If you are a Christian and live in a Western Society culture, this book might make you feel like you’ve finally come up out of the water of confusion regarding what is a Christian actually supposed to do, and just gasped your first deep, anxiety relieving breath.
For me, so far (chapter one) this book has already provided understandable resolution regarding the formation and resistance of spiritual growth for the Christian individual and community.
I’ve probably over-exerted myself on taking notes for the first chapter (as always). The actual assignment that called me to read this book is due October 1st, but the book is so good, I want to make sure I don’t miss a thing. Unfortunately – I’m going to miss a lot, because I have get get a move on.
I try to use icons to mark my notes so here is a legend:
✗ = I have a disagreement
✓ = I agree whole heartedly!
☆ = Light bulb moment
✪ = Personal application
★ Next main point or new topic
• = The point of what I am reading
– = related to the “•” above
— = related to the “-” above, which is related to the “•” above it (and so on)
I don’t hold to my legend it strictly, and sometimes I just forget write all loosey goosey.
★ Biblical Foundations of Discipleship
• Faith is to follow. Luke 9:23-25.
• Discipleship is not something the church does. It is what the church does.
• Discipleship is the most important evidence of God’s work on earth.
• Discipleship is not attractive to the flesh/natural mind. Influence, vision, submission, accountability, vulnerability, confession study sacrifice and discipline. We avoid discipline because it disrupts comfort.
• We want the result of disciple with the effort of comfort.
• Jesus describes the objective of discipleship Teach others what I have commanded you.
☆ Evangelism IS pre-conversion discipleship. Matt 28:20
☝ Par.1, L.4 – You’ll learn to grow to love and depend on the interference [of true discipleship]. I find it interesting that Bill unabashedly implies we true discipleship ultimately results in the dependence on the input of our Christian community. Dependancy on others is usually despised but here Bill relishes in it.
• Discipleship is mission. We are on mission to make disciples.
• The multiplication theory (evangelism as multiplication rather than addition) is a sensational and even logical theory, however it fails on the frailty of the human condition.
• The success of discipleship doesn’t depend on mechanical strategy or an elite sales team. “Rather discipleship occurs when a transformed person radiates Christ to those around her. It happens when people so deeply experience God’s love that they can do nothing other than affect those around them”.
★ Disciples Need!
• Disciples need daily, intimate contact with Christ
• To be and to make other disciples is about the immense value of God at work in one individual’s life and the resulting impact on other lives.
• Faith is manifested as following. Anything less is a wish, a desire, a good intention, it is something else but it is not faith.
☝ Why is Faith manifested in following Christ. Because Christ was perfect and to following him means to commit to something humanly impossible. We know we must receive intervention as we go (not before).
• Par.2, – To be baptized–to go public: Although baptism remains significant in the present, it lacks the risk and courage it required in the first century.
✓ Par.4, Baptism means going public as a disciple. It was never meant to be a private ritual that takes place inside church walls. For Chistianity to flourish, disciples must start out public and remain public.
✓ Keeping your light under a cover or inside church walls isn’t an option!
• Par.3 – Just as a great athlete fulfills a childhood dream to win an Olympic medal or play in a professional league, disciples should dream to be like Christ. I Cor 9:24-27, Gal 4:19, Col 1:28.
• Disciples need accountability!
• Par.4 – Our goal should be to absorb Christ into our lives by studying and meditating on the characteristics of his life.
• Discipleship is training training requires accountability.
☝ Accountability is often received negatively–to be accountable is to assume that your are going to do something wrong given enough time, and you need someone around to remind you that what you are doing is wrong. But of course, no-one likes being told “you are wrong”. Why were you wrong? Because you are doing something now, that you didn’t want yourself to do before, and you are going to regret it later. Therefore you are blessed to be held accountable because accountability helps you get what your really want!
✗ Par.1L.4 – Accountability means submitting ourselves to at least one person. I’m sure that “technically” that’s true. But in my opinion quality accountability will not last when it only involves one hearer. I think accountability functions best with at least 2 people to be held accountable to. And of course, with those people being held accountable by another 2 people. This helps guard against accountability loosening when the unforseen facts of life create serious inconveniences between an accountability relationship.
• Disciples need structure! Structure is building disciple into your future.
• Structure is one of the least appreciated necessities of life; eg. stop signs, 12 items or less lanes & prayer at meal time.
