Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Discipleship - a church with "it" - part 2

"I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." Romans 1:11-12

If you have spent some time reading the Apostle Paul's writings in the New Testament, you are familiar with these kinds of encouraging statements in Paul's introductions, typical of Paul as he writes to churches. And so typical of me, I often blaze through the first few paragraphs of his writings, wanting to get to the real meat of his letters and miss these nuggets of gold. I haven't read Romans but maybe a half a dozen times, and am sure that I never paid much attention to this verse before, but for some reason, God illuminated this verse for me like never before.

In this passage, Paul is sharing his longing, his burden, his Chazon with the reader - discipleship. His desire is that the Church would be built up, that it would pursue Christ with barbarian wreckless abandonment and confidence, that it would be a light shining with such brilliance and intensity demonstrating to the world that this people (The Church) knows the risen Christ.

And what a pure light it is that God has put in us - one that demonstrates that by faith we have been forgiven by the almighty creator of the universe, that we are loved and accepted by God through Christ, and that there is undeniable hope and peace and joy found in living a life fully submitted to the leading of the Holy Spirit. How tragic it is that this light - which is meant to shine as the sun - shines so dimly from the Church, often found running on the equivalent of 2 double A batteries.

I think that Paul was writing this verse for the Church because he knew how absolutely essential that discipleship is enabling the Church to complete its task - the Great Commission; leading people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. In order for the Church to achieve its mission, it must focus on building up and making strong those already within the church. By discipling those who are already in the flock, a church will have exponentially increased its influence, its light, its effectiveness in making disciples of all the nations; the great commission.

It is interesting to note that Paul, being one of God's elite apostles, could simply communicate what God wanted the readers to know, without sugar-coating the message by including himself in the audience of the instruction. But to make the point complete, he helps the reader understand that we are one in Christ, and that discipleship benefits all. At the end of the verse, Paul adds this clarification "that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." This statement communicates that Paul, one of the most enlightened followers of Jesus, saw his own need for encouragement and longed to participate in the edification of not only others, but himself as well.

But why the notable difference of those within the church? Why does the light of Christ shine so brightly in some and so dimly in others? Spiritual maturity - whatever that is - might have something to do with it. But I would argue that one reason for the gap is the lack of discipleship in the Church. Those that have "it" (those that are passionately pursuing Jesus and that are submitting to His Lordship in their life) are not giving it away, and those who don't have "it" are content in their apathetic/practical atheistic state and not interested in gaining it. Still others are earnestly looking for someone to show them the way, and the spiritual giants of the church are not stepping up to build up the body of Christ. Don't misunderstand me - discipleship is happening in the church, but not like it could...

I believe that a church with "it" is passionate about discipleship, and lives like they believe it. From the pastor(s) to the staff to the volunteers to the members/partners - longing to see each other so to impart some spiritual gift to each other to make the body of Christ strong, so that its members may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, so that the light of Christ shines so brilliantly that unbelievers will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!" (Borrowing from I Cor. 14:25)

For those of you with short attention spans who don't like to read long blogs - thank you for making it this far. I know I bounce around a lot, but hope that I didn't lose you along the way. Send me your thoughts; I hope that this has been an encouragement to you, fore I too am longing for mutual encouragement from the body of Christ

1 comment:

E.Gray said...

i love your insight baby :)