The day discipleship died

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by Erin Wikle –

The cat’s outta the bag. Imagine my relief, when I recently heard the following words from a reputable Salvation Army officer: “We don’t do discipleship well.” At last, an admission to an area where our Army is not doing the most good.

Surprising? Not really.

For years I’d listen with interest as high school friends and college peers would share about their small or “cell” groups. They would carry on about the availability of prayer support, the friendships that were constantly growing and strengthening, the challenges set before them through sound, biblical teaching, and the accountability with both the big and small stuff of life. I loved to listen—because both concept and practice were new to me.

I joined my first small group, led by now Cadet Jennifer Hood, during college. She saw a need: several young impressionable girls, with wavering confidence, who were all somewhat aimlessly trying to determine who they were. She met that need through authentic discipling and relationship building.

I praise God that someone did something.

To this day, Jennifer remains one of my greatest mentors whose friendship I respect and cherish tremendously. Her prayer support and concern for my spiritual well being have been critical in my development as a maturing child of God.

I don’t mean to imply that small groups are the only way to “do discipleship.” I do believe, however, that they are one of the most effective and beneficial ways to bring others deep into the kingdom of God.

Yet the question remains: why are we—those who bleed red, yellow, and blue—content to let discipleship fall to the wayside, while those who have just barely secured their salvation clamor for any understanding of the Christian life beyond the fact that Jesus saves? Programs don’t offer relief to the questioning heart—people do.

When new believers find their way into our church walls, we are quick to uproot them from their old life and implant them into whatever program we see as most suitable. While convenient and accessible, most traditional programs do not explicitly offer the rich soil that is needed for newcomers to grow roots down deep. They become deeply entrenched in the cause of The Salvation Army but fail to establish roots in the cause of holy living.

It’s not too late—discipleship is not dead.

A trusted and wise friend shared this:
Many believers in today’s church have not fully experienced the joy of following Christ, but have cut their experience short. We get saved. We move from being a carnal Christian to a sanctified believer, filled with the Holy Spirit. We grow in our prayer life. We mature in our use of spiritual gifts. But we fail to reproduce ourselves through discipleship. Discipleship should no doubt be part of the journey. Of all the flavors of small groups, Bible study is best suited for discipleship. For who are you better disciplined to follow hard after than Christ?

Good question.

We must stop teaching and preaching the Gospel of Everything Else (a watered down message—shallow over-involvement and endless commitments) and start taking the Gospel as God Intended it to Be (unadulterated truth, intentional involvement and deep relationships) with the most utmost importance. Otherwise, the intense beauty of disciple making will become no more than a wretched smudge in the eye of the Creator.

Resources: The Lost Art of Disciple Making, LeRoy Eims
Leading Life-Changing Small Groups, Bill Donahue

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