Category Archives: Discipleship

What is a Biblical Christian?

After a discussion with a friend from church I was reminded that I had not finished a pamphlet someone had given me about true Christianity. The pamphlet is entitled “What is a Biblical Christian?” and is written by Albert N. Martin, a pastor from New Jersey. I have been looking for a concise but thorough presentation of the gospel with which to disciple the teens in our youth group. After finishing the pamphlet, I think I’ve found the perfect resource.

Pastoral Shift

“There is now in process a major shift in many churches of the Western world–a shift from clergy-centered ministry to a ministry of laymen equipped for service. This change in the Western world is gradually taking place all around us. Christian leaders are lovingly but firmly leading the Church out of the misconceptions and mistakes of the past to the proper scriptural pattern intended by God. The goal of many individual churches is to transform a congregation of spectators being led by a minister into an army of ministers being led by a pastor.”

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), 154.

Discipleship Requirements

In a previous post, I discussed two possible reasons for the question asked in Luke 13:23. As noted then, the Lord didn’t answer the question directly, but rather pointed out the individual need of each hearer to be saved. He was more interested in their individual needs than the number of people who would be saved.

As encouraging as that has been to know, the question asked of the Lord has still been nagging me. Why are so few saved? Or put another way, why do so few choose to follow Christ? While we might be tempted to talk about election at this point, the context does not. Jesus clearly addresses each individual’s needs by pointing out the requirements they would need to meet to be his disciple. Without them, they would not be able to follow him.

  1. A disciple must be real (12:1-3; 54-56; 13:10-17).
  2. A disciple must rely on God (12:6-7, 22-34).
  3. A disciple must be committed (12:8-9).
  4. A disciple must be prepared for division (12:49-53).
  5. A disciple must repent of his sins (13:1-5).

When these requirements are placed alongside the question asked in Luke 13:23, it suddenly makes sense. The question was an accurate observation of the generally negative response to Jesus’ call to discipleship. The crowds enjoyed the miracles and interesting sermons, but when faced with such requirements, they were quick to disappear. The cost of discipleship was much too high.

One must honestly consider that following Christ has caused many disciples to lose family, friendships, employment, and possessions. Why then would anyone want to follow Jesus, knowing this would in all probability happen to them? Ask Moses. The Scriptures tell us that he looked beyond the difficulties to what God had in store for him (Heb. 11:24-26). Like Moses, those who have made the choice have been convinced by the Holy Spirit that what Jesus offers is of much more value than the best the world can offer. May each of us do the same.

How sheltered should our children be?

For the past few years my children have had the wonderful opportunity to attend Mentor Christian School. The staff of the school has done a commendable job of pointing my children toward Christ. They have learned much and profited from the godly examples of their teachers. For these things I am very thankful.

But as I consider the future of my children and our family, I must admit that I have wondered whether such a sheltered environment is healthy for the spiritual upbringing of my children. This may seem strange coming from someone who graduated from Northside Christian School, the Bible Institute of Ohio, and Northland Baptist Bible College. Each step in my educational background is still appreciated. However, I still wonder whether being so sheltered was counter-productive in some ways.

With the Great Commission in mind, how sheltered should our children be? Granted, what I have heard about public education in not very inviting. Parents with children in public schools must be more involved in the educational process to correct erroneous views such as evolution, sex education, and a number of other things. But regardless of the choice of education, is this not the Deuteronomy 6 mindset? We should constantly be teaching our children about the Lord so that they are prepared for the world’s influences.

On the one hand, I see the value of sheltering my children from the influences of public education. In a Christian school, I am confident that they will be taught by believers who want God’s best for them. But on the other hand, I see sheltering as a negative limitation. How will my children learn to stand against the temptations of the world, if I never let them experience it until graduation from high school? And how will they see the need to reach the lost if they rarely, if ever, meet the lost?

Ask the average Christian school student how many unsaved friends he has and he will have to think for a while. He is constantly involved with church and Christian school activities which allow little time for meaningful contact with the world. As I have said before, there is good in that … and bad. We must protect our children while also giving them the opportunity to face temptation and see the need to reach out to the lost.

These thoughts have been running through my head for some time now. But they were revived recently, after reading the following thoughts. The author writes about Jesus’ surprising practice of spending time with sinners such as Levi and his sinful friends.

The primary issue in Jesus’ mind was that this motley crew of sinners needed help. Compassion for the needy was the driving force behind his ministry. Christians, like Jesus, must look upon the lost as the victim, those upon whom compassion is the most productive endowment. There is no impact without contact. Unless we go where the fish are, we won’t catch any. The Pharisees weren’t catching anyone; they were fishing in a stained-glass aquarium and were coming up empty. The reason the Church has been so inept in evangelism is partly due to the Pharisaic unwillingness to live in the real world.

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), 101-2.

Will my children attend a public school in the future? I don’t know. That would depend on a number of things. But I do know that I will continue to involve them in activities that keep them in contact with the world. Our recent contact with people through Cub Scouts has been a positive thing so far. (You may recall that Jefferson was able to speak to some friends about Christ during a camp out last year. That was exhilarating!) In any event, whether Christian, public, or home schooling, I want my children to grow up knowing, loving, and caring for the lost around them. If they fail to do that, they will fail to amount to much of anything for the Lord.

