Consumerism is rampant in the church. The “seeker sensitive” church model employed by most churches over the past 30 years was founded on the principle of creating services, programs, and more accessible preaching and worship styles with the person looking to plug in to a church in mind. This approach sounds noble enough, and did see countless of thousands of people come to faith, but as a result we are now left with a people who choose churches based primarily on programming rather than on where God might have them. We treat churches as purveyors of religious goods and services laid out for our choosing and we demand that pastors and ministry staff meet all of our desires for training, no matter how unfit they are for the call of that church, or even their own growth as a Christian. All of this cheapens the true Church and the beauty of what God desires it to be.
The Church is, in the simplest terms I can come up with, God’s called people – a gathering of “the called out ones” (This is the English explanation of the Greek word Ekklesia or Church). This gathering is loved by Jesus Christ and is referred to in the New Testament as his bride (Eph 5:23-32). It is the object of his affection and love. True to his intent for it, this object is scattered throughout the world in smaller gatherings of God’s called people – the local church. Each local church bears the same marks of God’s love and Jesus’ affection for it, no matter how physically different it may look from another.
Local churches are spectacular, not because of their fancy buildings, programs, systems, structures, classes, or services. But because they are a gathering of people who typically have no worldly reason to unite them outside of being bound by the love and redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. The local church is the place where people from all races, ethnic backgrounds, languages, social structure, economic levels, past affiliations, and family systems gather together to worship the true King of the universe, Jesus Christ.
Within the church we are all marked by Jesus’ actions upon us, namely his forgiveness and redemption through the gospel. Flowing from that, we are marked by our actions upon one another and the world around us in discipleship.
Discipleship in it’s truest form isn’t a class or a program you take. Classes and training may play a part of discipleship, but they do not make up its whole. Christian discipleship is simply the action of following Jesus, or being willing to follow Jesus, and each Christian is called to not only be a disciple, but to also make disciples (Matt 28:16-20).
This discipleship happens in the body of Christ as we interact and work together, bumping into one another relationally. When we bump into each other we tend to leave a mark and “sharpen” each other, sharing some of Christ’s image (Prov 27:17). A profound mark of this “sharpening” within Christian discipleship is that it causes us to “stir one another up to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). These discipleship relationships foster care for one another based on how Jesus cares for us, they provide support for one another based on and pointing each other to the support that is found in Christ, and equipping one another to teach, exhort, encourage, and stir one another up to the works of gospel ministry.
The role of the church in all of this is simply to create space for discipleship to happen organically. Whether it is in church on Sundays, Community Groups, Bible studies, or one-on-one meetings, all of these venues and more are used by God to shape and mold a people who reveal his love to a lost and dying world. Organic Christian discipleship is the tangible answer to the question often asked of the church: “How can I know God is at work in his Church?”
Over the coming months at Foundation Church, we will provide more space to encourage true organic discipleship by: teaching on practical questions of discipleship, re-launching ministries aimed at facilitating, training, and encouraging discipleship, and holding events that create space for relationships to happen. From all of this, it is my prayer that organic discipleship would be encouraged and flourish in our church.
Foundation Church, it is through how we model Christ to one another in discipleship that we pray that the whole Gospel would be brought to Everett, Snohomish County, and the ends of the earth.
May God bless you all in your discipleship,