“Who are you discipling?” “Who is discipling you?” “What method do you use?” and specifically “what method of prayer do you teach?”
How we and the members of our church community answer these four questions reveals quite succinctly the health of the discipleship program in our churches and the intentionality of our lives as followers of Jesus. Often when preaching in churches, when I ask these questions, my point is simply to reveal to the church that they do not have a discipleship process at all. People look bewildered. “Who am I discipling? Ahhh...??...no one I guess. I have never looked at it that way.” “What method do I use? We don’t use methods. What is he talking about? And who does he think he is anyway?” “What method of prayer do we teach. What??? We aren’t buddhist. What is he talking about?”
So I ask you, the reader, “Who are you discipling?” “Who is discipling you?” “What method do you use?” and “What method of prayer do you teach people?”
The fact that most christians cannot answer these questions in detail nor carry on a discussion about what methods of discipleship work and do not work reveals to us that we have a crisis in discipleship in the church of the master discipler, Jesus Christ. Dallas Willard in the book “The Great Omission” speaking on the topic of the great commission concludes by saying, “I know of no current denomination or local congregation that has a concrete plan and practice for teaching people to ‘do all that I commanded you’” (72-73). Dallas Willard, after mentoring pastors and preaching in conferences around the world for his entire life, came to the conclusion that not one congregation has a definitive discipleship plan that attempts to fulfill the great commission to “make disciples of all people teaching them to obey everything I commanded you”. It has taken maybe centuries to get to this place of total abandonment of our calling. This maybe a harsh observation but I contend, and with Dallas Willard as my witness I am utterly convinced, that the church is in crisis with respect to the process of discipleship.
Jesus often used economic analogies to make his point clearer. The economic system of the day was almost exclusively farming. For example, to bring clarity and urgency to His followers, Jesus told parables that depict His followers as farm workers working for a farm owner. The owner, Jesus taught us, expects a profit from his farm. When the farm owner returns, he will say to us “show me the money”.
I have spent my career in the aerospace industry, so let me make a more modern economic analogy using airplanes. Picture a incredibly complex organization like an airplane manufacturer. The organization has literally 1000s of engineers and 100,000 employees. The process of designing and building an airplane takes years. When everything comes together the plane is sold to a customer and the plane does one thing very well: it flies. Imagine that this incredible endeavor produced a product that was perfect in every way except for one detail. The planes could not fly. Picture the first test flight. ABC manufacturer produces a plane, but it cannot fly. Imagine the press conference. The CEO steps up to the microphone and says, “ We do not consider this to be a problem. Our airplane is beautiful. It seating is state of the art. Every seat has its own private entertainment system. The interior sound levels are unrivaled. We have come to the conclusion that flight is not possible and therefore not to be a primary characteristic of airplanes nor a realistic goal for the airplane manufacturer.” This illustration describes the current state of the church. We are a disciple-making community and yet we do not know how to make disciples nor do we see this as a terribly urgent problem.