The Discipleship Deficit: Where Have All the Disciples Gone? - page 1

From the Spring 2011 issue of Knowing & Doing

The Discipleship Deficit: Where Have All the Disciples Gone?

by Greg Ogden, D. Min.
Executive Pastor of Discipleship, Christ Church of Oak Brook
Oak Brook, IL

If we are to devise a successful strategy of disciple making in our churches, we must first assess the gap between where we are and where we are called to go. Max De Pree, who has popularized this biblical wisdom as top priority for leaders, writes, ”The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”1

I want to explore the deficit that must be filled if making self-initiating, reproducing, fully devoted followers of Christ is to become our new reality. The purpose of this analysis is to help you assess the gap between where you are and where you want to go. As you read on. quietly pause and ask the Holy Spirit to allow you to receive the truth that will ultimately set you free.

The State of Discipleship Today: You Are Here!
If I were to choose one word to summarize the state of discipleship today it is superficial. Many who claim Jesus as Savior seem not to comprehend the implications of following him as Lord.

This superficiality comes into startling focus when we note the incongruity between the numbers of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and the lack of impact on the moral and spiritual climate of our times. The American Religious Identification Survey of 2008 (ARIS), the most extensive done on the American population, found that fully 33 percent, correlating to 77,000,000 adults, described themselves as born again.2 The Gallup Poll taken during the years 2001 and 2007 noted that between 38 and 45 percent of the adult population in the United States self-designated as evangelical. These numbers scream for an explanation. How can Christian leaders moan over the moral decline of our society when at the same time so many indicate a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ? Certainly if these millions of Jesus’ namers were actually Jesus’ followers, we would not be wagging our fingers in anger at a civilization that has turned away from God.

We have a discipleship deficit. How deep is it? What is the reality that we as leaders must define? We are able to gauge the discipleship deficit when we compare the biblical standards of discipleship with the reality of their achievement in our churches and ministries.

Let’s look at seven marks of discipleship. At the end of each section, take the opportunity to identify the gap between the biblical standard and the reality of your church or ministry.

The Biblical Standard and the Current Reality
1. Proactive Ministers.
The Scriptures picture the church as full of proactive ministers; the reality is that a majority are passive recipients.

The New Testament picture of the church is every member a minister. Writing to scattered, persecuted Christians, Peter referred to the church in aggregate when he writes, “You (plural) are… a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). Every believer comes to God via Christ as mediator, and every believer is enabled to act as a priest on behalf of fellow members of the body of Christ. The apostle Paul had the everyday Christian in mind when he wrote, “To each has been given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). The New Testament describes a full employment plan that dignifies and gives every believer value based on the contribution he or she has to make.

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