Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Discipleship and Change

Let me ask you a few questions: How do we change? How can we become the people we want to be? How can we truly be the people we pretend to be?

I have tried to change but it seems I have made little progress. The same sins and struggles that plagued my life five years ago still haunt me today. I have tried writing out a plan, enlisting the help of others, and just gritting my teeth as I try to white knuckle it through. Nothing seems to work.

Yesterday morning I prayed that God would help me rid these struggles so that I could become the person He wanted me to be. I hate living what feels like a double life. It makes me feel like a poser.

Feeling like we are making little progress presents a huge problem for the Church. Why is it a problem for the church? It is a problem because it will lead to discouragement, and discouragement will lead to people abandoning their faith.

There is nothing more discouraging in our journey of faith than feeling like we faking the whole thing. We compare our lives to the Christians we know and it seems like they have thing together, and so we come to believe that we are doing something wrong. While these people are the real deal, we are just imperfect copies.

How do we help people like me, to change?

I could be wrong, but in my view part of the solution is discipleship. Discipleship is not about adding another class or series of classes that explain church doctrine or what is expected from church membership. It is also not about handing people a list of "spiritual" disciplines that they need to add to their lives (though disciplines do play part in discipleship).

Discipleship is about doing life together, modeling Jesus’ love for one another, encouraging each other, and helping one another. It is about community, fellowship, or whatever you want to call it. While change ultimately is about a personal decision it always has a better chance of success when other people are involved.

The church families I have been a part of have done a very poor job in this area. Change was automatically supposed to happen as people began to study their Bibles, pray, and attend church services. Experience has told me that it just doesn’t happen that way for most people. We need the participation of other people in our lives if we are going to successfully change our behavior. Discipleship is the key to change, and discipleship takes place best in community.

1 comment:

Jason Cooper said...

I agree about the church and lack of good models of discipleship. People tend to replicate what they have experiences, and until we help people experience good models of discipleship, they will not replicate them.

And when i say "models" (plural), all I mean is that every generation will need tweaking to overcome and avoid the previous generations mistakes and limitations.

It seems to me that in the Christian Church, our prevailing model of discipleship has been educational (academic) in nature. In other words, expert teachers expositing the truth of scripture. If we just "learn" more, we will grow. Which is a fallacy that has created a gap between those great teachers and those that "follow" these teachers. We have created the idea within the average congregant that there is no way they can achieve a level of knowledge like one of these expert teachers.

Now, expert teachers are necessary, but we need models of discipleship that help people "own" their own spiritual development instead of relying on "expert" teachers and church programming. The people that grow are those that take the responsibility and initiative to find ways to grow despite the church.

Not that this is completely individualistic. I think "owning" your own development will happen best in community - with the structure and accountability of meeting with others who are taking steps to grow personally as well, but not that are acting as "expert" teachers.

And I think these things can only come when people learn how to spend time with God on there own, outside of worship service experiences. Spending time praying, reading and reflecting on scripture, memorizing His word, etc.

And yet, these things can become mechanical, even academic. So there is always a danger of drifting from the intended goal...

I liken it to teaching people to feed themselves. Most christians rely on the preacher, sunday school or small group teacher, etc. for their sole intake of "spiritual food" during the week. What would happen if they started feeding themselves??? However, the community must still be important. Even and expert chef, who can create wonderful meals for himself, wants to taste the recipe's and flavors of other chefs in order to learn and grow. So community is also important.

I could go on, but i have gone on long enough. I am excited, though, by the emerging trend away from quantitative models of church growth to qualitative models of church growth (or health may be a better word).


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