☝Unlike the previous two sections (1. Relationship with Jesus, 2. Submissive accountable relationship), structure can be rigid and not sensitive of the matter of the moment. When rigidity of structure compromises the purpose of placing the structure, it is the structure that yields to the purpose it exists for and not the other way around. This can sometimes become a highly controversial issue when the structure effects a large group of people, because people may disagree on whether or not the purpose really is being compromised, or whether the structure is to blame for the compromise in that situation.
• Disciples need relations where we experience love in community!
• Living in submission, dependence on each other requires trust. Not just trust in each other that can be wrought through will power, but trust in the Holy Spirit. This is faith. Trusting in the Holy Spirit allows us to trust in each other with love and voluntary submission.
☝ Community implies co-dependence… notice the word dependence again!
★ Page 33 – What is a disciple?
✓✓ Again! Par.1 – The common teaching is that a Christian is someone who by faith accepts Jesus as Savior, receives eternal life and is safe and secure in the family of God; a simiple is a ore serious Christian active in the practice of the spiritual disciplines and engaged in evangelizing and training others. A distinction between Christian and disciple, corrodes the church.
• Par.1 L.10 – The vision Jesus set into motion: a lifelong experience where imperfect people would be shaped into his likeness–marked by progress, not perfection.
• Par.2 – A new Christian doesn’t take a 2nd step toward “becoming a disciple”. Instead he embarks on a seamless journey of growth.
• Par.2 – All disciples experience good/bad, up/down, pouring out/pouring in, seasons.
• A distinction between Christian and disciple, corrodes the church.
• Individual Christians will have different discipleship methods and styles according to personality, circumstance, gifts, culture etc. Variances in style don’t disqualify a structural method of discipleship.
• Par.3, L.9 – No one should think that only the elite practice serious faith and no one should hold the even more destructive idea that being a casual Christian–who decides to believe in Jesus but not to follow him is somehow normal.
★ Page 34 – What is disciple making?
• Biblical commissioning: “Baptize them”: Matthew 28:18-20
✓ One reason why contemporary disciple-making doesn’t produce new disciples is because churches limit disciple-making to training people who are already Christians. Instead, find people who need Jesus, and introduce them to the life of following Jesus using the gifts, opportunities and community of faith God has given you.
2. Developement: Once a disciple makes a commitment to Christ, the next step is developing character and capacity.Biblical commissioning: “Teach them to obey” Matthew 28:18-20
✓ Development has been confused with the only facet of disciple in the current church condition. That is bad.
3. Deployment: Once a disciple is trained the final step is sending
• Biblical commissioning: “Go” – deploy the disciple in mission where he lives works and plays.
✓ God’s kingdom grows best organically through relationships
• Deployment also includes “called” individuals who cross cultural and geographic barriers to reach others.
☝I had actually never considered it until now, but in my opinion the term “called” is a little at risk of implying higher distinction. I recall Paul using the measure “measure of grace” to describe the same as what we now call “calling“. I think “measure of grace” is a little more telling of the term. I might try and use that phrase from now on, and see how it goes over with the other disciples.
☆Discipleship is ongoing. When discussing my opinion of discipleship/evangelism with Mark Myles he interjected a concept I had not thought of; Evangelism needs to be ongoing into the life of the disciple regardless of spiritual maturity. At the time, I didn’t get it, but after reflecting it upon the 3 objects of disciple making listen above I realize the importance of his concept. 1) In the 2nd stage of discipleship–development, a disciple in his humanity may (definately will) forget the principals of his first love, therefore the elements of evangelism need to resonate throughout the entire discipleship process that ends at the mercy seat. 2) In the 3rd stage of discipleship–deployment, both evangelism and development need to continue as did evangelism with development. A missional disciple will forget the principals of his first love, and will never come to completion in development prior to the mercy seat. Therefor both evangelism and developement must continue and become stronger throughout the entire discipleship journey. Doing this will help defend a disciple at risk of abandoning the faith, or becoming self righteous/religious. (Bill touches on this @ Pg.38, Par.2, L.7)
★ Page 36 – What discipleship is not!
• Not a program: A program focuses on finishing the level and developing a skill.
– Many programs provide information and skills, but they’re just tools of growth and not the discipleship process itself.
– The most damaging result is that churches categorize discipleship as just one of the ministries of the church
• Not a production line: The multiplication theory fails because it is logical by math, but not realistic according to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
– Biblical basis: John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
-✓ Par.3 – The truth is that only disciples who are passionate for Christ will be able to sustain any effort to reach others around them. In real life, God doesn’t have a production plan; he uses us to reach other in a wide variety of ways. His glorious method is unpredictable, not smooth or symmetrical. It bursts forward with spasms of energy. It zigzags across the planet in disorganized patterns, propelled by the passion of faithful disciples.
