Preface: After some thought, I’ve decided that I will continue the series I began on current trends of the church. However, I won’t continue them back-to-back. I want to wait to learn more about each trend before writing on it. Here at The Core Blog, we insist on quality.
Disclaimer: Before I give my shpiel (sp?) on Evangelism and Discipleship, I am going to head off a few criticisms at the pass. In my Post-Modernism post, I express an opinion of labels, that they tend to contain and limit the things they represent. When you call someone “mom” you don’t tend to think of her role as a colleague to someone, a daughter to someone, or a lover to someone (especially not that one.)
So here I am, about to assign some labels. But I want to justify it by a) warning you, dear reader, not to use these labels on a day-to-day basis, putting different colored stickers on everybody’s foreheads, and b) pointing out that everyone labels everyone else anyway, and that at least the labels I am about to explain represent a broader range, and a more accurate interpretation of real people.
By now, you must be absolutely dying to know what these labels are. I am reminded of a certain scene in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail where the narrator begins to ramble and an army of mercenaries shouts from a hilltop,
“GET ON WITH IT!!!” Fine.
Actual Post: Here are the labels we Christians are in the habit of assigning to those around us. SAVED. UNSAVED. Or perhaps, CHRISTIAN. PRE-CHRISTIAN. (that’s one I’m sure they love to be called. What if someone called you a Pre-Libertarian, or something?) Occasionally they’ll throw in other, sub-labels such as BABY CHRISTIAN or SEEKER to indicate salvation in the recent past, or anticipated in the near future.
When given so few labels to work with, the result shouldn’t surprise anybody. If you’ve only got two labels, then the only way to change is to go from one to the other. And the only people that can be credited with Real Ministry are those who cause people to make that shift.
I will name names here: like him or not (you’re free to pick,) Dr. D. James Kennedy made me angry when he dramatically inquired of his congregation and all those listening on radio or TV how many of them had led EVEN ONE person to Christ, ever. He condescendingly predicted that there were few who had. He’s referring to the privilege of overseeing the moment when someone sheds the UNSAVED label and takes the other one.
I suppose when one’s view is so bi-polar, so “us and them,” one can’t help but put all one’s eggs in the “conversion” basket. The resulting consequences are twofold:
1) God has clearly given His children various gifts, which do not all include the knack for converting people. These “have-nots” are portrayed as falling short, and develop either a permanent inferiority complex, or a determination to become someone that God never meant them to be.
2) If people are done changing once they’re saved, you’re bound to have a bunch of “Baby Christians” hanging around, failing to realize their true calling and power and identity in Christ. “Discipleship” is reduced to the process of knowledge-gathering, and true growth never happens.
It is not original for me to suggest that Evangelism and Discipleship are not two sides of a coin, but rather occur along a spectrum. I wish I know whose idea it was, but I don’t.
So here is how I have chosen to think about the process:
ATTACKER ~ RESISTER ~ LISTENER ~ EXPLORER ~ SEEKER * STUDENT ~ PARTNER ~ MENTOR ~ TEACHER ~ SAGE
That’s my Discipleship Spectrum. And there is a reason why I don’t call it an Evangelism-Discipleship Spectrum. I am redefining Discipleship to refer to any growth that occurs along this continuum. In other words, if you are helping anyone move from left to right, and a Resister becomes a Listener, or a Partner becomes a Mentor, then you are in the process of Making Disciples.
If you are a Christian, God has given you a gift that helps you relate better to some people along this scale than others. It behooves each of us to figure out what that gift is, and whether we are to use it directly or indirectly. Search your heart to make sure that you’re not copping out when it comes time to proclaim the name of Christ, but don’t try to pattern your gift for Discipleship after someone else. Every effort that helps move people up the scale is equally vital.
Let me finish by offering a definition of each label. If you can think of better words, or better definitions than these, let me know. Keep in mind, I am focusing more on individuals’ attitude toward Christ than toward Christianity.
ATTACKER: One who seeks opportunities to discredit the message and identity of Christ
RESISTER: One who avoids that message, and blocks efforts of others to share it.
LISTENER: One who feels neutral, and will listen politely but takes no real interest.
EXPLORER: One who is intrigued by Christ, but also by other forms of spirituality.
SEEKER: One who suspects that the message is true, and is willingly moving towards belief.
STUDENT: One who is now a follower of Christ, and is working to understand the basics of that relationship.
PARTNER: One who grasps the fundamentals of Christ’s message and identity, and can fully work and worship among the larger body of believers.
MENTOR: One who has advanced in understanding and has the ability and responsibility to guide a new believer in growth.
TEACHER: One who has experience in mentoring, and whose faith makes them a role-model for the body at large. (Note: this does not necessarily involve “teaching” in the professorial sense.)
SAGE: One whose faith has run the gamut over many years, and has deep understandings that can only be gained through myriad trials and blessings.
I recommend scrolling up at this point to read my “label disclaimer” again, before responding.
I also recommend Brian McLaren’s book on this topic, “More Ready Than You Realize.”