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Discipleship Through Community

They are “tomorrow disciples” or “someday disciples,” believing that a day will come, other than today, when they will be willing and able to completely follow Christ and do the true work of the kingdom. Until that tomorrow comes, they are satisfied with being perpetually rescued, nurtured, fed, and taught by others. They are spectator Christians, who believe the work of the kingdom is done by healthier, wiser, more mature disciples of Christ. Reluctant or resistant to completely following Christ, they speak of a future when they will finally surrender to the call of discipleship. They are “disciples on hold” who see true discipleship as something they will fully embrace once their life is in order, work slows down, the kids are older, the mortgage is paid and they finally have time to focus on the things of God. They are “give me just a little more” Christians, looking for one more sermon, one more Bible study, one more program or friendship to solidify their faith and to provide them with the courage necessary to fully commit to following Jesus.

Jesus did not ask the disciples to put their lives in order before they followed him.

In the New Testament era there were only two categories of discipleship. You were either a follower or not a follower. There was simply no in-between. Jesus did not ask the disciples to put their lives in order before they followed him. He did not tell them to prepare themselves a little more before they entered into the ministry of the kingdom. Instead, he called them to leave everything behind and to follow him. The disciples grew in their faith and in spiritual maturity while ministering the kingdom together. They could not select a special category of “wait and grow before you go.” Instead, their calling was “go and grow!” In the Scripture we have so many wonderful stories arising from the confusion that ensued as these ignorant, immature disciples ministered the kingdom while learning about the kingdom at the same time.

There seems to be an ever-growing group of believers who define themselves as saved by God, but not yet ready to serve and to follow him.

The more I pastor, the less I find myself trying to develop the perfect discipleship pathway towards spiritual growth and development. Instead of seeing steps and stages, I see people and the presence of Jesus. Ultimately, discipleship’s goal is to introduce people to the resurrected presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. As a pastor, I must facilitate environments where people make room for Christ, where we learn to hear the voice of God and seek to follow the leading of God in the eternal present. We have no stages of spiritual progression before we can minister the kingdom or participate in the advancement of God’s purposes. Instead, discipleship simply means walking with Jesus and participating in his work at the moment he calls us. Yes, we are open to the wisdom of our elders, but we are careful never to accept the myth that a more important ministry calling is waiting for us tomorrow. Discipleship always occurs in the eternal now, among believers who are advancing and learning about the kingdom of God simultaneously.

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2019

About the Author: Dr. Douglas S. Bursch co-pastors Evergreen Foursquare Church in Auburn, Washington. He is married to his lifelong sweetheart, Jennifer. They enjoy raising their four children together and ministering as a team. Doug serves on the Doctrine Committee and Education Commission of The Foursquare Church and has taught theology courses as adjunct faculty for Life Pacific College and Life Ministry Institute. Doug received his Master of Divinity at The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at Portland Seminary of George Fox University. Doug has produced and hosted over 1,200 Christian radio broadcasts and currently hosts The Fairly Spiritual Show radio and podcast program. Twitter: @fairlyspiritual

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