As faculty at Bethany Global Univerisity, I have discipled many individuals. I have also been discipled from a young age by other men of faith. Due to this, I recognize the significance that discipleship hold. I also see the lack of discipleship within the church. Therefore, I decided to speak out about the topic.
Why does the Church lack in discipleship? The Church lacks in discipleship because people don’t know how to be discipled and how to disciple. Aspects of culture and poor teaching and preaching also hinder the spread of discipleship. Furthermore, relationships are difficult which causes many people to quit early.
First, I will be discussing why individuals are not growing in their faith as we would like them to. I cover many issues in the church as well as Western culture. Then, I will be discussing why there is a lack of discipleship in the church. This pertains greatly to culture as well as personal beliefs and struggles.
Why There is a Lack of People being Discipled
Why are people not growing in their faith as well as we would like them? For some people, they may have gotten saved early on in their life, or they would regularly attend church with their friends. They got used to the routine of going to church. Go to church on Sundays or holidays. Go to a youth group or small group on Tuesday or Wednesday.
For many, that is all they learned how to do. No one taught them the Christian disciplines. No one sat down with them and showed them how to grow in their faith. Discipleship takes a process. There is a process from when you grow from a baby believer to a mature believer. If no one has walked them through it, they are simply living life day by day. They need to come to the realization that they need to do more than just sit and listen to a sermon.
I recently had a conversation with a young woman who has been attending our church for 8 years. This woman has been reading her Bible and praying on her own. She made a comment to me and our church that was both exciting but tragic. It was sad to hear her say, “I’ve been a Christian for years but I just realized to grow in my faith I really need to read my Bible. No one had told me that before.”
It broke my heart. Praise God she is now growing in her faith but the fact that she was never taught to read her Bible is depressing. There are a lot of people who are just living life without knowing how to grow in their faith. They lack the knowledge of how to become disciples of Jesus for various reasons. This is a huge part of why people are not growing in their faith.
Moral Therapeutic Deism Hinders Transformation
The second reason people are not growing in their faith is because of bad teaching and preaching. There are many bad thoughts and ideologies that are rampant in Evangelicalism. The majority of sermons preached on Sunday mornings throughout North America amount to nothing more than moral therapeutic deism.
Moral therapeutic deism states that God is outside of the world. He created it but then He let us do our own thing. Moralism says that we just need to be “good”. As long as we are good, and this is the therapeutic aspect, God is going to be good to us. He is going to take care of us. Things are going to go well. However, He will stay out of the picture for the most part.
We want to feel good in our moralism. Rarely is the gospel being preached. Our sinfulness and sin nature are not being tackled. The only way that we can have true transformation is through the cross.
Many sermons in America are like this, “How to Be a Better Husband” with three tips from Proverbs. This is fine but it is a terrible Sunday sermon. Ultimately, this is teaching someone how to be “good” without any transformational truth. They are not being challenged about where they are.
When people don’t know how to grow and when there is bad teaching that tells people to be good, rather than presenting them with the actual gospel, individuals won’t grow in their faith.
What Good Teaching Should Amount To
Good teaching is gospel-centered. Every single sermon has one point. That point is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead. You are saved through faith in Jesus, by grace. How does that truth impact your life?
There are definitely moments in sermons for application after you’ve preached the gospel. Then you might say something like, “For example, this is how you apply it to be a better husband or parent.” Bring some application to it but do not neglect the good news of Jesus Christ. Anything beyond that falls into the category of moralism.
At the end of the day, practical tips are not bad. However, we need the foundation of the gospel at hand. Practical tips and the gospel should be integrated together. Otherwise, people will walk away, believing they can do it on their own. Rather, than through the power of the Holy Spirit which comes through believing. We are incapable of being transformed outside of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
We Equate Information to Spiritual Growth
Furthermore, good teachings may happen, but often, we recognize information as spiritual growth. This subtly occurs in the academic world. We grow in our knowledge. Yet, according to 1 Corinthians, “knowledge puffs up.” In Revelation 2, when Jesus confronts the churches of Ephesus He states that they have lost their first love. They had great doctrine and solid teachings.
