Over the years, I have found myself having to talk about a distinctly missional understanding of discipleship. I actually find this a bit odd. The very fact that we now have to put qualifications on the word “discipleship” again signals how far we have veered from a biblical understanding of discipleship. As if we could compartmentalize aspects of our lives and calling. The word “discipleship” ought to be a stand-alone term that can carry the full weight of biblical spirituality as defined in Jesus’ version of the shema (Mark 12:28-31). The shema sets the agenda for all aspects of Christian life lived as worship towards God. When Jesus says, “there are no greater commandments than these!” we must take him at his word.
If we really understood the kingdom dynamics and the concentrated theology/worldview that the shema conveys, then we would not have to use the term “missional” at all. Mission is implied in what it means to love God with all that we are and love our neighbor as ourselves. True and authentic worship of the One God requires that I offer my world back to Him in response to His grace and lordship. But when you think about it, mission is also about offering my world back to God. As a result, discipleship, too, involves me “offering my world back to God”; they (worship, mission, discipleship) are simply dimensionally different aspects of the same phenomenon. We should not have to qualify it with adjectives to somehow make sense of different types of discipleship. To recover discipleship means to recover true worship and mission as well. Much is involved, as we shall soon see.
If many of our deepest problem can be traced from a lack of discipleship – what Dallas Willard called the “non-discipleship of the church” – then it is also equally likely that a recovery of discipleship can signal significant renewal in the life of God’s people? I have come to believe that almost all of the problems of the church we now face can be linked – at least in part – to the lack of a clear idea and practice of discipleship. This also means that it can, and must, be corrected by precisely at this point. We need to get back to basics. Discipleship must take us beyond our need for privatized worship services and otherworldly spirituality of “quiet times in quiet places” to help transform the many “churchly” admirers of Jesus into true followers of Jesus. Admirers of Jesus are hard to motivate and need to be constantly entertained; only real followers of Jesus will go the distance and make a lasting impact on the world.
Excerpt taken from Disciplism a free ebook by Alan Hirsch available here.