Gospel-Centered Discipleship

As many of you know, this past Sunday I shared with everyone how I sometimes struggle with times of depression.  It felt weird sharing this with the whole church, when its something I had never shared in any great detail with my men’s group.  Our men’s group meets weekly on an early weekday morning at a local eating establishment (I’m being nondescript so folks won’t show up with a hidden camera and microphone).

We’ve been meeting for a good while now, and although there is a lot of great discussion and sharing of prayer requests and even some accountability, we’ve discovered that we’re missing something.  We can share some superficial prayer requests, and we can have a theological discussion about things we’ve been reading about in God’s Word throughout the week, and we can even do some moralistic accountability (Did you read your Bible?  Did you pray with your wife?  Did you lust this week? etc.)…we can do all that and still end up with an atmosphere where guys (like me) can hide and never really share things with which they are struggling.  I proved to myself, and the rest of the guys that I am able to stay disconnected and isolated even in that kind of men’s group….and again, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has that kind of “skill”.

I’m convinced that what we’ve been having in our men’s group is not what we need.  It’s definitely part of what we need, but we’ve recognized that something is missing.  What’s missing is the impetus to fight against the lies and deception that Satan, our culture, and our flesh are all telling us to believe, and to fight against those lies with the truth of the gospel.  As sinners saved by grace who still struggle with our flesh (that’s you too by the way), we need gospel transformation, but transformation doesn’t come without a fight.

Jonathan Dodson, in his book, “Fight Clubs: Gospel Centered Discipleship”, says,

Disciples of Jesus are called to fight, but not in physical or virtual combat.  We are called to fight a fight of faith for what is true and against what is false.  The Bible calls us to a fight of faith, a spiritual war that contends for the transforming power and truth of the Gospel.  It is a fight to behold an image – the image of the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ.  It is a fight to behold and become like Jesus, not in our own strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This fight centers us on the gospel, not on our own fighting and lack of fighting, while cheering a fight nonetheless.  We are cheered on by focusing on the infinite merits of the gospel, which compel us to fight.  Gospel-centered discipleship equips us to fight for the image and glory of Jesus!

The question then becomes, “How do we fight this fight in the context of community?”  Aside from throwing biscuits at one another at the BK lounge (OK, now you know), how can our men’s group incorporate this concept of fighting for gospel transformation in and through one another?  How can your BASE Group achieve this level of gospel-focus, intentionality, and effectiveness?  I’ll be honest…..I don’t know.  But, at least the guys in my group are committed to walking down that road and engaging with one another out of genuine love for one another and for the glory of God, in order to see gospel transformation really happen in our lives.

To help us on this journey, we’re turning to Dodson’s book that I quoted from above.  I read “Fight Clubs” as an e-book before it was ever published, and it transformed the way I think about Biblical community.  If you want a copy, please let me know….I’m ordering a ton of them, but I don’t want to order too few.  It’s a short read (55 pages), and will give you both a Christ-centered motivation for implementing something like this in your BASE group or network, as well as some practical advice for how to proceed.

I think I will reserve the right to return to this subject in future posts as I go through this book with our group.  Knowing how far most of us are from this kind of intentional Biblical community….and knowing how badly we need it, I think there will be lots of stuff that we’ll all benefit from chewing on.

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9 thoughts on “Gospel-Centered Discipleship

  1. Very good. As to your question, “How do we fight this fight in the context of community?”, there are probably multiple books on that, but I would recommend one thing that I believe is so essential in the fight that without it, failure is guaranteed. And that is this: Learn how to encourage and build each other up.

    The fight we fight must have God’s love at the center. And the necessary element in truly loving others is found in encouragement specifically and the broader scope of edification. But too few understand what the Bible means when it refers to these.

    Good luck at the BK lounge.

  2. Hey! I spent 2 hours with a guy last night to discuss the very things you mention. We decided to address the concept of discipleship based on taking action to aswer 3 questions:

    1. What can we do to be better prepared to share the gospel and disciple others? Since my friend is a new believer, our focus will be on basic principles. For instance: we will talk next week about 2 topics: his assignment is to find at least 3 verses on assurance of salvation. Not only find them, but also memorize them. My assignment is to find verses which lay out how to have an effective alone time (quiet time) with the Lord every day. Of course I will need to use bible verses to illustrate the important elements of quiet time, and I will have to memorize those verses. When we meet, we will share what God has shown us on our topics, and share the verses we have memorized. I will have to memorize the verses he memorized and he will have to learn the ones I memorized (during the next week). We are memorizing because as we continue to discuss opportunities to share the gospel and disciple, we agreed that having His word written on our hearts will make us more effective and confident, since we will be able to use His words, not our own.

