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13 April 2014

Why discipleship matters

Alan Hirsch offers this stinging indictment of the current state of discipleship in western churches:

"The Church in the West has largely forgotten the art of disciple-making and has largely reduced it to an intellectual assimilation of theological ideas. As a result, we have a rather anemic cultural Christianity highly susceptible to the lures of consumerism. This in turn works directly against a true following of Jesus. In our desire to be seeker-friendly and attractional, we have largely abandoned the vigorous kind of discipleship that characterised early Christianity and every significant Jesus movement since."

Alan Hirsch, Forgotten Ways Handbook

Let me offer five reasons why discipleship matters:

  1. The Glory of God

    God deserves to be worshipped by whole hearted disciples. Halfhearted immature disciples are an insult to the honour of God. I want to honour God as a disciple and to honour him by playing my role in helping to disciple others.

  2. The Missing Generation

    We have a problem in that only 3/100 believers in church in the UK is in their 20s. This is a generation gap that has serious implications not just for 20somethings but for the rising generation of young people and for the evangelisation and reformation of the culture we are living in. Something must have gone wrong in our discipleship if 20s are not resilient enough to be connecting with church communities.

  3. Children and young people

    We must be doing something wrong in our work as churches with children and young people if we are failing to adequately disciple children so that their faith survives (let alone thrives) in their 20s. As a father I want to learn how to be more effective in working alongside my wife to play our role as disciplers of our kids and what that means for our wider church community.

  4. The re-evangelisation of our nation

    If we are going to see every woman, man and child have the opportunity to hear and understand the good news of King Jesus we need to make sure that we have helped the Church walk in Christ's footsteps and be confident of the transforming power of the gospel. The fact that the Church is at best flatlining in its numbers is a sign that we have not adequately discipled the Church to live out and speak out the gospel.

  5. The demonstration of the kingdom

    I believe that we are called to live out the values and message of the gospel in front of a watching world. This should mean that we act as salt and light and transform the world that we are living in from decay to health and darkness to light. As someone once said:

    "Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be."

In order to start a conversation that might see things change in the Church the Evangelical Alliance has recently completed a survey of 1,529 evangelicals, Time for discipleship? We found that in the busyness of life Christians are finding innovative ways of doing business with God:

  • The research shows evidence of 'mobile discipleship', with 60 per cent praying on the move and a third using Bible apps.
  • 90 per cent of evangelicals read the Bible at least several times a week.
  • A third say they pray in private for between 30 minutes and one hour per week, 32 per cent for one to three hours and 11 per cent for more than three hours.
  • Busyness is making a disciplined spiritual life more difficult. Many admit to being easily distracted when spending time with God (63 per cent) and the biblical character that the most people identify with is busy Martha.

Krish Kandiah, director of churches in mission, Evangelical Alliance