☝ Although I love the quoted paragraph above, I would like to edit it a little to clarify how I interpret the principal: The truth is that only disciples who are being disciples can sustain any desire to reach others around them. In real life, God doesn’t have a 4 step text to guarantee pagan-to-glorification discipleship ; through us he will reach others in a wide variety of ways. His glorious method is unpredictable, not smooth or symmetrical. It bursts forward with spasms of energy. It zigzags across the planet in disorganized patterns, manifested in the passion of faithful disciples.
• Par.4 – God uses some disciples to open entirely new vistas that other faithful disciples to open entirely new vistas that other faithful disciples, with their own firsts and opportunities can enter.
• Par.5 – In other words, only God orchestrates the call to be and make disciples, and disciple making can be accomplished only through the events and conditions that make up life.
• Par.5 – Of course disciples should certainly be encouraged to train others and to reproduce in others but discipleship is much more about the depth of character and spiritual passion of each disciple than it is a plan for church growth.
✓ Not just for beginners: Par.2 – Churches around the world are filled with people who’ve learned basic information about being a follower of Jesus, but who no longer study the Bible, memorize Scripture, or pray as daily disciplines.
✓ Not just for leaders: Par.5 – Some pastors still maintain a spiritual aura that makes average nonprofessionals feel left out. Usually this elitism is unintentional. Many lay people simply feel inferior spiritually to the “real” disciples–those who have chosen full-time church service as a vocation or profession. Remember: (next page):
– All Christians are disciples who are born anew to a spiritual life when they chose to follow Jesus.
– Both the starting point and the goal of spiritual formation and discipleship is transforming to the image of Christ.
– Together discipleship and spiritual formation provide a full New Testament perspective of the process of the growth of Christians.
– Spiritual formation and discipleship must be biblically and theologically grounded.
• Not just for the Highly Literate: One of the dangers of some discipleship training ministries is that they reward only those who love to read and think bigger and higher thoughts.
-✗ Par.3, L.1 – God only rewards those who read less and instead find most of their spiritual pleasure in service. A very bold statement indeed. Not sure how I feel about it, but Bill sure seems to be confident!
– Most disciples (especially through-out history) couldn’t read!
• Non-discipleship Christianity: It is destructive and is the dominant state of the Global West church. To un-do the damage, we must re-trace our theological footsteps back to the actual message we proclaim: Ask the question–What kind of person does non-discipleship Christianity produce? …Does it create spiritually reborn disciples of Jesus committed to the Great Commission, or does it create consumers of religious goods and services?
•✗✓ Par.4 – Unfortunately the gospel we teach has become drenched in American culture. – This isn’t a surprise and it’s not all bad. As Lesslie Newbigin, pasor and former missionary to India, wrote, “No gospel is pure, it is always embodied in a culture.”
-☝ Bill expresses disappointment toward gospel/culture assimilation. Although he doesn’t seemed to be too concerned or passionate about the important role of culture and it’s relationship with the gospel – he doesn’t imply the typical conservative/fundamental perspective of ‘gospel and culture should be polar opposed’. I myself, am very passionate about the important role of culture and it’s relationship with the gospel. I think two very important terms need to be defined to avoid assuming the gospel vs culture. They are: Assimilation: to absorb and integrate into a wider society or culture–as to blur the lines of distinction between cultures. The danger of assimilation is that it compels Christians to compromise the gospel, so that it merges into culture without conflict. Contextualization: to translate a principal with terms and expression considering the context of which the principal is to be delivered. Example: to explain procreation to a child by creatively expressing principals that would otherwise be incomprehensible given the child’s limited understanding and attention span, or to kiss the cheek of another man in a culture where doing so conveys a happy acquaintance with more clarity than the indigenous handshake method. Contextualization in essence is the translation of all communication including verbal and beyond (emotional, physical mental, spiritual, visual etc.)
★ Page 42 – Exploring negative effect caused by only ever preaching an incomplete – American gospel which leads to assimilating the gospel and pagan American culture.
–☝It is important to consider that when Bill refers to the American Gospel he is referring to a gospel message that was crafted to be address issues immediately relevant to an specific unsaved audience (Americans) which is not a bad thing–unless those that have been persuaded by the message are not then moving along in the discipleship process and growing to understand a more holistic gospel that addresses issues that didn’t seem relevant at the time of conversion, but are relevant now under the conviction of a new heart. Important: Every time the gospel is preached in part it must be the same true one Gospel, and not an altered version of the gospel to sound more appealing.
