Have We Made It Harder Than It Needs To Be?
Twenty-six years ago, I was introduced to my union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection - a “new creation life” which the Spirit of God “exchanged” for my old self-life when He placed me into Jesus and Jesus into me.
During these twenty-six years, I have been a Minister of Missions in an inner-city church in Dallas, a catalytic church planting missionary for Southern Baptist’s North American Mission Board, the State Director of Missions for Colorado, and the last six years a missionary working with church planters, refugees and ex-offenders teaching the “message of grace,” a.k.a.: “the exchanged life;” “our oneness with Christ;” “the new creation life;” “the finished work of the Cross;” “the rest of the gospel;” etc. Throughout these years, I have become increasingly frustrated that this beautiful message has been virtually ignored by the evangelical church and that discipleship has been agonizingly slow. I am convinced though, that I (we) have made it harder than it needs to be.
However, I believe we will see, in the not too distant future, a Holy Spirit directed resurgence of this “grace message” and the freedom that is coming with a renewed recognition of who we already are in Christ - the truly “good news.”
The book of Acts paints a portrait of a rapidly reproducing and rapid movement of God that was naturally spontaneous. It is evident in reading Acts, “that after Pentecost everything that happened was by the impulse of the Spirit “ (Roland Allen).
Luke also tells us in Acts 19:1-10 that Paul introduces some “disciples” to the Holy Spirit and then after an unsuccessful attempt in the synagogue to “argue persuasively about the kingdom of God” he moved to a new venue - the “hall of Tyrannus.” Then for two years, Paul taught something that was so powerful “that all of the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Here is a concrete and vivid picture of rapid disciple making and gospel saturation. The question is, “What did Paul teach in Ephesus that inundated this part of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ?”
The text does not spell out exactly what Paul was teaching in Ephesus, because Luke does not include a syllabus from the School of Tyrannus, but it is an easy hermeneutic to surmise that what Paul taught in Ephesus, he also wrote to us in his letters to the New Testament church. The essentials of Paul’s New Testament teaching in general and what he taught in Ephesus in particular is, I believe, the essence of the “gospel” - our new identity, our true identity in Christ.
Was the rapid disciple making that occurred in the book of acts the result of the man Paul, or was it his message of God exchanging our old life in Adam for our new life in Christ, when God called us to faith in Jesus? I suggest that it was the message and not the man - the message of “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” that caused the “church” in the New Testament to explode.
So what might accelerated discipleship (Acts 19:10) look like today - biblically and practically? What might open the door for a movement of the Holy Spirit in our corner of the Kingdom?
- Individual, 2 X 2, and corporate praying of prayers that are in the heart of God to answer (1st John 5:14-15; Example: Luke 10:2b)
- A better understanding of our basic sin problem, i.e. the flesh (an attitude of omniscience that leads us to think that we are wise enough to know what is best or not best for ourselves and others) and its constant war with the Holy Spirit (Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 1:22; Gal. 5:16-18; et.al.)
- A renewed biblical understanding and emphasis on the “exchanged life”, i.e. our co-crucifixion, burial and resurrection as the effectual means of experiencing freedom from what has already been crucified - our self-efforts, emphasis on results, performance, fear, etc. (Gal. 2:20; Rom. 6; et. al.)
- Moving from dependence on man-centered methodologies and programs (no matter how good) to embrace the centrality of the Spirit’s guidance and empowerment for a Christ follower (Luke 11:13; John 8:28; 14:26; et. al.)
- For believers to believe and imagine what is already true of them, i.e., that they are already in the presence of, in community with the Trinity; that they have an enthroned perspective, a resurrected view for living an incarnational life - right now (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1-3; et.al.)
- Recognize the Holy Spirit as the Master Discipler and that ultimately only He will be the Revealer of our new life in Christ. Only He can multiple disciples rapidly. We must trust Him to protect doctrine, to teach truth, and to mentor emerging disciples as we release them - quickly - to share the “rest of the gospel.” This message of grace went viral in New Testament times because of the Spirit working in the lives of these early, every-day Christ followers - teaching them in route - as they scattered over Asia Minor
- Spend more time with less people. To think smaller does not seem very efficient in a church culture of programs and conferences, but it is the most effective
- Be careful not to over emphasize “training” in our disciple making process, but rather begin to encourage new disciples to share what they are learning with others, who are in their circle of influence, from the beginning of the discipleship process
Rapid Disciple Making? Yes, we have made it harder than it needs to be!