Recently I was reminded of the importance of discipleship by a pastor in a small, rural church. While preaching on discipleship he made the observation that much of it (that is, discipleship) is done outside the walls of the Church building and accordingly, it is up to us, the congregation/body of Christ, to figure out and then live out what is commonly considered the great commission. Most think the great commission hinges on going and evangelizing. While these are indeed important, the text in Matthew 28:16-20 indicates that it is discipleship that is to be the primary mission and focus of God’s people. This makes sense, since evangelizing is only the beginning where as discipleship is a lengthy, ongoing process designed to be an integral part in our sanctification.
We readily recognize the importance of discipleship, but we often overlook the most common methods used throughout Scripture to actually accomplish what is otherwise a quite elusive and mysterious task.
Discussion, debate, and reflection, are often seen as negative within the body of Christ. Unfortunately there has certainly been much discussion and debate that has been very harmful to all parties involved (not to mention to the truth and unity that should otherwise characterize the body of Christ). However I think we too often overlook the importance such otherwise potentially divisive concepts have had placed on them by none other than Jesus himself.
We are told in many places where Jesus discussed what he had just preached with his disciples. We are also told how he readily debated anyone who came to him with an honest1 question. Jesus himself often used provocative questions and comments in order to teach his disciples.
I think we do ourselves a disservice and severely stunt our growth if we shy away from the admittedly difficult task of asking and answering and wrestling with questions and topics. I think our tendency2 to mishandle sensitive topics, which generally in turn devolve into shouting matches and damaged feelings and relationships, speaks more about us than it does the subjects we still, at the end of the day, need to deal with.
My prayer for the body of Christ is that we will come back to a clearer understanding of the importance and function of debate and discussion. There are far too many questions and far too much accumulated wisdom for us to, in the name of “unity”3 avoid the difficult questions and tasks (such as the often messy process of intimacy) required for true discipleship.
- I add the qualifier here of an honest question because it is clear that Jesus had no qualms about diffusing and deflecting questions whose clear intention was entrapment rather than enlightenment. [↩]
- Notice I use the plural form of the first person here to indicate myself as well, I don’t think anyone is immune to these pitfalls nor has anyone that I am aware of outside of Christ “arrived” at a state of perfection when it comes to handling dicey issues. [↩]
- Unity at the expense of truth and growth is not real Biblical unity. [↩]