Creating an Environment for Discipleship, part 1

For most of my life I have worked really hard at becoming a better Christian. I believed that this is what God wanted of me.  I have tried hard to obey the rules, live the right lifestyle and do what I thought God wanted.  However, I have come to believe that God doesn’t want me to become a better Christian.  I believe that He wants me to become more appropriately human, because that is what He created me to be . . . a human being.  I am now learning how to really follow the example of Jesus, who was the perfect example of what God wants humanity to be.

Instead of becoming a better Christian, I want to become a more devoted disciple of Jesus.  I don’t want my church members to become better Christians; I want them to become more devoted disciples of Jesus.  In order for that to happen, we have to create an environment that is conducive for growth.  You cannot make a person grow as a disciple as only God Himself can cause growth.  But if you create an environment that is conducive to growth then growth will happen.  It’s like planting a seed in the right environment: the seed will grow because its destined to grow in the right environment.  We are destined to grow as disciples so the right environment will cause that growth to happen.

Now one would think that every church would be a healthy environment for discipleship to happen.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Sometimes, churches are not conducive for discipleship growth because their focus is more on behavior modification or on how to become a better Christian.   Discipleship is messy and slow.  Behavior modification is easy and quick.  You just tell people what to believe and how to act.  They can become better Christians because they know what to say and do, but there’s no inward change which is disciples is focused on.  So, with this in mind, I want to look at some things that are essential for discipleship to take place in a person’s life and in the life of a community of believers.  Much appreciation goes out to the Soma Community for their work in this arena.

Holy Spirit empowered

I have been in Pentecostal & Charismatic churches since I was 12 years old.  Their particular focus is on the Holy Spirit and His power and gifts.  I understand the need for Holy Spirit in our lives, but I think that far too much emphasis is put upon the gifts and the anointing more so than the Person of Holy Spirit, and ultimately on Jesus.  He wants to help us live a Christ-centered life whereby we glorify God and love people.  He wants to empower us to become more appropriately human.  Every area of our lives is to become empowered by the Holy Spirit to the point where we are being led by Him in every area of our lives.  Discipleship is about submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to submit to Christ because He reveals how awesome and amazing Jesus is.  He reveals to us how much we are loved and adored by God.  He reveals to us what Jesus’ will for our lives is.  He teaches, leads and guides us into all truth. As you know the truth, it sets you free.

Many Christians I know (and I have been guilty of this) consistently pray for more anointing and power.  I don’t believe that we need more anointing and power.  I believe we need to pray like they did in the book of Acts.  They prayed for boldness.  I know that I am anointed and powerful.  I also know that I am afraid and fearful.  All too often, I am too afraid to witness or I am too scared to even dare to do the seemingly impossible, even though I have the anointing and power to do so.  What I need is empowered and boldness.  May God make His Church more bold!

When we begin to lean upon the Spirit’s power to accomplish things, then great things will be done and a culture of discipleship will be established for growth.  Who wouldn’t want to live in the power of the Spirit?  He gives us power to overcome sin, fear, doubt and self-serving issues.  When people see the power of the Spirit in operation, it creates a hunger for more.

Only the Holy Spirit can change lives.  Only He can help us with self-control.    The Holy Spirit has to become the primary discipler in our lives and the lives of fellow believers.  We cannot change people and we need to stop trying.  We need to allow Holy Spirit to change lives.  We must learn to submit to Him daily.  And we must teach others to surrender to Holy Spirit as well.  When we realize that we can’t change people, and we begin to allow Holy Spirit to do the changing in others, we will create an environment conducive for growth.

Surrendering to Him is a daily choice.  But once you surrender to Him, you become empowered by Him to live as a disciple of Jesus.

So, are you experiencing a Spirit empowered life?  What do you think that kind of life would look like? How would your church be different if everyone quit trying to change people and allowed Holy Spirit to change them?

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