WHAT’S HAPPENED TO BIBLICAL DISCIPLESHIP?
By NCMM | Published: AUGUST 15, 2010
As go the men, so go the marriages, families, churches, communities and culture. Today these institutions are in crisis because men are in crisis. Men are largely disengaged, unchallenged, under-led, discouraged, and disconnected. Often there seems little difference between the lives Christian and non-Christian men live. Why do so many men in the church go through the motions of Christianity?
First, many men are nominal, superficial Christians not knowing what they believe and why. This is a consequence of biblical illiteracy. And the second reason flows from the first; very few men have been biblically discipled.
Biblical illiteracy is rampant in the culture and in the church. For many men being Christian is less a matter of learning than a matter of cultivating personal experiences and relying on sin management, therapeutic techniques and syncretism, which blindly borrows from non-biblical belief systems.
Churches today have access to more men’s discipleship materials, programs and courses than ever before. With that kind of arsenal one would expect to see Christian men as a countercultural force and radical non-conformists who make Jesus Christ an unavoidable issue. This is not the case!
Researcher and pollster George Barna notes that most men say their church does little to help them grow as a true disciple. In random, national surveys of Christian men, Barna finds that when asked to name their most important life goal, not a single man said it was to be a committed disciple of Christ, or to make disciples. So what’s going on? Biblical discipleship is absent or superficial because it lacks priority and heart motivation.
The Greek word for disciple primarily means being, not a follower, but a learner. In biblical times a man would attach himself to a teacher, listen to him, and walk with him. As a result of this personal real-life training, the disciple would take on the characteristics of his teacher. This is exactly what happened to Jesus’ disciples. This is what men growing in Christlikeness look like — reflecting His character, conduct and commitments. Jesus’ disciples did not learn a philosophy, principles, techniques, or methods for better living but a lifestyle of love, truth and abandonment to God.
Men often look for a set of orders for good behavior but Christ doesn’t offer lists of do’s and don’ts but real freedom to be who we already are in Christ. One of a pastor’s primary responsibilities is to disciple men, who in turn disciple their families and other men. But few pastors see men as foundational. Many are MIA because they themselves were never discipled.
The Great Commandment Precedes the Great Commission
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus gave his men their Great Commission in life, “…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”
This Great Commission is preceded by the Great Commandment – ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). The simple fact is you can’t effectively disciple your family or another man if your own heart is not already being transformed and entranced by God. We pursue the Great Commission not because we have to but because we want to. Whether it’s evangelism, discipleship, prayer or everything else, your heart has to be in it. It’s like the husband who’s asked why he loves his wife so passionately and makes so much of her and he responds “I can’t help myself.” God lovers can’t help but make much of him and in so doing are fruitful doers of the things of God. Get aligned with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission follows.
So What Can You Do?
The Centrality of the Cross
Understand how and why God saves sinners. Grasping how bad the bad news is makes one appreciate and savor the Good News. Do an in-depth study of the depth of sin and what Jesus did on the cross. Read John Stott’s book The Cross of Christ.
Examine Your Heart
Where is your satisfaction, your treasure, your delight and your confidence? Is it Christ or someone or something else? Contemplate the First Commandment, consider what idols you may be pursuing and embrace the sufficiency of Christ. Read Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods.
Talk to Your [SPIRITUAL MENTOR] Pastor
If he’s not leading his men, get a group of like-hearted men who want to be fed and led and meet with your pastor and ask him to invest himself in his men. Read and then give him a copy of Pat Morley’s book Pastoring Men.
Only 9% of professing Christians has a Christian worldview. Yet the Gospel informs every aspect of life. Know how your faith is to interact with culture and learn how to discern pernicious lies. Do The Truth Project DVD-study by Focus on the Family.
A Discipling Community
There’s no quick easy path or cookie cutter to discipleship. Discipleship can’t be done alone or in a vacuum because it’s about relationships and must be part of a community of intergenerational men. Robert Lewis’ Men’s Fraternity offers a three year journey into biblical manhood which provides the teaching and the masculine context for biblical discipleship.
Min. Frank Coleman