TSR talks discipleship through the lens of doctrine lived out in community. Come join The Socially Remote!
In this episode, we continue our discussion about discipleship by getting practical. We talk about our need to be invested in the church as a crucial part of our growth as disciples of Jesus. We also talk about ways we can catechize ourselves in theology and doctrine in order to help us love God with our whole selves – heart, soul, and mind.
Steven introduced this episode in a really weird way. He said that it was because he was on another podcast this week, and that’s how they introduce their episodes. Give it a listen at History or His Story! This episode is a continuation of the previous episode where we examined some statistics concerning church attendance and discipleship. Next we moved on to talking about some recent de-conversion stories. Then we moved on to discuss how discipleship was an issue even in the early church (this section was replete with Scripture, which you can see by taking a look at Episode 6: Discipleship). Matt reminded us that this topic was rooted in our discussion two episodes ago about discipline having its roots in discipleship (check out Episode 5: The Relational God).
In the previous episode, we concluded that, corporately, the church needs to be focusing on faithfully teaching theology and creating spaces for believers to wrestle with questions and pursue community. Individuals need to take spiritual maturity seriously by focusing on learning sound doctrine and pursuing godly community that is not relegated to a couple hours per week. We want to use that as a springboard for considering what that looks like practically.
For the Counselors
David feels this is a good direction to go, because too often churches have a defeatist mentality. It’s easier to focus on numbers than the hard work of discipleship. What we saw last week was that this is not a new problem, and the solution can be rooted in Scripture.
Matt is feeling good, because the practical side of this discussion is where discipleship actually happens. And he’s looking forward to the conversation.
Steven felt a bit frustrated after leaving the last episode, because he felt like we just circled the drain on a number of topics without saying anything conclusive. But now, having typed-up the episode, he was actually really encouraged by the content and is excited to discuss the practical outworking of what was discussed. And he’s looking forward having a “fireside chat” of sorts. We talked about putting the fake Netflix fire on the screens behind us, and we wanted to thank the Bramblejam Podcast Network Studio for letting us use their space.
We’re going to talk about three areas that will help us live out discipleship: contribution, community, and catechesis. Examining these three topics shows us that discipleship is ultimately about doctrine in community.
Doctrine in Community: Contributing
What does it look like to disciple and grow-in-the-faith? We sort of tentatively answered that with “contributing,” but what does that mean?
Steven discussed what that has looked like in his family’s life. He talked about the challenge of trying to contribute to a church while juggling other responsibilities. He had the benefit of building a habit of going to multiple church functions early in his marriage, and he further challenged listeners to make church a priority. Our generation has so many relationships (school, work, sports, family, etc.), that, if we don’t prioritize our church relationships, then it will just be one more thing. If church is supposed to be our “family,” then it needs to be a priority (where we spend our time, money, gifts, and talents). the more you prioritize something, the more you’ll get out of it.
Doctrine in Community: Spiritual Gifts
Matt was intrigued that Steven’s answer was more about being in the church (involved, having “buy-in”) than it was about what he was doing. That doesn’t mean “consuming” church. Too often we show up and consume without ever getting involved. Steven encouraged listeners to pray over the spiritual gifts passages to determine how they can contribute and be involved. Check out Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, and Ephesians 4:11-14.
Doctrine in Community: Posture of Humility
We live an extremely transactional culture, and we cannot treat church transactionally. We also need to stop looking to our leaders to minister for us. Our leaders are to equip the body to use their gifts to serve one another, not do that for them. And this is a difficult truth for our leaders, because they have to encourage those who come to the church transactionally to think beyond that. We (believers) are all one body, and we all have the same Holy Spirit. So we all need to be building-up one another.
Our posture needs to be humility towards one another, and especially toward church leadership. That humility should be combined with a servant-hearted approach to help grow the body. That also extends to filling gaps where you may not necessarily have gifts, but where there are needs (Matt mentioned serving in the nursery). Involvement encourages “low-key” investment in other people. And this is often what we’re too busy to do, but it is part of being together and being in community as we “grow up into maturity” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
Doctrine in Community: Why the Church?
So what makes the church different? Why not “invest” in your kid’s sport’s teams as a “ministry”?
A large part of the answer to that question has to do with the ramifications. The ramifications of church and ministry are eternal; whereas all other things are temporal. However, a second answer to that question comes back to priorities. We have commonality with brothers and sisters in Christ that should far outstrip any sort of commonality we share with people over other things. So, too often we substitute a commonality in ______________ (fill in the blank) for a commonality we share in Christ.
