As we continue in our consultation with Church Doctors, Ann pointed out an article in our denomination's monthly magazine, Connections," that I found important and encouraging. Pastor Giacomo Cassese, of Community of Hope Christian Church in Miami, Florida writes in his article, "Back to the Future" (what follows all belongs to Pastor Cassese. I'm new at this blog thing, so, if I've broken any laws or committed a cardinal sin by re-sending Pastor Cassese's message, I only hope that forgiveness is as important to him as discipleship. I send his words because he puts it far better than I could.):
The church was intended by God to be "the community of disciples.” By this measure, any other form of community within the church is not truly the church. Luther would continually differentiate between the community of saints and the institution called the church. Kierkegaard pointed out the contrast between Christianity and Christendom. Bonhoeffer accomplished the same by contrasting the confessional church to the confessing church.
Today we need to be aware of the meaning of being a discipled church in the midst of this post-modern culture that wants to relativize everything and empty everything of meaning. Faced with today’s reality, the church needs to return to its future. It needs to take up God’s original design for the church: to return to being the community of disciples and not merely members of the church. That is the future of the church today.
A church without disciples of Jesus Christ is as worthless as a boat out of water. The church that refuses to "make disciples" is self-destructive and organized around a Christianity without Christ, something we also know as living in “cheap grace.”
It seems that after 2000 years of history, the church has lost sight of the core of its faith. As with avalanches, after the mass of ice and snow comes to cover the ground it is difficult to identify what caused the shift in the first place. So long after Jesus began his ministry, we can easily forget how it all started: with 12 disciples. Christ is the very core of faith, discipleship is his method.
The church today is sinking into the quicksand of post-modern culture, becoming more and more ambiguous in its ethical thinking, preferring “choice” to the truth and with a tendency to be increasingly “politically correct.” In the midst of this technocratic and globalized culture the church has modernized and secularized, resulting in becoming part of consumer society: a “user-friendly” church. I believe that if the church does not return to being a dynamic community of true disciples, it is doomed to be buried by dominant culture.
For the sake of the future of the church, we must return to discipleship. Let’s consider some of the reasons:
Discipleship is transformative. Discipleship is not just passively supplying someone religious information, but rather the process of forming the character of the believer so that the character of Jesus Christ is truly manifested in them. This means that disciples are those who are exposed to a metamorphic process, resulting in a new breed of people: those who live with the principles of the kingdom of God.
Discipleship is countercultural. Effective discipleship produces a true social impact. Disciples are not influenced by culture – they influence culture. A discipled church is a counter-cultural movement based on divine and transcendent culture: the kingdom of God.
Discipleship is transferable. Discipleship, as taught by Jesus, does not end with being a disciple, but with making disciples. Disciples are the only people who can become an “apostle” (one who is sent). This means that each time we implement discipleship as a natural part of the life of the church, we ensure the consequence of fulfilling the mission of the church. Only a disciple can make disciples, only a disciple can be sent. That is the apostolic character of the church.
We must always remember that the worst tragedy of the church is not becoming an apostate by openly denying Christ, but by wanting to continue being the church without the gospel, without faith, without the cross, and without submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.