So how does one define the most important characteristics of the Christian life?
What is Christian discipleship and how does a person actually achieve it?
Is a godly life attained through the dedicated practice of on-going spiritual disciplines or is it one that is given freely by God to those who simply seek it?
Hmm. Have you ever given much thought to these types of questions?
If you hang around pastors and church leaders very long, it’s inevitable that the subject of Christian discipleship will come up…especially if you are with gut-honest men and women who will face the fact that most of our Americanized-churches today are simply not very successful in developing true disciples of Christ; followers of Jesus who are living, to the best of their ability, an authentic Christian faith we find portrayed throughout the New Testament. One well-versed pastor recently told me that he believed the American church is churning out more “spectators to the faith” as compared to actual Christ-followers. My pastor friend just might be right!
Sadly, over the last few decades, it seems that true Christian discipleship has been reduced, re-defined, and re-shaped using criteria that lies far outside the boundaries of Christ Himself. Speaking as a pastor in the American church for over thirty years, it’s my humble opinion that a good portion of those who call themselves Christians today, are defining that term using components that are quite foreign to what the New Testament actually teaches!
Take church attendance, for example.
It was Billy Sunday, the great evangelist from the earliest part of the 20th century, who once quipped, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going into a garage makes you an automobile!” Too bad more of us Americanized-Christians didn’t listen a bit better to Billy back in the day.
Throughout my 30 years in pastoral ministry, hardly a month or two will go by when I don’t find myself sitting with some well-meaning parishioner who is struggling with life and wanting so badly to get things back on track again. In almost every situation, the person I am with is a semi-regular attender on Sunday mornings, and rarely, if ever, attends any discipleship-building opportunities our church offers on a regular basis. So very often, as our little prayer time comes to an end, it’s so common to see the person open their eyes, and then with a very sheepish look on their face, say to me, “You know, pastor, I really need to get myself back to church more often!”
I smile on the outside and say, “Yes, that would be nice.” But on the inside, my gut is yelling, “You dummy, this whole thing called Christianity is about Jesus and your on-going relationship with Him, not how many times you check your coat at the door of some stupid church building!”
But kind-hearted shepherds just can’t say that kind of thing…so I generally encourage the person to keep their eyes on Jesus and come to church next Sunday, but I walk away thinking to myself, “O God, this whole concept of discipleship in America simply has to change!”
So, like it not, this new blog series of mine on Christian discipleship is my feeble attempt to initiate some of that much-needed change.
Over the next thirty-six weeks, you and I will look deeply into the characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take a journey into 3-C Christian discipleship. Please take note that I will not talk about church attendance once! But we will talk about things like being in Christ, living in and through Him, trusting Him, obeying Him, working alongside Him, and yes, even sharing Him with others.
ommunion with Christ.
ommunity with others.
ommission into our world.
I’m certain that the content of our discussions will not be comprehensive by any means, but at least it will get us started, and the conversation engaged. So if you’re ready, grab a Bible, a pad of paper, a pen, and a quiet spot on the floor where you can sit in God’s presence, pondering and praying alongside the Holy Spirit over the conversations we will have. I look forward to our time together and I invite your lively participation.
My prayer: Father God, there is nothing more important in this life than learning the fine art of discipleship in and through Jesus, the Christ. Holy Spirit, join with me, empowering my attempts in the weeks ahead to grow in faith, indwelling me for the greater glory of God. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: As I begin this journey, how might I define Christian discipleship today? What factors go into this equation? What is it that truly makes up the godly life in Christ? What areas of my life need to be addressed in the weeks ahead as I set my course toward becoming a true disciple of Jesus of Nazareth?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!