This leads to making a secondary thing into a primary one. When people use the excuse that “I just feel closer to God when I ______________,” they have turned a good and right desire (a secondary), into a primary. These things can be used for eternal purposes, but they’re supplemental. Too often we excuse leisure as a primary when it needs to be a secondary. The church must be priority one, and there can’t be a one-A. By having these supplemental priorities, it robs both the church and you. It robs the church that you are not using that gifting and passion to build up others believers, and it robs you in that you are absent from the encouragement of the body.
Gifts are meant to be mutually beneficial. They draw you closer to God as you draw others closer to God the use of them.
Doctrine in Community: Summary so Far
You need to be invested in the church as a crucial part of your growth as a disciple of Jesus. And when other things start taking precedent over that or when you start viewing the church as a consumer and saying it’s only here to serve me, then you’re not helping yourself grow as a follower of Jesus and you’re viewing the church in a biblical way.
Doctrine in Community: Catechizing and Equipping
Practically how do we go about learning, acting, and equipping?
In a post-Enlightenment era (where we have divorced the mind from a holistic view of the self), we too often we leave Bible study and theology to the “experts;” whereas we pursue the “relational” side of religion. But you can’t separate the two. We are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). We can’t divorce our heart/soul from our mind.
But bear in mind that we don’t all have to be scholars. First Peter 3:15 says that we need to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope [not the existence of God, or how we reconcile pain and suffering with a loving God, etc.] that is in you” (emphasis mine). We need to be ready to talk about our hope. Jesus commands childlike faith (Matthew 18:1-4), and that can be borne out in community (as those of us whom God has gifted with knowledge can help encourage those who’s faith has been challenged).
While you don’t have to have an encyclopedic view of biblical knowledge, the culture will catechize you if you are not prepared to deal with current issues. That is why it is even more important to understand the faith. So the second key to maintaining your growth as a disciple is to study theology and to study doctrine – not to grow an encyclopedic knowledge, but in order to know God more (which is one of our callings). Shallow Christianity just won’t last you very long. It’s the seed that is planted amongst the rocks or being choked out by thorns. It dies out (Matthew 13:1-30).
Matt used the word “catechesis” or “catechism.” I’m so bad at that as a parent. Catechism is part of the responsibility of the church, but it’s also part of our responsibility as a parent. Our family just started using New City Catechism, and it’s been great. Like I said, we’re not the best at doing it faithfully but we are trying.
Catechesis is the basis of service, so if you’re not serving, then you need to pray and ask for guidance on where you can serve and help build up the body.
But I want to provide a quote for us to keep in mind as we think about how we add to our theology:
When rigidly prescribed roles, forms, and curriculum are superimposed on what is meant to be a relationship that reflects the way faith was designed by God to be transmitted—through His life shared together—discipleship starts looking like a project. Or worse, a product.–Michelle Van Loon, “Becoming Sage”
Doctrine is meant to be lived out in community, and we need to have humility. You have to be open about your life. You have to let people in. And if people let you in, you have to not take advantage and gossip.
Go back to Scripture. This is not the first time the church has dealt with this issue. So go to Scripture. And not just as a road map for discipleship, but to better know God by learning His commands and obey them. You can’t do that apart from Scripture and apart from the church.
Find time to think about and learn about God. Take your drive time, for instance. We have so many resources (audio books, podcasts, etc.) that it may be difficult to choose. But it’s a worthwhile task. And Christianity is not to be lived out on an island. We must be involved in the local body. Try to find someone in the New Testament who practiced Christianity on their own.
This concludes a three-part series on discipleship. Hopefully we presented some step forwards in maintaining your walk with Jesus and continuing to grow and mature in your faith. Next episode we’ll be talking about missions. David and his family served overseas, and some other folks might join us too. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out at email@example.com.
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About The Socially Remote
Does it ever seem like the longer you adult, the less social you become? The responsibilities of being a spouse, a parent, and an employee often leave us with little time for meaningful interaction outside our home and office. As a result, many of us aren’t even remotely social. We try to fill the void with outlets like Facebook and Twitter, but we soon discover social media isn’t as social as it sounds. And the effort we put into soliciting likes and comments doesn’t produce stronger relationships with other people like we’d hoped.
This podcast is an attempt by a pastor, a lawyer, and a generalist to combat the growing culture of social isolation by making time for meaningful conversations about life, theology, and the church. We want to create space in our lives to engage in regular discussion and debate with those around us, and we hope this podcast will encourage you to do the same.
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