discipleship and church and many questions!

January 22, 2008

It’s quite a hectic time at the moment. Will be preaching twice on Sunday (all my respect to those of you who have to do this every week), and since we are busy with a series where similar sermons are preached in both our services, I have to finish my one sermon by tomorrow to send it to the other guy that will be preaching. What’s worse is that he has been a pastor for 40 years or something, and I just started out, so it’s kind of a stressful idea!!!

What’s more I’ll be having a meeting tomorrow about this years Engineering Ethics, a course at the university where I’m part of the team teaching and facilitating discussions. So the lecturer asked if I’d bring along my ideas for possible work we could add/change to/in the curriculum, especially with regards to Ecological Ethics, which we would like to give higher priority this year. I’m thinking about the first chapter of Fritjof Capra’s The Web of Life, but it contains a lot of philosophy which I’m not sure what the Engineering students will make of. So, if you have any ideas which might help, and you can let me know within the next 12 hours, I’ll appreciate it. I’m looking for something scholarly, something radical, something ecological, and something the lay reader can understand (The average engineer isn’t that interested in philosophy or ethics).

OK, a question. What’s the relationship between discipleship and the church? I’ll be preaching on discipleship and biblical formation on Sunday (again, I have about 18 hours to finish my draft on this sermon), and as I was working this afternoon, some questions arised.

Discipleship is not coming to church, but it’s going into the world. What do we do when we go into the world? Where is the world? Is the church part of the world? Sometimes I wonder why even keep the church? Well, it seems like the task of the church would be to prepare people for discipleship; I get this mainly from Matt 28 (read the thoughts of David Bosch in Transforming Mission on this), go and teach what you have learned from Jesus; Jesus made disciples, now go and make some more, to make more, to make more? No, to do what Matthew wrote in his account of Jesus from chap 1-28, to take part in the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, to heal, bring hope, feed to poor, look after the vulnerable etc etc. Why have another sermon on this? What do I say when I have another sermon on this? Can the church actually “train” people in discipleship? Is biblical formation and discipleship the same thing? Is discipleship and making disciples the same thing? Maybe biblical formation and disciples, or making disciples is supposed to be the same thing, but do we use this terminology for the same thing in our churches?

I’m reading Emerging Churches by Gibbs/Bolger, especially chapters 3 and 4, as part of my preparation. Is this the answer? Should we close down church and start alternative communities? What about the millions in traditional congregations who will never fit into new models, are they “lost for discipleship”? Is discipleship possible in a traditional Reformed congregation? What about in a hip mega-church? Bring back the question, in what way is discipleship (or making disciples ) and church linked at all?

Well OK, have to go now, I’m having dinner with some nice people from the congregation. A technical error (I’m sure the database we are using has some programming error) caused me to phone the wrong person to sympathise with a husbands death. As Murphy would have it, this person had a brother with the same name as the dead husband, and I left a message just to say that I heard, and would call later. She got it, thought her brother died, then found out he was alive bla bla bla. You can imagine the bad experience it must have been! I felt very bad. So actually I just wanted to go and say sorry, but, in spite of my horrible mistake, the nice people are giving me some food (which is great if you are in bachelorhood!)

8 Responses to “discipleship and church and many questions!”

  1. Aldi Says:

    Wha-ha-ha, ek het lank laas van sulke wrede optrede deur Murphy gehoor!

  2. Steve Says:

    For a long time I thought discipleship meant following Jesus.

    Then along came a bloke who had a different idea: he thought it meant following someone else who was following Jesus. He got the idea from St Paul saying “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”.

    I wasn’t sure I like that idea, because I think leading people to me instead of leading them to Jesus is not what it’s all about.

    Discipleship is me following Jesus. Making disciples is me leading people to Jesus to they can follow him too.

    Getting people to follow me is an ego trip.

  3. Cobus Says:

    I just finished Bosch’s chapter on Matthew again, and he also pointed out the tension between church and discipleship, don’t know what this mean yet, but thought ot might be worth mentioning.

  4. Joe Says:

    Cobus, long time no talk… Joe Reed here from the States (I’ll be joining Arthur and the gang in June). Interesting that I stumbled upon this blog in my blog reader today… I just sat in class for 2 days with Bob Whitsell… a church growth guy. Disagree with quite a bit of his stuff, but came away from the discussions with him being okay with that. One of his points that I’m still working through is that the “traditional church” and those from the modern perspective are in fact another culture that must be considered in evangelism. He really thinks you can have under one roof postmoderns and moderns worshiping seperatly but in unity (this is the stuff I’m still not convinced of…) but his points on the modern as a culture is interesting.

    We’d be in the wrong to leave them to the curb for sake of “well they’re not into our stuff”. I think there has to be a both/and approach. The end result really ought not be head knowledge as I think you’re getting at here, it ought to be acting like Jesus. How will you get a modernist to do that? Maybe it does start with head knowledge but then create spaces for them to taste the world. After all, part of learning is getting your hands in there!

  5. Cori Says:

    Joe’s comment is really helpful here. I’ve also struggled with the drop-the-church thing but nevertheless felt ‘called’ to be involved in my current church. Through my involvement I developed really meaningful relationships with people there and realised that these people (like me) can’t just be dropped – they too are authentic members of the body of Christ, are also seeking to be discipled, are also seeking to follow Jesus and are not ready to do that in new ways. They may never be ready to do that in new ways. It would also be a mistake to think that people in that ‘old modernist church’ aren’t doing hands on stuff. I say this quite often to people in emergent circles but there are hundreds of thousands of followers of Jesus over the past few thousand years who have given their lives to serve others. Its not as if emergents were the first to come up with the idea of taking the church into the neighbourhoods!

  6. Cobus Says:

    Well, consider my own situation. I’m a pastor-in-training in a mainline protestant church. All of you who have left comment have a pretty good idea of my personal feelings regarding many organizational and ecclesioloigical points. But, like many of you, still find beautiful people in these congregations, I find beautiful things happening, and really find partners in faith here. What’s more, I am actively involved with helping to build up this congregation. Yes, obviously all the emerging conversations I’ve been involved with has had a big influence, but I’m still here for now.

    I think the point I’m trying to make is that the question is not between emerging and traditional, but the tension is what is the role of church, any kind of church. And we need to get to a point where we see that discipleship is not dependent on church, not even the emerging church. So, I guess I’m repeating what you have said. But OK, in the end I ended my sermon saying that we don’t learn just for the sake of learning, we don’t go to the Bible just because we ought to, we go FROM the Bible, because we are formed by it, and church should form us to go to the world, cause this is where discipleship is happening.

  7. Pastor Rufus Says:

    I find this conversation very interesting. The difference in “cultures” in the Church is very evident in most denominations (I really don’t like that word, or its definition)that I have been associated with over that past 20 years but if approached correctly can assist a Church in thriving. Working with married couples I am very aware of the attraction of opposites and the necessity of one complimenting the other. In my opinion (and I am certainly not an Authority on this subject), I think with the correct leadership the same principle holds true with multiple Church cultures. With the economy as it is (gas prices specifically) it is becoming more and more difficult for individuals and families to drive to the Church with their “culture” and it is our responsibility as Pastors to accommodate them. This requires delegation to trusted individuals in the Assembly and may require re-evaluating our mission and take a close look at the paradigms that restrict us. Food for thought, mental stimulation is not only good but required for success.

  8. Cobus Says:

    thanx for joining in


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