Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Essential Christian: A Critique on the Essential Activity of Christian Ministry

            What is the essential activity of the Christian?  By extension what is the essential activity of Christian Ministry?  It is important in the beginning of any discussion to define the terms that will be used.  It is not possible to divorce the activity of an individual from the corporate, therefore any look at any corporate endeavor one must look at those members that make up that group.  Here we are looking at Christian ministry so we must look at the Christian.  The Westminster Catechism says that the chief aim of a Christian is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  This is a rather broad statement that can be interpreted in a number of ways in any given context, but at its core it is a valid assertion of what a Christian should be doing if he or she is to call themselves a follower of Christ.  
            The focus of this discussion is to look into the idea that we as Christians are to develop disciples that will follow and worship Jesus Christ.  The question is whether or not this is to be the essential activity of a Christian or a ministry.  I think that the answer lies in the above statement.  We are to glorify God in all that we do and by doing that we are to enjoy Him here and then later in Glory.  The problem with this statement is that it can be perceived as a very selfish statement if not taken in context of the Bible as a whole.  We are not called to live on an island devoid of contact with the larger world.  We have the answers to the greatest questions that have plagued mankind since the dawn of time: chiefly, who am I and where do I fit into the grand scheme of life?  Hiding those answers boarders on the criminal.  So how do we do this and fulfill our chief aim?
            To find this answer we need to look no further then nature.  Every living thing on the earth is created with the ability to create life after its own kind.[1]  Furthermore all life on the earth seeks to reproduce itself. Only mankind has instituted the concept of birth control.  The reason for this God given imperative is that a species that does not reproduce itself will only live for a single generation.  All through the New Testament the church is represented as a living body, and the Bride of Christ.  As a living organism the church should seek to reproduce naturally, if it does not then there is something wrong. 
            In light of all that the answer to the question of should the church make discipleship its main focus I would have to say yes.  In saying yes it must be qualified with the understanding that one needs to fulfill the main objective of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.  Jesus commands the newly commissioned leaders of the first church to make disciples as they are going about their lives.  Jesus told them to baptize them and by doing so Jesus seems to be saying by inference that they will be replicating themselves. 
The call to follow Christ is not something to take lightly.  It was not taken lightly then, when the apostles walked the earth, nor should it be now.  To be a true follower we are called to forsake everything that we call our own; our pride, our reputation, our money, our time, and our talent.  This paradigm runs counter to most schools of thought.  Barna alludes to this in his book when he talks about creating zealots for Christ.[2]  Having the kind of zeal that would allow us to forsake even our own family for the cause of Christ is not an easy pill to swallow, never the less it is what we are called to do. 
In following Jesus we are to do His commandments and one of those is to make disciples.  I would hazard to guess that the reason that more churches are not engaging in this process fully is that making disciples is messy and time consuming.  Messy and time consuming, in the sense that people are strange and getting into another person’s life long enough to truly disciple them means that we have to engage them on a personal and intimate level that we are not comfortable with.  We live in a plastic and disposable age.  Nothing is real or permanent and everything should be disposable, including friends and acquaintances.  Making disciples just does not fit neatly into our prepackaged lives. 
After looking into the question of whether or not we as the church of Jesus Christ should be engaging in discipleship there still remains the question of why we should do it.  Every person at some point in his or her life has a God given desire to leave a lasting imprint of themselves on the world after they are gone.  Some never really are able to articulate this desire but the effects are still the same.  People have kids, write papers or books, build businesses, and carve out niches for themselves in their spheres of influence.  We want to feel like we are a part of something larger than ourselves.  John C. Maxwell points to John Wooden, longtime coach of the UCLA bruins and a quote that he said often; “The guy who puts the ball through the hoop has ten hands”.[3]  If we really want to change the world, or at least the world that we know then who are the other four pairs of hands? 

[1] McManus, Erwin, Unstoppable force, page 17
[2] George Barna Growing True Disciples chapter 2
[3] John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You, page 1

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