The Forgotten Ways, Part 4

The Heart of It All — Jesus is Lord. So, now what? The first main principle that Hirsch lays out is that of disciple making. The development of disciples has taken on a new cool twist recently with all the emphasis on the Jewish life and what a Rabbi really is and therefore what it means to be a disciple. Hirsch steps in a provides a clear, succinct, and challenging picture of what discipleship is all about. How important is discipleship? Hirsch argues, “if we fail at this point then we must fail in all the others.”

So what is discipleship? It is the embedding of mDNA into other people. It is that process by which men and women follow Jesus are built into people who can reproduce their lives into others. This is God’s plan for sending his message all over the world. And it as Hirsch puts it, “it worked.”

Discipleship has taken on many labels over the years, Robert Coleman called it “The Master Plan of Evangelism”. The envogue thing these days to be a disciple of Jesus, getting his “dust all over you.” Here’s the thing. We all talk about discipleship. We all know that being a disciple is an important thing to be. But, how many people actually practice discipleship? This is the real question.

Hirsch challenges our concept in this subject based on the reality that church involvement has become the lowest common denominator. The “seeker-sensitive” church has made it so that anyone can come to church. In the early church to be a member you had to work through the “catechisms”. This could take years.

When there is danger surrounding the church and it has to make sure that false brothers are not slipping in then discipleship takes on a whole new meaning. In the West we do not fear for our lives. In the West we are able to shop for our church and find the one with the best program and the least amount of commitment. This simply is not possible in the persecuted church or the early church.

Hirsch has labeled his concept of discipleship as “The Conspiracy of the Little Jesus”. This means that he understands Matthew 28:18–20 to be Jesus casting a vision for there to be “a lot of little versions” of himself “infiltrating every nook and cranny of himself.”

This is the heart of what it means to be missional. There is a build and send aspect to the entire concept of discipleship in the missional church. Discipleship has often been understood as come out to church, Sunday school, Wednesday nights. These events constantly pull people out from their worlds.

The missional understanding of discipleship is one where building and sending takes place at the same time. Discipleship cannot be done rightly in the walls of a church but it must be done out in the world. We must continue to go out and enter into every aspect of the world.

Hirsch argues, and I think convincingly, that this is the center of what it means to be “in Christ” or “abiding in Christ”.

The key to discipleship in Hirsch’s mind is embodiment. This concept simply means that the “teacher” needs to be living out the Christ message in life before the “learner”. So, again we must take another look at what it means to do discipleship. It’s not taking people through a curriculum. It is living life with other believers in the context of their world.

Paul uses imitation language throughout his writing. Can someone learn to imitate another by hanging out at church? In a coffee shop? No. They need to do life together. Discipleship is something that has to be intentional. It has to be all-inclusive.

Discipleship then has significant ramifications for how the church is led. Hirsch puts it succinctly, “leadership to be genuinely Christian, must always reflect Christlikeness and therefore…discipleship.”

Movements can only reach as far as the leadership base. Leaders in the missional church are self-reproducing, fully devoted disciples. Therefore, leaders can only be built as disciples are built. In the missional church the best way to judge health of the movement is the number of disciples that are reproducing their lives.

Discipleship is a necessity. Discipleship is the core practice of the missional church.

The way that Hirsch argues for discipleship to take place is right practice bringing about right belief. That is, processing what it means to be a Christ follower as we go. That is thrusting people into mission RIGHT NOW and teaching them on the job, as it were.

Think about all the things that we learn to do: walking, talking, socializing, all of it is done through doing and learning as you go. This is the same for following Christ. We need to take people and get them doing it. Involve them and they will become more like Christ.

I think that there is so much good here in the discussion that Hirsch provides on discipleship. There are some things that I think are inherently hard for us in the West to swallow. Especially, those of us in suburban life. How can we do life together when our congregations travel as much as an hour to come to church?

Personally, I know of two families in our church that live in my suburb. We travel 20 minutes to church. Why? Because there is a need for reformed, biblical communities in metro Detroit.

What would it look like to organize a church around its communities? What if a church organized cell/small groups based on geography and said, “Do life together. Include others from your community.” Eat dinner together. Have your kids play with each other.

What is all this took place in the rhythm of life? What if we chose to limit the number of times we “pulled out” people from the world in which they live?

Discipleship is radical. Am I willing to be radical?