Friday, November 18, 2011

Obedience Based Discipleship

Starting next year, part of my role as a church planter in an international context will consist of me coming alongside national believers and discipling them. These followers of Christ could be at any level from seasoned Christian to a brand new follower of Christ. The key in my discipleship with them will be to equip and train them to be sent out on mission.

I will not be coming in as if to say that I am the man with the answers, but rather I will walk with them, point them to Jesus, and explore together what the Bible has to teach. This way there is not a dependency created on me in anyway, but rather all dependency is on Christ and what the Bible teaches. In many ways I will be equipped by these believers within my equipping of them. 

A key aspect within my discipling of these brothers in Christ, will be obedience based discipleship. In other words I will initially meet with all whom are interested, but very soon I will look for those that are serious about their faith, on mission, and ready to be sent out to plant churches. This may come across as harsh to some, but the truth is that in the context that I am going, I do not have time to waste on those that are not serious. This does not mean that I will not come back to them later at some point if they express and prove their seriousness, but initially I will move on. 

I am fully on board with this model and often question why we don't do that more within my current context within the American church? I love both the church local and the church universal/glocal, but believe that more of us need to get to a place of obedience based discipleship. We tend to let people play church too much, when the reality is that there are serious needs everywhere in the world.

The U.S. alone now has an unchurched population over more than 120 million. That number is only going to grow larger if we do not get serious about our discipleship within the church. So in order to reach the 120 million plus we need many faithful disciples that are on mission to be sent out. So my challenge for you is to start obedience based discipleship if you are not doing so already. 

Please feel free to comment below on how you have seen discipleship work and fail in the past within your own setting.


  1. I am not being facetious, but what do does "obedience" actually entail? And, how will you (or are being trained) to gauge one's obedience over another(s)?

  2. Jesus made it very clear that being His disciple is not easy.
    Lk 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. Lk 14:27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (NIV)

    The benefit of obedience, according to John, is that we will overcome the world.
    This means we will overcome sin through obedience. This means we will not be defeated by the things of the world if we are obedient. When we feel defeated by the world, our culture, our circumstances, it is most likely because we are not living in obedience to the commands of God.

  3. Hey Ben, great question. Obedience mainly being that one is abiding in Christ and now following Him, thus the natural out flowing would be to obey his commands. This does not mean that you will not mess up or at times rebel, but that you show you are serious about being a disciple of Christ. I feel as if often in many of our churches people can slip in and out, maybe be half way involved, and we feel like they were discipled. I would have to beg to differ.

    Gauging one's obedience may looking different in each given context and situation. The context in which I will be going will be to equip and train national believers to be sent out to plant churches. I believe that there are given qualifications by Scripture for the office of elder and deacon so those are a given that need to be in place for those roles. In addition I will for example take someone who has been identified or identifies themselves as a potential church planter, pour into their life from Scripture, and gauge their obedience based on their actions from what they have identified in Scripture.

    Let's say that a guy has been identified as a potential church planter, but after studying Scripture together I realize that he has not shared his faith with anyone, nor is he willing to. Well that is a clear identifiable factor in his not being either qualified or ready to plant a church.

  4. Matt,
    Thanks for the responses. They do clarify a bit of your initial post. I am glad that you clarified your understanding of obedience in which you stated,, "Obedience mainly being that one is abiding in Christ and now following Him, thus the natural out flowing would be to obey his commands." Although many people probably mean what you have explicitly stated here, they do not live out a life of obedience that has Christ as it's cause. Rather, obedience is a self pursuit of virtuous living in which the virtue and/or formation of character is the goal rather than submission to being conformed from within out of Christ in whom the Christian abides.

    I would contend that obedience in the Scriptures is described in terms that directly relate to the notion of moral conformation (Christ likeness), not formation. Many places in the NT contextually allude to and explicitly relate obedience with being “conformed.
    In view of the trajectory within the early Christian tradition, obedience was, presumably, viewed as an expression of totally expressing in one’s own life the life of Jesus (ie. being another Christ). Rather than reducing Christ to an ethical principle one draws on in order to transform oneself into the form of Christ, it seems like the biblical call for obedience is a call in which Christians are called to “conform with” the Word of God in the specific activities of listening and remaining responsive to the presence of Christ here and now. Thus moral conformation (obedience per se) is not about persons seeking to become virtuous models of excellence, but rather as being wholly dependent upon the Word of God in which Christ is free to conform humanity as he wills, forming his understanding on the immediacy of obedience. Essentially, one cannot immediately obey if they are trying to morally form themselves. What one becomes is determined by what Christ makes of them.

    My fear is that many Christians seek to and/or pursue obedience as a way to form their Christian character. Their understanding of Christian obedience (actually when unveiled) is nothing more than seeking to be a virtuous person. But in their seeking something good and even commendable, Christianly speaking that is, "they" are seeking to be something other than being conformed from within to the image of Christ. Christ likeness is something that occurs from within and works its way out into life as one allows themselves to be conformed into the image of Christ.

    If this is what you mean by, "Obedience mainly being that one is abiding in Christ and now following Him, thus the natural out flowing would be to obey his commands" then I agree.

  5. And thus, sharing one's faith could be concretized in multiplicitous ways, not solely int he form of one verbally expressing their faith. If obedience can be likened to "listening and remaining responsive to the Word of God" then others may remain responsive in different ways from the ways we might expect. If so, then listening to the Word and/or fruit from listening and remaining responsive cannot and I would contend must not be normalized into a moral category.

  6. One more thing, if you don't mind. In your example toward the end. I am interested how one would be identified as a church planter when that same one does not and/or is not willing to share his/her faith (?)

  7. Identified as a "potential" church planter is the key in that example, but obviously not being so when observing their life more closely. As always appreciate the feedback, are we still on to hangout sometime in December?