I ran into a guy the other day at LifeWay that I had not seen in many years, since my Itawamba Junior College days. (For those of you unaware, ICC used to be IJC). Me being in a LifeWay store, with LifeWay embroidered on my shirt right below my LifeWay name tag seemed to give me away. So he asked me what I had been doing. I told him I had left the area about 10 years ago, and up until the fall, had served as a pastor several hundred miles away. So that leads him to ask me what was I doing at LifeWay? I told him about our church planting work in the Amory area. I explained that our church LifePointe would be a more contemporary style church, with modern music, casual atmosphere, and a missional attitude. From his response, he didn’t seem to have any love lost over that style of church. He said he was more of the traditional type. He said there’s more to church than just bringing them in, you’ve got to grow them up. His implication was that these new churches springing up, including ours, are heavy on attraction and light on discipleship.
Now, he may not have known it, but I absolutely agree with him. We do want to bring every unchurched person in Amory and Monroe County to Christ. And, we know that’s not the end of story. We want to see people grow in their walk with the Lord. But I think there’s a key word in that last sentence: WALK. Walk implies movement. Walk implies following Jesus. So I agree about the “growing them up” part. I think I would disagree with my friend on the manner of helping people grow up in their walk with the Lord. I don’t think discipleship is purely an academic exercise. I don’t think Jesus’ call to follow Him is all about locking ourselves in a room with a denominationally published book and increasing our knowledge just so we’ll have the right answers to the questions other Christians ask, gauging our depth and the meat we’ve ingested.
Â I think for us to follow Jesus, we’re got to get out there behind Him and walk in the places He would walk and talk to the people He would talk to and touch and love those He would touch and love. From my reading of the Gospels, Jesus’ “Follow Me” call to the disciples came before the teachings. Their walking with Jesus discipleship course was otj training. Jesus did teach, but then, many times, immediately, He walked into situations where the teaching the disciples received had to be put in use practically.
I’m strong for discipleship. I love to study the Bible and find the deep meanings of God words. But I’m also convinced that not the entire discipleship picture. To fill in the rest of that discipleship picture, we have to provide opportunities for what we’ve been taught to become real and engrained in our lives.
No matter what people may think of new churches, LifePointe will be a church where discipleship is very important, all the way up to the point of actually engaging the unchurched in real, meaningful, loving conversations and relationships. That’s not waiting for them to come to a church service. That’s the church following Jesus, going out into the world and engaging those Jesus wants as His own.