• Par.2 – The American gospel limits grace to forgiveness of sin… We place the focus on conversion instead of the whole journey… We dole out grace in major doses at conversion, we then watch it trickle for the remainder of a disciple’s journey.
– Par.3 – Biblical exegesis. Grace for conversion: Eph 2:8-9, AND for further discipleship: Eph 2:10.
-✓ Par.3, L.7 – By limiting this awesome passage–even unintentionally–to a lifeboat that rescues us from our plight, we limit the extent og God’s grace. Grace, then is Go’s continued gift of enabling ys to do good works and to give great effort.
– Grace enable spiritual growth and we must understand and teach the same.
• Par.5 – The American gospel separates justification from sanctification.
– Of course justification and sanctification do have separate meaning: Justification: the reality of new birth, Sanctification: the process of becoming like Christ.
-☆ Just like the palm and fingers are different but naturally and purposefully connected as one to form a hand, so is justification and sanctification distinct from each other but naturally and purposefully connect as one to form the discipleship process. And just as there are no non-disciple Christians, so are the no non-sanctification disciples.
Page 43 (continuing page 42)
– Par.1 – Separating these two theological terms fives the impression that being a Christian [only] means obtaining a protected status before God.
– Discipleship flourishes when we present the gospel as a seamless journey of transformation that beings with new life given by God and moves right along with the joy of following Christ everyday.
• The American gospel teaches that faith equals agreement with a set of religious facts: “Believing” with out discipleship is not faith, it’s agreement. This is the kind of “believing” mentioned in James 2:19. (Resulting the consequence shown in in Matt 7:21).
– Survey the members of your church and ask them if they think discipleship is optional–will they say yes?
-✓ Par.5, L.2 – Bill balances out my note about preaching an incomplete gospel. Every time the gospel is preached in part it must be the same true one Gospel! And not an altered version of the gospel to sound more appealing.
-✓ Par.5L.5 – When Jesus commanded, “Make disciples,” he wasn’t simply referring to converts. He wants followers who follow people who submit to his teaching and his ways.
-✓✓✓ Par.6, L.3 – We’ve made the test for salvation doctrinal rather than behavioral, ritualizing it with… [singing “worship” style music or hymns], praying to receive Christ, or signing doctrinal statement.
-✓ Par.7 – Perhaps we’ve made it so easy to get into “the life” that we’ve made it nearly impossible for people to live the life.
–☝ I would say that’s definitely true but would like to edit the statement to reflect my interpretation of it. “We have emphasized conversion as a choice that the disciple makes and ignored conversion as a renewal of the heart. Therefore many who have so very casually made a choice to agree that Jesus is savior are confirmed as converted without considering the renewed heart issue. But without a renewed heart how is it possible for the so called converted to actually live the life of a disciple? In other words; how is it possible to pursue or even desire sanctification, without first being justified?
Page 44 (continuing page 43)
-✓ Par.1 – The evidence of salvation is living a life of transformation!
– Par.2, L.8 – Does the gospel we preach produce disciples, or consumers of religious goods and services. If the answer is no, the most basic response is – restore the true gospel of the scriptures to create healthy followers of Jesus – this will require redefining the very nature of faith as a faith that follows, a faith that forms the inner person, a faith consistent with the call of Christ.
★ Exploring A Faith That Embraces Discipleship: There is a false faith that comes with a belief supporting the validity of non-disciple Christianity. Par.4, L.4 – It is the agreement of religious beliefs without the development of Character that enables us to apply the things we apparently now “believe”.
-✓ Hebrews 12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
-✓ James 2:14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Page 45 (continuing page 44) -✓ Luke 6:46“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
✓ Characteristics of faith that embraces discipleship:
– When we actively obey.
– Defined historically by people that take action
– Distinguishes itself from mere agreement or intellectual assent to by actually doing what you agree with.
– Thoughtful obedience instead of religious words
• Par.1 – The Christian faith and following Christ are irrevocable linked.
• Personal Characteristics of Disciples: (Out of John 15)
– Abides in Christ through the words and prayer. V.7
– Bears much fruit. V.8
– Responds to God’s love with obedience. V.9-10
– Joy. V.11
– Loves as Christ loves. V12-13
• Personal Competencies of Disciples:
– Submits to a spiritual teacher in Christ
– Learns Jesus’ words
– Learns Jesus’ way of ministry
– Imitates Jesus life and character
– Finds and teaches other disciples for Jesus.