Been reading a book on asking the right questions when it comes to thinking through how to be intentional in leading people in the church towards following Christ. It’s what we’re commissioned to do, “Go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19-20). Baptize them into the body of believers and teach them how to follow the Head of the body.
The church is to make disciples, not just coddle believers. And a disciple is a learner and a follower. An imitator of their Teacher, walking in His ways, wanting what He wants. The Greg Laurie quote resonates with me: “Every disciple is a believer, but not every believer is necessarily a disciple.”
In the book I’m reading, the author suggests three fundamental areas of learning which are vital for making followers: bible, belief, and spiritual habits. Knowing the story, understanding theology, practicing the rhythms and ways of the kingdom.
Many get the need to at least read their bible if they want to mature as followers of Christ, some also will buy into the need to study their bible. The idea that spiritual disciplines are also helpful, also resonates with some, at least in my circles, as to their importance for growing in Christ. But mention doctrine, talk about getting a handle on theology, and the herd seems to thin pretty quickly. Seems too theoretical, some would argue, too ethereal. They want application, not academics.
But something I read in Acts this morning emphasized for me, again, the connection between right belief and right behavior.
“But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”
(Romans 24:14-16 ESV)
Paul is testifying before Felix, governor of Judea, at the governor’s residence in Caesarea (Acts 23:23-34). Defending himself against accusations of “stirring up riots among all the Jews” and “profaning the temple” (24:5-6). Paul’s rebuttal, in essence? Not true. They didn’t find me arguing with or stirring up the crowd. They can’t prove that I profaned our temple, because I didn’t. And here’s why I didn’t act in such a way, my theology. I believe that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
The resurrection of the just and unjust, that’s doctrine. That our bodies will materially be raised, reunited with our spirits, and required to stand before God at the resurrection is deep doctrine. And because Paul worshipped the God of his fathers by knowing and believing in such theology, he took great pains to maintain a clear conscience before both God and man. What Paul believed had a direct impact on how he sought to behave. What, by faith, he knew to be the certainty of standing before the throne of God someday, had a great influence on how he ordered his life today.
To be sure, we can be true believers and have very little knowledge of the divine and the ways of the kingdom of heaven. It’s how we all start. Born again, babes in Christ, the gospel so rudimentary that even children can respond. But to be true followers, to be deep disciples of Jesus Christ? That’s gonna require growing up a bit, require maturing in the things of Christ.
That part of making disciples is to teach, implies that part of being a disciple is to learn. That part of being a sojourner is also being a student. That part of being “doers of the word” is to first be “hearers” (James 1:22). Learning, not for the sake of knowledge alone, but so that we might live — practically, purposefully, and productively — as followers of Jesus Christ.
By His grace. For His glory.