What is "discipleship"?

On my first (ever) visit to Jacksonville, I met a woman who was very excited about the prospect of North Point launching a strategic partnership in Jacksonville. She said that her church and ours could be great partners. She said, exactly, “ya’ll could lead them to Christ and then they could come to our church to be discipled.”

I just smiled. The obvious indictment was that, while Access might do a good job at creating environments that lead people to “accept” Jesus Christ, we’ll probably drop the ball soon after.

Our mission statement is “to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Everything we do and will do is about that—seeing people increase their faith in God. How does a church accomplish “discipleship”?

Some churches have a great teaching ministry—layers upon layers of classes and electives. In those churches, you hear phrases like “biblical literacy” a lot. Some of those people ask, “when does North Point get to the deeper stuff? However, in my years of ministry, some of the smartest Christians I knew were also the worst at following Jesus’ purpose—”to seek and save the lost.”

Other churches talk about obedience. And it’s true that, if you love Jesus, you’ll obey him. But obedience absent the relationship is just pharisaical.

Obedience alone will make you judgmental.

Knowledge alone will make you proud.

A spiritually mature person is one who lives as if God is who He says He is and will do all He has promised to do.

Knowledge? That’s a class.

Faith? Maturity? That’s a product of time. That’s what happens when God works through relationships and circumstances and when we exercise our ministry gifts. It’s what happens as we practice the private spiritual disciplines and tune our heart to the heart of God. And yes, it’s when practical Bible teaching shows us where we are and where we need to go.

Do we want to see people in a growing relationship with God? Absolutely? Will that happen as a result of classes, seminars, and electives? Not likely. And can it be measured by obedience? Only partly.

Okay, folks, don’t be shy about your comments. I’m sure not everyone agrees. In fact, my best friend in ministry for the last decade and I will go to the mat about this issue of “spiritual maturity.” But that’s okay. He’s also an Eagles fan. What’s that tell you?.