What Is Discipleship?

Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:07
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MULTIPLY WHAT IS DISCIPLESHIP? February 16th, 2020 VIDEO – MULTIPLY SLIDE 2 – TITLE WELCOME Good Morning! Welcome to Fox Valley Christian Church, where every member is a missionary. MULTIPLICATION / EXPONENTIAL I am super geeky and I love math. To me, it is like the perfect language. That’s one reason I love sports is because of all of the statistics. One thing in math that has always intrigued me was exponential growth. It is mind blowing. Imagine I gave you a penny and I said, double this and bring me two pennies tomorrow. Okay, simple. Then I said, double that and bring me 4 pennies the next day. Okay, still pretty easy. Now, imagine that you did this for 30 days. Start with a penny and just double what you have everyday. 1 cent, 2 cents, 4 cents, 8 cents, 16 cents, 32 cents, 64 cents, $1.28, $2.56, $5.12. On day 1, you had 2 cents. I day 10, you now have $5.12. Alright, not too bad. But what if you did this for a total of 30 days (just 20 more days) how much would you have on day 30? $10,737,418.24 Ridiculous. It’s almost insane. Exponential growth is one of the coolest things. That’s why the pyramid scheme was invented. It is illegal, but someone saw the profit in exponential growth. Problem with the pyramid scheme is people on the bottom lose money and people on the top get filthy rich. What if we took this same principle, the principle of multiplication, and applied it to the Church? What would that look like? TWO DIFFERENT CHURCHES Two scenarios, two different Churches. First, imagine that a Church, because of their programs, worship services, etc were to grow by 50,000 people in two years. We would call that a successful Church right? For the record, we do not know of a Church in the west that has ever achieved this. We would look at that as successful. Now, imagine that every two years following this, they add an additional 50,000 people to their numbers. In 60 years, they could reach 1.5 million people. This would be incredible outreach, incredible mission. Now, imagine a Church of 30 people, and in this Church the average member reached and discipled one other person during a two year period. So in two years, what was 30 would be 60 and then in another two years they would be 120. Compared to 50,000 becoming 100,000 becoming 150,000 … this little multiplying Church would seem unremarkable. Here is the catch though, in the same 60 year period, this Church of 30 would become a Church of 16 million people. Sixty years; 1.5 million won versus 16 million won. At this point, the gradual movement of the multiplying church has out-performed the super church by more than ten times. Not only that, but within another 25 years, this duplicating group would have won every person on earth. It is unimaginable. If done right, if done perfectly, the entire world could be reached for the sake of the gospel within 85 years from right now. I am not suggesting that these numbers are realistic (they don’t account for loses), but they illustrate for us the power of exponential growth. Noteworthy: A couple things to note about these calculations: - - The results are very modest during the early years for the multiplying Church. In fact, when comparing themselves to the super church, they will feel like they are failing. They will be tempted to change their model and begin to immolate the super church. This is one major reason multiplying Churches fail. In both of these models quality and quantity must be balanced. You must go forward without lessening or cheapening the Truth. The message, the Gospel, must advance unhindered. If the quality of discipleship or the quality of the church declines at all then the whole process breaks down. Often we see Church plants fizzle out after a number of years, why? Because quality becomes compromised for the sake of quantity. Or, because quality becomes so much the focus, that the Church ceases to multiply and becomes too saddled with rules and restrictions. Therefore, our goal in this series is to look at Biblical Discipleship and to understand what it is, what are the goals, who disciples and who is disciples, and what practical steps can we take. Today, we are going to look at Christ and the early Church to see what that model looked like. Then we are going to begin to talk how we can apply this to Fox Valley Christian Church, to our Small Groups, to our families, and to our individual lives. WHAT WAS THE MODEL OF CHRIST AND THE EARLY CHURCH? Disciple – the word literally means “student” or “learner.” Discipleship was not a Christian Church only kind of thing. It was very widespread in the Greco-Roman world. We also see it in the Jewish rabbinic training at the time of Jesus. Jesus, was considered a rabbi (a teacher), and he was not the first rabbi with disciples. We see that both John the Baptist and the Pharisees had disciples. Gamaliel was one of the more prominent rabbis of his day and we see that Paul, before coming to know Christ, was discipled by him. ACTS 22:3 SLIDE 3 – SCRIPTURE 3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. Ancient rabbis spent years with their disciples, teaching their way of life, their understanding of scripture, and how to teach both to others. SLIDE 4 – TITLE Like Jesus, they often lived with their disciples for extended periods of time. The process of discipleship was a complete shaping of a new rabbi—a passing on of everything the rabbi had; his character, his knowledge, his values, and his wisdom. Ancient Jewish discipleship was an educational process, but it contained much more than our modern concept of education. Rabbis transmitted biblical knowledge, but the close association in daily life also transmitted elements not found in books. This was personalized education where two men formed a close, trusting relationship