One of the main callings of the church is to make disciples. I have heard people suggest that if we just ‘feed the sheep, they will naturally reproduce.’ The times I have seen churches try that approach, the result has always been a church focused on those already present and those who have not known Jesus yet are left to fend for themselves outside the church. That doesn’t meet with the call to make disciples for me. Jesus said He came to “seek and save those who are lost.’ (Luke 19:10) Those who want to follow Him need to be about the same things.
Recently I attended “Leadership Summit” in the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia. The speaker, Glenn MacDonald, (formerly a pastor of Zionsville Presbyterian Church in Zionsville, IN) suggested the definition of discipleship; having the character of Christ intentionally formed in our lives. He also suggested that most people who are visiting churches are looking for a group of people who are really interested in having the character of Christ formed in them and are intentionally open to inviting others to join in that journey. There are many ways churches in our culture have defined that term, discipleship. For some it has been the mastery of a certain set of doctrines, or familiarity with the content of the Bible. Still others have defined it as loving one another or refraining from certain behaviors. While each of those descriptions captures a piece of discipleship, I like MacDonald’s definition: “Having the character of Christ formed in us.” Jesus’ followers were more than students, they were apprentices of learning to live life connected with God and involved in His work in the world. That is more than being a student; it is more than mastery of a certain set of behaviors or the refraining from another set. It is about learning to live as we were created to live. That is a never-ending process.
When one reflects on that definition, it is one that requires intentionality and a long-term commitment. In those things it is a very rich definition. But it begs the question of “How?” What I appreciated about the content of that seminar was that Glenn and the leaders of the church he had served decided that they needed to describe a process that caught what that is all about. A description of what a person should do if they wanted the character of Christ to be formed in them. They wanted something that could tell people what to do if they wanted Christ to be formed in their life. What they came up with was, “One plus One, plus one-on-one.”
The first two ‘ones’ refer to activities: one worship involvement and one content session (Sunday school, Bible study, small group study, internet group, CD or tape, etc.) each week. The last ‘one on one’ refers to a mentoring or coaching relationship where one would meet with one other person each week to talk about the specifics of how we are growing in Christ. I imagine the ‘one on one’ could be a group of three or at the outside four, but not more. It needs to be a close, open relationship where we can get serious about the details of how we are learning to be more like Jesus in daily activities. I had an eight-year weekly relationship with a friend where we could encourage each other and challenge each other to be more like Christ. I am convinced that much of my growth over those years was a direct result of that relationship. It is amazing what we covered and I miss it terribly.
What I like about their description is that it is simple, understandable and they found that formula to work. It is something a church could invite people who want to get serious about following Christ to try without beating up others. It’s not the only pattern for discipleship—the Bible doesn’t really give one tried formula—but it is a memorable pattern to lay in front of those who really want to begin to get serious about spiritual development.
I don’t know what your pattern is or the goal you’ve set for yourself. You might think of the basic elements you’ve committed to in order to grow in Christ’s image. If, after reflection, you don’t have a pattern I’d challenge you to consider this one. Aim at a regular worship experience, find a content experience and then ask someone to be that partner in your life to meet each week. Maybe you’ll be seeing more Jesus each time you look in the mirror!
Enjoyed your comments Russ! Great insight into a fundamental issue. Well said.
We miss you guys.