What is a Disciple?

A great mate, a godly man, an elder in my church, a tunnel digger, a COCWA exec member, a Dad, husband amongst many other things, sent me an article from leadership Journal recently.

I am a spiritual formation director for .acom west, the material in the article was so spot on for this particular area of my life and work, I would recomend al .acom PF directors have a read…BUT – I have to say that I loved some of what was in there just as a challenge to any of us as we journey toward Christ likeness. Christine and I are reading a couple of Dallas Willard’s books at present (The Divine Conspiracy and Renovation of The heart) and are blown away by his insights. Zander has also been someone I have followed from his early ‘programmed days’ days and have loved watching him be changed and challenged on issues of Church and mission to today with his work with Reimagine.

Below are some top quotes from the article but click here for the full read.


Zander: we began by just asking, What is the gospel? We spent months simply trying to understand it and live it. I remember the night when the light went on for one young lady. She said, “It means God is in my whole life. He wants to be in all of my living. And he wants to transform every aspect of my life.” She got the gospel!

Along the way I felt like I was promoting a brochure to a place I had never really been. Then I read Dallas’s book The Divine Conspiracy. It dawned on me—Jesus said the kingdom of God is at hand. It’s now. It’s here. God’s presence is among us, and we can experience the reality of his kingdom before we die. It wasn’t just a brochure anymore. It was an epiphany for me.

Willard: Pastors need to redefine success. The popular model of success involves the ABCs—attendance, buildings, and cash. Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them. We weigh them by focusing on the most important kind of growth—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, kindness, and so on—fruit in keeping with the gospel and the kingdom.

We’ve accepted a narrow gospel for so long that people don’t believe real life transformation is possible anymore. The whole concept of spiritual formation begins with the question What’s possible? People will live up to or down to their beliefs.

Current church life is just a reflection of what we believe is possible.

We need to ask, what is possible when a human life enters the kingdom of God with Jesus as their teacher? Can we experience what his apprentices experienced 2,000 years ago? Nothing in the Scriptures says we can’t. We need to overcome our unbelief.

Willard: In most churches we’re not only saved by grace, we’re paralyzed by it. We’re afraid to do anything that might be a “work.” The funny thing is we will preach to people for an hour that they can’t do anything to be saved, and then sing to them for a half an hour trying to get them to do something. This is confusing. People need to see that action is a receptacle for grace, not a substitute for it. Grace is God acting in our lives to do things we can’t do on our own. Grace is not opposed to effort; it’s opposed to earning.

If you can just get people to practice these [disciplines], then they will have the tools to experience what you’ve been preaching about from the Gospels. And they won’t need you around anymore.

That’s what we ought to be doing as pastors. Instead of making people dependent on us to keep them coming back for more, we ought to set their tails on fire and let them go.

Willard: Spiritual formation doesn’t happen in a program at the church. It happens by living your life. We really need to stay away from creating programs as our goal. Programs have their place, but they must be subordinated to the spiritual life. You just start doing these simple practices and teaching the gospel of the kingdom. It doesn’t matter how big your church is, or what style worship you have. What matters is, are we disciples?

Spiritual formation is a major topic within the emerging church. Are they getting it right?
Zander: The emerging church is really saying that the kingdom of God is bigger than the evangelical Christian world. Sometimes that is communicated in constructive ways, sometimes not. But I believe they have a healthy desire to bring together what was separated during the Modernist-Fundamentalist split Dallas mentioned earlier. They want to reunite social justice and Scripture—the inner spiritual life and the outer social life. That is spiritual formation—allowing the gospel to transform us internally so we live differently externally.

I hope and pray that they [the emerging church] find their way and bring us something really positive and good. That has yet to be seen. The great challenge for the emerging church is determining their message. Reacting against the modern church is not a gospel. But if their message becomes living in the kingdom at street level, then that’s going to be wonderful.


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