in which the rabbi could sense and minister to inner spiritual needs in his disciple. He could see with his own eyes whether his trainees were living out what they had discussed. The idea was to produce a certain kind of person. The intensive personal attention involved in this style of training dictated that a rabbi focus on no more than few disciples at a time. Jesus used by this model. He lived and traveled with his twelve disciples and He seems to have focused even more on the top three: James, John, and Peter. Although some New Testament authors refer to all Christians as disciples (in the sense that they are all followers of Christ), by far the majority use of the word in the New Testament refers to those who were trainees of a specific teacher. Before Jesus ascended He gave making disciples the center place in the great commission. MATTHEW 28:18-20 SLIDE 5 – SCRIPTURE 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. SLIDE 6 – SCRIPTURE 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, SLIDE 7 – SCRIPTURE 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Evangelism is necessary, conversion is necessary, making God known is necessary … but conversion alone is not good enough. Jesus makes it clear that we are supposed to make well-taught disciples, not just converts. Paul also made disciples. Right from the beginning, Paul worked at the task of training disciples. After his three-year stay in Damascus he escaped by being lowered in a basket from the city walls. According to Acts 9:25, it was “his disciples” who lowered him. ACTS 9:25 SLIDE 8 – SCRIPTURE 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. Later, Paul lived and traveled with numerous young men and at least one married couple, teaching them his extraordinary body of knowledge, both from the Old Testament scriptures (in which he was an expert) and the amazing revelations God had given him. SLIDE 9 – TITLE They also got the chance to see Paul at work in the field, and no doubt participated with him in actual ministry situations. Field training like this could develop skills and understanding unlike any classroom could. Paul was in a position to see with his own eyes how younger workers ministered. That would lead to the best kind of coaching and feedback. In his letters, Paul mentions more than 30 men and women by name as fellow-workers. It seems likely that many of these people were discipled by Paul, and there may have been others not mentioned. In a ministry spanning roughly 30 years, Paul could easily have raised up 30 or more disciples. In one famous passage, Paul instructs his most successful disciple, Timothy, to carry on the work of discipleship: 2 TIMOTHY 2:1-2 SLIDE 10 – SCRIPTURE 1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, SLIDE 11 – SCRIPTURE 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Notice Paul was concerned with duplicating disciples down through 4 generations: 1) himself 2) Timothy 3) “reliable men” and 4) “others.” From this single verse, you can see clearly that Paul used personal discipleship as a conscious strategy for developing leadership in the early church. Side Note: I know we are talking a lot about men here, but please understand, culturally men were focused on more. That is why scripture speaks of men, that being said, Paul also urges women to disciple women. TITUS 2:3-5 SLIDE 12 – SCRIPTURE 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, SLIDE 13 – SCRIPTURE 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus is a great (and short) read on what discipleship looks like. SLIDE 14 – TITLE In the New Testament church, which had no seminaries or graduate schools of theology, they apparently raised up all of their leadership by a process of personal discipleship. Considering that this means is frequently mentioned, and considering the absence of any mention of any other means for raising up leaders, we can only suppose that discipleship was not just the main means, but the only means used to that end. Perhaps a few people (like Paul?) spontaneously stepped up as leaders without the benefit of being discipled but such was probably rare. Not only leaders, but also most Christians, were discipled at some level in the early church. COLOSSIANS 1:28 SLIDE 15 – SCRIPTURE 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. This statement of his ministry strategy shows that Paul was not satisfied with gathering a large group of converts. He was intent on delivering each Christian to a significant level of maturity through a process of warning and teaching. The evidence strongly suggests that personal mentoring was widespread in the New Testament church—not just for an elite group of prospective rabbis, as in Judaism. The idea that every Christian should be a disciple of Jesus probably contributed to the move toward universal discipleship. SLIDE 16 – TITLE The period from the death of Jesus until the end of the first century was the most fruitful in the history of the church. During these few decades, Christianity spread clear across the Roman Empire and even penetrated into Africa, the Parthian Empire, and India. The best estimates put the number of Christians at the end of the first century at around one million. That’s an increase of two thousand times the number of Christians before Pentecost (perhaps 500). And all of this growth was facilitated by the process of discipleship. Without mass media, without advertising, without church buildings, and without seminaries, the primitive church expanded at a rate never equaled in the nineteen centuries since. If the same rate of growth had continued, everyone on earth would have been a Christian before the end of the second century. DISCIPLESING AND GYROS There is no doubt that the discipleship, multiplication model is what Jesus modeled and instructed. There is no doubt that it is effective and powerful. The problems come in when we try to live