If evangelism is to be engaged authentically and enthusiastically in our churches, then it must be connected to discipleship. But we have a hard time with discipleship. We know how to manage and maintain ministry, but we struggle with what it means to help people grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ and then live his life in the world.
Often, we try to make discipleship a program. We run the program over weeks, months, and even years, and we do not see much change in a person's life. This is because programs cannot hold us accountable to this new life in Christ and they often speak only to our minds. We receive information, but do not have the resources to apply this radical new way of living.
My youngest daughter works as an apprentice for Vidal Sassoon. She has been to school, worked in a salon, passed her state boards, but this is not good enough for Vidal Sassoon. She is serving as an apprentice for two years to learn to cut hair the Vidal Sassoon way. On a regular basis, she is tested by the hair stylists in the salon, so that she can learn from them about how to cut hair. This is a difficult and grueling process.
So, I wonder why the church does not have a process for apprenticing when it comes to discipleship. Our faith is about living into the fullness of life, which is real and lasting. And I know a haircut is important, but why is the church content for an "anything goes" and haphazard way of helping people grow in the faith, when we are dealing with the most important commodity on the planet: life?
What would it look like for growing Christians to be connected to others in the faith community who would hold us accountable to disciplines of prayer, scripture study, community, worship, giving and serving? What would it look like to apprentice with others, so that we could learn through all our senses what it means to love our enemies, care for the marginalized, and hold our tongues when we want to lash out and be right about an issue? We would be part of a Spirit empowered community, which is growing up people who share faith and relieve suffering.
A disciple making community no longer reduces the faith to going to heaven when we die, but works within God's mission of real and lasting life. We become a people who share faith, care for the sick, feed the hungry, walk with the lonely, and fight the principalities and powers that provoke hatred, fear, and poverty. We become Christ for the world--the body of Christ.
Glenn McDonald's book The Disciple Making Church and Greg Ogden's book Transforming Discipleship are excellent resources for churches looking at what it means to begin shifting from a membership model of church to a disciple making model.