I guess we’ve all heard that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time and a quick look on the internet still seems to bear that out, but that begs a question from me.
Is it the best read book of all time?
I ask this after just starting to read an interview someone did with an author who just wrote another book for beginners on discipleship. Now, I’m not against offering help to those who are growing in Christ. The church needs to be doing that well and better and more. I’m just wondering why publishers are asking authors to write these ‘how to’ books (as seems to be the case with regard to the review I was just reading) to the extent that they do. It just doesn’t seem like there’s anything new in what’s being offered. Do we really need another ‘how to’ book on discipleship?
- Is the church failing to make disciples, and if so, why?
- What is it that all these big and small churches are doing each week, if not making disciples?
- What am I doing each week?
I’m going to offer a very narrow or limited response. I will answer based on my life, to the extent that I have been able to observe certain things with some degree of time-tested familiarity.
Is the church failing to make disciples?
Well, though I’m tempted to look around and say yes… my answer is no. The body of Christ is carried by Jesus Christ, the head of the Church. If the Church fails, is that not shame for the name of Jesus Christ? There is not one earthen vessel that can accomplish the smallest task of true righteousness and godliness without the Eternal Almighty God. Does that mean my response to God as one of His own doesn’t matter? Not at all. My response of obedience brings Him glory and it is He that makes my response of worship a pleasure and a reality. My response of obedience is a response of faith in the Sovereign Lord who saved me. When Jesus Christ called me out of the ‘grave’ it was His words of life that brought me out… not me.
If disciple-making is to be accomplished, it will be done by the power and grace of God. I can go and make disciples… but if it’s me or my program that is doing the work, they’ll be my disciples alright. But if I ‘go and make disciples’ in accordance with the command and power of Jesus Christ, then it will be His words of life calling men out from the ‘grave’ and it will be His sanctifying word that brings about the redemptive change by the power of the Holy Spirit of God at work in another earthen vessel. This has always been the way of making disciples. Jesus said it most clearly, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…” Oh, the church may fail miserably at making disciples and none of us should be all that surprised; for the church may too often be spending much of its time trying to call the ‘dead’ to acts of righteousness without repentence and faith. When the church neglects the Word of God, the dead remain dead and the weak become weaker.
I don’t believe this is the condition of the true Church. Wherever she is, She is the bride of Christ and the Bridegroom will make sure she is ready for His coming. But the Church must listen as we have been commanded. God spoke clearly to Peter, James and John… “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” And Jesus said these things in response to the question, (John 10) “…If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The body of Christ knows, hears and obeys the Head of the body.
What is it that all these big and small churches are doing each week, if not making disciples?
Sadly, whether from good motives or bad, the church is often sidetracked by sin, deception and pride. We think too much of ourselves, our ideas and our programs. I’m thinking of a few recent responses I’ve logged in my mind where the defensive reply is given in words similar to this… “Our methods may have changed, but not our message.” If this is an honest response, then one major component of that methodology will always be the faithful preaching/teaching of God’s Word. The Gospel will clearly be of first importance. And if the message of the Gospel is not being hindered or replaced by the methodology and programs of the local church, then disciple-making will remain in full process according to the will of God.
And, the reciprocal is true and evident as well. If the message of the Gospel is not central, then how will they hear and be saved? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. …For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” If the big and small churches are busy busy busy and no eternal Life is being rebirthed, and lives aren’t being sanctified… then you don’t have a Church problem, you have a church problem and the only response I can hear from God’s word is to get back to the faithful preaching of God’s word.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Follow Paul’s example (Titus 1) “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;” Don’t neglect God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness…
What am I doing each week?
Good question. Am I as one of Christ’s sheep… alive from the dead… a part of the body of Christ, making disciples? How am I accomplishing this? Am I relying on my ways, methods and persuasive speech or am I actively resting in the Living Word to bring eternal life, to call dead men to life and set them running after Jesus Christ?
Do I believe God’s word is that good? that powerful? all by itself?! Yeah, pretty much… I do. That is how I was called from death to life… God’s Word …gloriously pouring forth from a simple earthen vessel, which made it undeniably Wonderful! I wouldn’t have seen it or heard it without God and so I love and praise Him for His wonderful mercy and sovereign grace that God continues to offer and sustain me with each day through His Holy Word. Am I great at it? No. Do I fail, do I get distracted? Yes. But, by His grace I press on in Hope.
The B – I – B – L – E, yes that’s the Book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B – I – B – L – E.