it out. Especially in our cultural context. We have come to a place where it is all about programming, advertising, marketing, events … big numbers quick. We seek numbers and unfortunately, we often seem to do this “by any means possible.” Years ago, when I was first doing Children’s Ministry, I got a free gyro and it changed my life. For several years in a row, Kronos sponsored a Free Gyros Day. If you want to a select restaurant in your region that they supplied the gyro meat for, then you could get a free gyro that day. One per person. Well, Jen and I, being big fans of gyros, took advantage of these yearly deals. The one year, their was a new gyro restaurant that had just opened in Joliet near the Community College. They were selected to provide free gyros, so we showed up around lunch time. As you can imagine, the place was packed and everyone was there getting the same thing (their free gyro). Most people were in a hurry, but not me … I didn’t have a timed lunch break and it was okay if it took a little longer. After we ordered, I just began to watch. The owner was clearly there working that day. This was a big day for him and he wanted his A game forward. Unfortunately, the place was understaffed though. He didn’t expect the turn out he got. People were getting mad, yelling at him, demanding their free gyros be delivered quicker. He was frantically running back and forth, shouting orders, and apologizing to customers. When we were finished eating, the lunch rush was over and Jen and I were one of the very few still in the restaurant. As we walked up front to leave, the owner was leaned over the counter. He looked worn out and distraught. He just looked up at me and weakly said, “I’m sorry.” That day has stuck with me and it will remain with me forever. This guy just had the most people he would ever have in his place of business and he looked defeated. He should be exhilarated, but instead he looked worn out and he looked like what just happened was a failure. Why? Because he wasn’t ready. Because he didn’t staff enough people. He wasn’t ready to serve that many customers. He wasn’t ready to make that many gyros. He just wasn’t ready. I always prayed for massive growth in our Children’s Ministry. That day I began praying and planning for successful growth, intentional growth, the kind of growth that God would look down and say, “There, that is the Church that I want to add to. That is where I want to send my sheep. They are ready to feed them.” DISCIPLESHIP AT FVCC As we look at Discipleship and what that means for us as Christians and what that means for FVCC, here is what I want you to see. FACILITATING VS. PROGRAMMING First, there is a difference between facilitating discipleship and programming discipleship. You most likely want us to program discipleship. You want to know the perfect program to use to disciple. What book should I use? How often should we meet? What should we study specifically when we are together? What discipling classes do you have available? What curriculum should our small group use so that discipling is happening? Etc. The goal of the staff and the Elders is not to create a fool proof discipleship program. It doesn’t exist. The goal is not to create programs so that we can disciple, the rate of growth quantity and quality would be extremely low. We only have so much to give and could only reach so many people. The goal is to facilitate discipleship. We want to teach discipleship, show discipleship, help answer questions along the way. We want to align disciples with teachers when needed. We want our small groups and families to promote environments where discipleship can happen. But what you will find over the next couple weeks if that discipleship is organic, it is creative, it adjusts for the individuals involved in the process. It is the result of doing life together and making changes where necessary. You can’t program or package that. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES AND DISCIPLESHIP Second, spiritual disciplines and discipleship go hand in hand. That is why we started with spiritual disciplines. Do you want to disciple people? Then you must continue to draw nearer to God … the ultimate equipper and teacher. Do you want to be discipled? Then you will/should be increasing in spiritual discipline because of the relationship that you have with the one leading you and their personal spiritual discipline. CLASSROOM? Does this completely negate classroom instruction? No. We have the Bible Study currently going on because it will help to supplement and facilitate discipleship, but it by itself cannot fulfill all aspects of personal discipleship. The same can be said about our small groups and worship services. The supplement and facilitate, but by themselves they cannot achieve all aspects of discipleship. They are encouraged and we even see them used in scripture. We see Paul involved in congregational worship and teaching, in individual worship and teaching, and even in small groups and studies. (look at Acts 19 and 20). WALKING POINTS As we leave here today, missionaries and missionaries in the making, I want you to begin thinking about discipleship. Are you discipling anyone? Is anyone currently discipling you? Who could you disciple? Who could disciple you? As we continue through this series we are going to look at the goals and the ultimate purpose of discipleship, the who (who should disciple, who should you disciple), and steps that should be taken during effective discipleship. We cannot give you a prepackaged discipleship formula, but the hopes is that this series and other things we do as a Church and do throughout the year will help to facilitate Discipleship at FVCC. Finally, I would encourage you to spend this week praying about discipleship and what God is and wants to be doing with and through you.
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