In this era of “praise and worship,” “fire conferences,” and “mega” everything, the modern church is Nsuffering from a real shortage of Christian discipleship. This seems especially true within the Spirit-filled  fellowships where in some circles no teaching is deemed necessary beyond children’s Sunday School. How should this issue be addressed?

The American situation can shed some light on this matter. For instance, 77% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. Forty four percent (44%) say they belong to a Christian congregation, but only 20% actually show up to worship weekly. What is the problem? An increasing number of Christians are cultural Christians, like many Hindus are cultural Hindus in India. There seems to be three groups of Christians: 1) cultural Christians, 2) congregational Christians, and 3) true disciples of Christ. It appears that crusades that ask people to “make a decision” for Christ are not  necessarily producing “converts” and “disciples.”

There are Christians who affirm the Christian confession, but do not live what they confess. They will claim that they “believe,” but do not practice what they believe. They may belong to a church, but do not feel the obligation to support the church. These are spectator Christians, not participating disciples. Cultural Christianity or nominal Pentecostalism will not produce true followers of Christ. God wants to develop Christ’s disciples. He is looking for men and women who have counted the cost of following Christ in their generation. He is looking for people who do not mind being different in this conforming world. He wants to make them citizens of heaven and participants in the Kingdom of God.

Studies have shown that discipleship has to be intentional. Disciples are not made accidentally. The church must make disciple-making a priority – not just crowd gathering. The word of God must be central to the task of disciple-making. God’ word is a disciple’s rule book for faith and practice. A community of faith is needed to develop disciples. This has to be much smaller than mega. It takes a small group to train disciples. Disciples are formed and shaped in the community of faith. This can certainly happen within a mega church or ministry, but the actual formational work happens in a smaller group of committed followers of Jesus who are guided by godly mentors.

 Every church needs a plan to develop disciples. It takes more than love and support. It takes a commitment to provide the teaching and the relationships to make it happen. The Lord’s command is not to gather a crowd, but to make disciples!

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