique, and process. On the other hand, the Church is focused on “knowledge,” the most common expression of this being the “discipleship in a workbook” phenomenon (see my article on “Raising The Bar Of Discipleship” for my thoughts on this phenomenon, and Pastor Derwin Gray’s article entitled “Do We Have Discipleship Wrong?”). As an organic Church called to “make disciples,” we need to do better. We need to get back to making disciples the way Jesus did.

The Jesus Virus

Welcome to the Discipleship Minute. I’m Maurice Smith. Many discipleship truths cannot be taught. They have to be caught. They have to be personally experienced before they can be fully understood. In the Kingdom of God, spiritual growth and maturity are the result of truth experienced over time. Too much discipleship in our Evangelical churches comes from books and classrooms, rather than “journeys of necessity” with Jesus through the Samarias of our world. Truths have been taught, but not caught. In Samaria disciples of the Kingdom get permanently infected with the Jesus virus and are transformed until they look, think and sound like Jesus. Have you caught the Jesus virus? Learn more in our book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Studies In Discipleship And The Kingdom of God. You’ll find it on our website at risingrivermedia.org; that’s risingrivermedia.org.(From And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom, Volume 1, page 76)
© Copyright Rising River Media
Audio Production by Vexing Media
Available as a subscription on iTunes

Reflection Or Resolution

Welcome to the Discipleship Minute. I’m Maurice Smith. Ever wonder what happened to Nicodemus after his encounter with Jesus in John Chapter 3? In twenty-one short verses it’s over, and we’re left wondering. Did Nicodemus “believe” in Jesus? Was he “born again”? Did he ever become a disciple of Jesus? Nicodemus disappears from the biblical record, leaving us to wonder and reflect. And that’s the point. You and I want resolution. Jesus wants reflection. In the Kingdom of God, discipleship means asking questions of ourselves and of Jesus, and allowing His truth to reshape our spiritual lives around the answers we discover. We must wrestle, reflect and believe. Discover more in our book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Studies In Discipleship And The Kingdom of God. You’ll find it on our website at risingrivermedia.org; that’s risingrivermedia.org.
(From And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom, Volume 1, page 76)
© Copyright Rising River Media
Audio Production by Vexing Media
Available as a subscription on iTunes

Made Or Born

Welcome to the Discipleship Minute. I’m Maurice Smith. A popular book on discipleship declares that “disciples are made, not born.” It’s one of those statements which is both true and false. It’s true in the sense that genuine discipleship takes work. Discipleship doesn’t take place in the absence of intentionality and commitment. In that sense, disciples ARE made. But in a strictly biblical sense, the statement is false. Disciples must, in fact, be born. Or more correctly speaking, they must be “born again.” And that’s one of the first lessons every would-be disciple of the Kingdom must grasp. Are you a disciple of the Kingdom? Have you been born again? Discover how Nicodemus learned this lesson in our book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Studies In Discipleship And The Kingdom of God. You’ll find it on our website at risingrivermedia.org; that’s risingrivermedia.org.
(From And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom, Volume 1, page 76)
© Copyright Rising River Media
Audio Production by Vexing Media
Available as a subscription on iTunes

Zeal

thediscipleshipminute_itunes

Welcome to the Discipleship Minute. I’m Maurice Smith. Are you a zealous disciple? When He cleansed the Temple of moneychangers in John Chapter 2, Jesus manifested the zeal of God for His holiness, for our unadulterated worship, and for the coming of His Kingdom. Jesus’ disciples learned a lesson that’s important for every disciple of the Kingdom. Our zeal will become our focus, and the things which excite our zeal will become the things which consume our focus. What consumes your focus? What excites your zeal? As disciples of the Kingdom, the focus of our zeal is to be God and His Kingdom. What’s yours? Learn more about Jesus’ zeal for the Kingdom in our book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Studies In Discipleship And The Kingdom of God. You’ll find it on our website at risingrivermedia.org; that’s risingrivermedia.org.
(From And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom, Volume 1, page 76)
© Copyright Rising River Media
Audio Production by Vexing Media
Available as a subscription on iTunes

Signs

thediscipleshipminute_itunes

Welcome to the Discipleship Minute. I’m Maurice Smith. God is always at work doing many things at once. That was certainly true at the Wedding in Cana where Jesus performed His first miraculous sign, turning the borrowed faith of His disciples into a faith of their own possession. Our journey of discipleship into the Kingdom of God isn’t measured by how many miraculous signs we’ve experienced, but by that one sign which illumines our heart, ignites faith to believe and transforms our borrowed faith into a personal faith. The disciples now believed in Jesus because they had witnessed His glory for themselves. And that is the beginning of genuine discipleship in the Kingdom of God. Learn more about this discipleship moment in our book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Studies In Discipleship And The Kingdom of God. You’ll find it on our website at risingrivermedia.org; that’s risingrivermedia.org.
(From And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom, Volume 1, page 71)
© Copyright Rising River Media
Audio Production by Vexing Media
Available as a subscription on iTunes

Come And See

thediscipleshipminute_itunes

Welcome to the Discipleship Minute. I’m Maurice Smith. In John Chapter 1, Jesus demonstrated a simple discipleship principle. He invited two of John’s disciples to “Come and see.” It was a simple invitation to spend time together and explore the Kingdom of God. Maybe our reluctance to invite unbelievers to spend time together reflects a lack of depth and confidence in our own walk of faith and discipleship. “Come and see” may not have the ring of a sinner’s prayer, but it may be more honest and genuine for everyone involved. It’s how a borrowed faith, or even a curious faith, grows into a genuine faith. It’s how many journeys of discipleship begin. Learn more about how Jesus made disciples in our book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Studies In Discipleship And The Kingdom of God. You’ll find it on our website at risingrivermedia.org; that’s risingrivermedia.org.
(From And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom, Volume 1, page 66)
© Copyright Rising River Media
Audio Production by Vexing Media
Available as a subscription on iTunes

A Borrowed Faith

thediscipleshipminute_itunes

Welcome to the Discipleship Minute. I’m Maurice Smith. In John Chapter 1, five young men from Galilee began their journey of discipleship with a faith in Jesus borrowed from John the Baptizer. And a borrowed faith can only take us so far. Every journey of discipleship in the Kingdom of God is a journey of faith which each of us must take for ourselves. Others can help. But no one can believe for us. Like children borrowing a parents’ faith, the day eventually comes when the faith of the parent must become the faith of the child’s own possession, or they will discard it along with other borrowed things in their life. Are you living on a borrowed faith? Learn more in our book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Studies In Discipleship And The Kingdom of God. You’ll find it on our website at risingrivermedia.org; that’s risingrivermedia.org.
(From And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom, Volume 1, page 66)
© Copyright Rising River Media
Audio Production by Vexing Media
Available as a subscription on iTunes