Obedience Based Discipleship
Often, discipleship in Christianity is focused on gaining more knowledge instead of growing in love and faithfulness. This causes us to pursue knowledge, thinking we will be faithful once we understand more.
The problem comes from an misunderstanding of the nature of discipleship. For many of us, when we think about discipleship, we picture a person sitting in a classroom with a book in front of them instead of people running a race or training for war.
Discipleship at its very nature is not passive, purely-mental learning. Instead it’s learning to obey what Jesus said and do what Jesus did. It’s going to the lost. It’s proclaiming the good news. It’s making other disciples. It’s serving others. It’s equipping the saints. It’s sending others. It’s serving the poor. These are actions that reflect biblical truth, not lessons learned in a library.
Because of the tendency for us to understand discipleship as purely mental learning, we’ve stopped talking about discipleship and started talking about “obedience-based discipleship1.” It’s not that we don’t teach people what the Bible says. It’s that we teach people how to obey what the Bible says, which is the only way to build your spiritual life in a way that will withstand the testing that will come (see Matthew 7:24-27). Obedience to a truth is how we know you fully understood it.
Compare this with our current training strategies in the West. Often we teach people truth and hope that people perform them. When they show back up again, we teach them again, but this time something new, because they heard what we taught previously. There is an assumption that if they heard and didn’t ask questions, that they absorbed our teaching and understand. Often the exact opposite is true.
This tendency to sit and absorb instead of learn and apply is at the heart of why we don’t see movements in the West. Movements move. There is a going, doing, action quality to them that makes them a “movement.” Our Western mindset allows us to come and sit and feel like a participant by hearing a teaching without ever necessarily obeying. In order for us to overcome this in the West, we must begin to teach and model training among the churches in a way that provokes people to obey and rewards obedience.
Jesus isn’t after our mental understanding. He wants us to understand and use our mind, but He is after us loving Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength (Mark 12:30). He’s after the complete person. So we must train our hearts, souls, and strength to love and serve Him, and not just our mind.
This begins with obedience-based discipleship.
1We are certainly not the first group to adopt the phrase. In fact, it’s so widely used in discipleship making movements that its hard to pinpoint who first used the term.