We end up having a lot of good information, especially in America today. America has the most seminaries in history, yet, we are subtly agreeing that information is the same as transformation. We have commentaries, resources, online items, and greater Biblical knowledge today than any group at any time in church history.
You would expect this group to grow and become disciples in a far more efficient and effective manner. There should be more discipleship occurring in North America than ever before based on the information we have. But that is not at all what we are seeing. Transformation comes from obedience to the word of God and being sensitive to His Spirit.
We Allow the Culture to Dictate Our Lives
Frequently, people allow the norms of culture to dictate our choices, schedules, and values. One area we do this is with time. We are time-bound to how we can use our time to get the best result for ourselves. Our schedules are based on what culture appreciates, such as children’s sports. Business is equated with productivity.
Then, we forsake important gospel community and teaching our children what it means to be around a community of believers and learning about God. We prioritize their Sunday game over God.
Additionally, we don’t build relationships well because we are too focused on getting things done. Instead of building these relationships, we are performance-driven. Americans put a cap on how much can happen due to their time restrictions. By looking through scriptures we realize that this is not at all what the gospel demands.
The gospel demands that we clear our schedule for what God deems important. The church game has become how to fit God into our time schedule. Individuals will never grow in their faith until they get beyond this.
An additional reason we struggle is because of our consumerism culture. Everything in our society is focused around a “what’s in it for me” mentality. This mentality penetrates our church attendance. We look for what is available at the church for us. Instead, we should be asking ourselves how we can help those around us.
Many people leave churches and say the common phrase, “I just wasn’t getting fed.” We must shift our mentality from this to see how we can feed others and feed ourselves. Ask not what the Kingdom of God can do for you. Ask what you can do for the Kingdom of God. What can we give in place of focusing on “me, me, me”?
Why There is a Lack of People Discipling
For many, it is as simple as the fact that they just don’t know how to disciple others. From the pulpit, pastors try hard to get their congregation to disciple, and evangelize. A typical response may be willing but unaware of how to even do that. This is why we created Just Disciple, to give resources and teach people how to disciple. Ultimately God has commanded us to do this and fulfill the Great Commission.
Our goal is to make disciples of all nations, tribes, and tongues, to the end of the world. The reality is that many people lack the knowledge to do so. People don’t know how to grow their own faith, let alone help others to do the same. They’ve never been taught how to be a mentor.
Relationships are Difficult
Another reason people are not effective in discipleship is because relationships can be awkward. At times when people meet they don’t hit it off or one individual is an introvert whereas the other is an extrovert. In the Western world, in general, this is an issue because people are not willing to push past the awkwardness.
It can also be hard to talk to other people. In all honesty, it can feel like pulling teeth to even get a conversation started. Short responses or one-word responses from the disciple can make it difficult to continue the conversation in an in-depth manner. Discipleship means I will press through all of that. I will go forward and ask hard questions. I will invest in that individual’s life no matter how hard it is.
Discipleship is Inconvenient
Furthermore, discipleship is inconvenient. This goes back to the cultural atmosphere. People have a schedule with set tasks to do. They have families. Therefore, it makes it difficult to fit a meeting with another individual. In order to properly disciple, we must forsake these inconveniences. It is inconvenient, but it must be done. We must lay down our rights to help others.
Discipleship also gets messy. For example, if you are a youth leader you may have to go to places that teenagers spend their time. If you mentor students from a college, you may invite them to your home. This is difficult because the house can be a mess from children or life in general.
Men who work full time may only be able to meet early in the morning before work. Yet, that is difficult when you have a project you must stay up late for. This happened to me a while ago. I was up until 1:00 am and had to get up again by 5:00 am. I was exhausted. But if I care about discipling I have to do it.
People Aren’t Being Challenged to Disciple
Another reason that people are not discipling and opening up their homes is that no one has challenged them to do so. They need someone to look at them and say, “I know it is inconvenient to let high school and college students hang out at your home when you have kids, but you should just do it.”
Many people haven’t risen to the occasion because they haven’t been challenged. Christians need someone to tell them, “Go do this, it is essential.” Preach Matthew 28 to them properly. Explain the implications of it. Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples.
