For Super-Christians Only?
The word 'disciple' occurs 269 times
in the New Testament. 'Christian' is found only 3 times and was first introduced
to refer precisely to the disciples. The New Testament is a book about
disciples, by disciples, and for disciples of Jesus Christ.
For at least several decades the
churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of
being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple
in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without
any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. So far as the visible
Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship clearly is
optional...Churches are filled with 'undisciplined disciples' as Jess Moody
has called them. Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained
by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.
for the Great Commission
The first goal Jesus set forth for
the early church was to use his all encompassing power and authority to
make disciples....Having made disciples, these alone were to be baptized
into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. With
this twofold preparation they were to be taught to treasure and keep 'all
things whatsoever I have commanded you.' The Christian church of the first
century resulted from following this plan for church growth - a result
hard to improve upon.
But instead of Christ's plan, historically
the church has substituted 'Make converts (to a particular faith and practice)
and baptize them into church membership.' This causes two great omissions
from the Great Commission to stand out. First: We omit the making of disciples
or enrolling people as Christ's students, when we should let all else wait
for that. Second: We omit the step of taking our converts through training
that will bring them ever increasingly to do what Jesus directed.
The two great omissions are connected.
Not having made converts disciples, it is impossible for us to teach them
how to live as Christ lived and taught.
We cannot literally be with Jesus
the way his first disciples could. But the priorities and intentions, the
heart or inner attitudes, of disciples are forever the same. In the heart
of a disciple there is a desire, and there is a decision or settled intent.
The disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him...Given this
desire, usually produced by the lives and words of those already in The
Way, there is yet a decision to be made: the decision to devote oneself
to becoming like Christ. The disciple is one who, intent upon becoming
Christ-like, and so dwelling in his 'faith and practice' systematically
and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end.
The Cost of Non-discipleship
Non-discipleship costs abiding peace,
a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the
light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands
firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right
and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance
of life that Jesus said he came to bring.
[Excerpts from Devotional
Classics, edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith, 1990, Hodder
& Stoughton, London. Original source of quotes from the book, The
Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives, by
(c) Dallas Willard, published in 1988, by Harper and Row, San Francisco.]
Dr. Dallas Willard is a distinguished
philosopher with over thirty publications. He is a man of deep faith and
Christian conviction. He is known for his spiritual writings on discipleship
and Christian formation. His book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering
Our Hidden Life in God was Christianity Today’s Book of the Year for
1999. Another of his books, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the
Character of Christ, won Christianity Today’s 2003 Book Award for books
on Spirituality, and The Association of Logos Bookstores' 2003 Book Award
for books on Christian Living.