Jesus Christ Disciple Maker — Chapter 3

Chapter three concludes the book’s first section, “Come and See,” which covers the initial stage of Jesus’ method of discipleship. In this chapter he covers many good things including the need for patience, carefulness, leadership, and longevity. I was thinking about using the book with our teens, but believe it would be better used as a tool for training youth group advisors (our youth workers). In any event, this was an exceptionally good read and highly thought provoking.

Evangelism

… As the message of deliverance is carried to the world, it seems that often people are unchallenged and bored by the very news that should indeed excite their souls. And yet at the same time we should recognize that if the ones who deliver the message are bored, the ones who hear it will probably be bored as well. (p. 40)

Success in evangelism comes only when we follow what God commands; the results are his concern, not ours. It is not our responsibility to lead people to Christ. God simply asks us to tell others about Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest. If we obey God with dedication and creativity in our evangelism attempts, then we are successful in his sight no matter what the results. If, however, we experience no positive results over an extended period of time, we should evaluate our methods and motives. (p. 46)

Patience

Jesus wanted to give these men time to allow the seeds he had planted to settle in their souls. This was one of his most effective methods of ensuring the right selection of men. He gave them time to pray and think over the call to discipleship—the invitation to a radical investment of time and effort. … Plan to allow people the time and information they need, thus ensuring that decisions are made during a time of clear-headedness and emotional balance. (pp. 56, 59)

Ministry Gifts

Recognize your place of ministry and then stay there. When you exercise your gifts faithfully, you always meet needs. You should never try to evade your calling by going off into some other ministry for variety or escape. (pp. 59-60)

Leadership

Demonstrate that you know where you are going. One sure sign of successful leadership is that the person in charge understands the plan and communicates it to those he wishes to enlist in the enterprise. (p. 61)

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), pp. 40-62.

Come and See

A vital principle of discipleship emerges at this point: do not recruit people for anything without first allowing them to have their curiosity assuaged. Jesus was not afraid to reveal the small print in the contract. We get the distinct impression from this passage that Jesus desired to make it easy to say no. He did not employ the misguided habit of twentieth-century Christendom of “quick-pitching” people into commitments. When this hasty method is utilized, the recruit normally takes off like a rocket, only to fall back later to the earth like a rock. After such a misfire, restoration is nearly impossible, a very messy business. We must not be intimidating when we invite others to take a look at the Master. Indeed, at the outset Jesus himself launched his plan to rescue planet earth with the simple invitation to come and see.

… As we seek to reach others, we must kep in mind that Jesus did not use manipulation or intimidation as a recruiting method. He allowed God’s Holy Spirit to prepare the heart. Indeed, the Spirit utilized John’s ministry to prepare certain men for the Messiah. Jesus himself never used high pressure or arm-twisting tecniques. He trly made it easy for people to say no.

… Part of the problem is that we have manipulated and touchd peple only on the emotional level, thus limiting the long-term commitmens needed to effectively change minds. If only we could take a simple lesson from Jesus–we might not gather suh impressive statistics, but in the long run we would garner more solid choices by people moved by the Spirit.

Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 19, 22, 23.

Quick Thoughts about Evangelism

During my college years, the Lord allowed me to travel with and direct a number of college ministry teams, presenting the gospel to children and teens in more than fifty churches. That was quite an opportunity and one that I don’t disregard. However, as I look back on my training, experiences, and methodology, I have begun to question the common philosophy behind many of those ministries. What I mean is that most of those ministry teams were geared toward a concise presentation of the gospel as opposed to a long-term period of discipleship. Obviously, an evangelist or ministry team is limited in the amount of time he can spend at any one location. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as Philip the evangelist was used by God to do much the same thing. However, there seems to be an overemphasis on the one-time presentation of the gospel as opposed to what the Lord Jesus intended when he originally commissioned his disciples.

If you attend an evangelistic church, you no doubt have been encouraged to take a pile of gospel tracts with you wherever you go. And why not? You can distribute these inexpensive papers at the gas station, Wal Mart, with a tip, or even under the windshield wipers of the cars in a parking lot. The latter method was practiced recently in the parking lot of a Catholic Church near my place of employment. In this instance, one of my co-workers was interested enough to spend the evening reading the 16 page pamphlet about erroneous Roman Catholic doctrine. With that in mind, I do recognize the benefit of gospel tracts and Christian literature. However, it would seem that many Christians equate this and other “quickie gospel hits” with the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

As many others have said, the main verb used by our Lord in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) refers to “making disciples.” The Great Commission involves giving the gospel, but there is so much more. Notice what the text itself says: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” While that would include the gospel in a nutshell, it also covers all the other topics he addressed in the gospels, and, mind you, also in the writings inspired by him in the rest of the New Testament. That certainly broadens our responsibility beyond what we have often viewed as a fulfillment of our responsibility.