My youth pastor used to say this when I was in high school, “Half-hearted challenges get half-hearted results.” Ultimately, Christians have not been called higher. We live in a coddling culture that strives to appease people with safe zones. Potentially, that will cause American church leaders to be even less likely to challenge the church.
What this generation actually needs is more challenge, not less. The books “Radical” by David Platt, and “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan show what real Christianity looks like. Why are we so far away from this? It feels so difficult and convicting. However, when we actually look at those books, we see that they are only preaching what is taught in the gospels.
This is a normal Christian life. When we see our Christian lives compared to books like these and scripture we see such a disconnect. We must go back to our hearts and lay down some of our rights. We need to be teachable enough to be confronted. Instead of being offended, we need to be okay with God’s correction when we are not following as we should.
People Feel Inadequate
People can be very relational. They may want to spend time with people. Yet, at the end of the day, they feel inadequate. The thoughts they wrestle with are, “I am not Godly Enough,” “You don’t know my sin struggles”, “You don’t know about my issues”, “I haven’t prayed enough”, and “I haven’t’ read enough.”
They have all these excuses for why they are not discipling others. One aspect is that the enemy is lying to them to prevent God’s call upon their life to make disciples. As men and women of faith, we must challenge and encourage these individuals in the fact that they are adequate enough.
Even if you are 6 months ahead of the disciple, you have 6 months of spiritual experience to teach. The earlier you begin to disciple and mentor people, the greater you will grow.
How to Respond When You don’t Have All the Answers
I was speaking to a leader for short term mission trips who explained the many questions that the students had. They were fearful that if someone asked them about difficult topics such as speaking in tongues, women in ministry, and Calvinism, that they would not be qualified to answer.
They argued that they hadn’t gone to seminary to Bible college, therefore, they weren’t equipped. The leader looked these individuals in the eye and said, “You tell them what you believe.”
The person responded, “You don’t even know what I believe! What if I give them the wrong answer?” He replied, “You love Jesus. Give them an answer and don’t pretend that you know fully.” Make it clear that you don’t know the answer but explain what you presently understand. Offer whatever you do have to offer. Do not allow what you don’t have to offer to get in the way.
Moreover, individuals believe that they don’t know enough about the Bible. In reality, no one does. No matter how much theology or education you have, you don’t know enough to answer every possible question. If you wait until you have all the answers, you will be dead before you can ever start discipling.
What to do About the Lack of Discipleship
Stop making excuses and start making steps. Just do it. It was years after I began mentoring people that I actually felt confident in what I was doing. Be humble as you start discipling. Be honest about questions you don’t know how to answer. Journey together with the disciple to discover the answer.
I grew even stronger in my faith when I began mentoring because I would be asked tough questions. This forced me to research and study more about the topics. Discipleship is an amazing cycle. As you are growing yourself, you are also growing others. The opposite happens as well. When you are growing someone else, you end up growing yourself.
Furthermore, focus on growing yourself. Take steps to receive personal discipleship from other individuals. Use available resources to grow yourself. Then, use what you learn to disciple others in your church, community, workplace, and family. Display what discipleship looks like to those around you and encourage them to do the same.
If you desire to grow personally as a disciple, reference the follow resources. “Five Bible Reading Plans for Personal Discipleship” will walk you through yearly Bible plans that have different thematic, chronological, and character studies. Additionally, you may be interested in attending a discipleship school or program. “Top 25 Discipleship Training Programs & How They Work” will list and explain 25 of the best Christian discipleship opportunities.
There are other resources concerning the discipleship of others. “How Discipleship Works for Disciples and Disciplers” will give you an extensive overview of discipleship as a whole. “Before You Disciple Others: Here are the Qualifications” is a great tool to track where you are personally and where you fit in the process of discipling others.
Lastly, “The Importance of Discipleship in Everyday Life” will help you understand the significance of discipleship. It is also a great resource to share with other individuals to challenge them to disciple others.
These are only a small amount of the resources that we offer concerning discipleship. We also cover topics such as worship, prayer, fasting, theology, missions, the local church, and the Bible. These can be found at JustDisciple.com.