This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Follow: A Handbook for Making Disciples of Jesus Christ by Daniel C. Samms which is to be released March 7, 2015 on Kindle.
It is my concerted opinion that we have lost sight of some of the more profound aspects of discipleship. In our effort to mass-produce Christians we have erected structures and developed systems with the best of intentions. However, we have neglected to follow Christ into the deep shadows of our hearts. He whom we celebrate with song and attendance has not been made Lord of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. This is due in large measure to our own fear and pride. The cause is inconsequential as the cure is the same: discipleship.
This brings to me to my second point of contention. For far too long, we who are Christians have seen discipleship as a thing we take up individually. We may take part in it in groups but not in community. We attend church as we attend shopping centers. We are there in mass but are only with one another in the sense of proximity, never in the sense of community. We are there as customers and at times as workers, but we seldom there as family. We attend to get music and teaching that we might know more and feel more to help us become the disciples we think we need to be. If something does not meet our expectations, we complain that “we aren’t being fed” or that the music just isn’t our style.
It has struck me that as guests in a house none of us would complain that the wallpaper was not to our liking or that the music wasn’t our style. What makes us feel we can do that in the house of God? Perhaps we have forgotten that all of this is to become like a man who made Himself the basest of slaves. For the last 1700 years or so we have been decorating the house of our Savior according to our desires and forgetting that he does not dwell in temples made by man (Acts 17:24).
Even in the contexts of small groups, home groups, community groups, life groups, and whatever moniker we give to our attempts at Christ-like community, we often attend rather than commune. As we cluster, we convince ourselves that we are making disciples, or rather that we are becoming disciples. Yet, we still live as if the innermost parts of our beings had never encountered the redeeming and restoring work of Christ. Perhaps this is because they haven’t.
We are still selfish. We are still impatient. We are still unkind. We lack joy and peace. Our words and places of attendance may have changed, but our hearts have not. The answer is not new ministries or more sermons. The answer is not better systems or improved quality. All are profitable in their context yet none reach the heart, soul, mind, and strength of the unrestored.
Corporate worship, teaching, and prayer is valuable. I would even argue that it is necessary. Group relationships (house groups, small groups, etc.) are necessary as well. I am in no way advocating that we abandon these biblical environments of spiritual formation.
Rather, I am advocating for the return of individual discipleship. The exponential multiplication of the gospel does not happen with bigger buildings and better systems; it happens when every follower of Jesus makes more followers of Jesus. Consider the potential if every follower of Jesus made even three disciples over the course of his/her life. Consider also how much deeper relationships become as a social circle shrinks. Even Jesus invested Himself most intimately with three of his followers.
Without individual discipleship, who will recognize my insecurities and have the trust and understanding to speak both challenge and affirmation? Without individual discipleship, who will confront patterns of manipulation and control in the man who would be an abuser? Without individual discipleship, who will cheer on the silent victories of the heart over lust, pride, and fear?
How can the man or woman of God be so with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength if no one is leading them to follow Christ in any of those areas?
True, the Holy Spirit can do all these things without the assistance of any human. However, God didn’t call us to make disciples of ourselves and leave the Holy Spirit in isolation. He called us to make disciples of all nations! God’s sovereign plan to advance His earthly kingdom calls you and I as individuals to make disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This book is a very simple handbook to assist in that process. The truth is that you don’t need this book. All you really need is the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and someone to disciple you. However, as disciplers are in short supply, this book provides a practical framework for making you into a discipler. May you be the last spiritual generation to have been forced to muddle through the Christian life without a Paul. Be a Paul. Find a Timothy.