    2. How often do we need to meet in order to better be prepared to share the gospel and disciple others? This was easy for both of us: as often as needed. We are going to text or call each other at least once a day to encourage each other to work hard to complete our assignments. We both realize that discipline is a key to becoming an effective worker so we will need to be encouragement “machines”.

    3. Why do we need to be better prepared to share the gospel and disciple others? Another easy one. It’s why we are here. It’s what he commanded. The more fully trained we are, the easier it will be for Him to use us to bring glory to Him.

    I have been in accountability groups where everything is about sanctification, which is important ONLY because it is a means by which we will gain opportunities to share His awesome good news. What if we meet and meet and become more sanctified and someone notices and says “what is it about you?”. Will I be ready and able to effectively share the gospel?

    I’m sure I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I must ask: are we going about discipleship properly if the goal is not that when fully trained the disciples are completely capable of sharing their faith, and discipling others? I don’t mean that there is not more to it, but whatever else there is should be centered around the “why”! Why am I learning this should always have the answer: Because it will give me more opportunities to share the gospel and disciple others, or, in the area of sanctification, because it will cause others to be curious about the changes God is making in me, which will lead to them asking questions, which will lead to more opportunities to share the gospel and disciple others.

    I think “Gospel Sharing” centered discipleship will keep the “why” in the front of everyone’s minds and help avoid stagnation.

    My friend’s name is Danny. I hope he will be joining us soon. Please pray that God will use the time we are putting into this to make us into effective harvesters for His glory!

  3. Chuck – Great point, and you’re right….if we do Biblically community Biblically, then folks will come away encouraged (Heb 10:24-25) and edified (1 Cor 14:12). I also agree with you that most of us don’t know how to do this, or we think we know how to do this because we listen to popular culture’s method of encouragement and edification. The world says that we need to find courage in self and that we need to be “built up” by believing in ourselves. This is a distinctive line in the sand between Biblical Christianity and the world we live in. Biblical Christianity says that there is nothing good in us (Gen. 6:5, Eph 2), so instead we find courage in our abiding Redeemer….”Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27), and instead of being built up to believe in self or to feel better about self, we are to build one another up to have greater faith in Christ. This is not a faith that simply believes in Christ only for salvation. It starts there, but it must continue to believe in Christ that He is sufficient for us no matter what our circumstances might be.

    So, the encouragement is centered not on our worth, but on the worthiness of Christ. And you’re right, that’s not a message we get from the world, or from many popular Christian circles today. Would you agree that this means we must return to a genuinely “Biblical” understanding of community and discipleship?

    Great to have you commenting on these blogs, Chuck! Thanks!

    Vince – Right on, brother! Discipleship is all about making disciples who will make disciples. That’s what Matthew 28:18-20 is all about. The process of disciple-making is not complete until the newer (or younger) believer is participating in the process of multiplication (2 Tim 2:2).

    And yes, we do need to include “training” in how to share the gospel, no doubt about that. My point in this blog post, though, is that many times we might get the training done and the person knows how to share a gospel presentation, but somewhere along the line they begin to wane in their affections for Christ…their faith begins to falter….they begin to fall victim to the deceptions of the world. There are lots of believers out there that have been so beaten-up by circumstances, the world (and by the Church), that their faith is useless in “sharing” the Gospel, because somewhere along the line, they stopped “living out” the Gospel in their own lives.

    I think it’s a “both – and” scenario. We must do the work of training folks to “share” the gospel, but fundamentally, they must be “living out” the Gospel in their own lives, or else their Christianity will simply be a fine-looking exterior that covers over their crumbling interior.

    Thanks for your heart and passion for the proclamation of the Gospel! I share it, and its contagious! Keep it up!

  4. Hey Ken,

    I’m not sure, but isn’t a sure fire way to experience waning faith come from not actively sharing it?

    I’m pretty sure there are few, if any, better ways to renew your faith and zeal than to see the excitement of a new believer’s joy, or a new disciple who is starting to “get it”.

    What I’m saying is if guys fully understand why they are here and they are out there working and fighting to save the lost and active in disciple making, then they will see the need to be totally open with each other in a different way. They will have a sense of urgency about discussing the things that are holding them back from being approved workers, because they will be focused on the fact that if they are held back then they are missing opportunities to share the gospel with those who are perishing.

    I hope you can fix me on this one. I’m stuck on the thought that if we aren’t living missionally, we cannot please Him. What exactly (or approximately) does living out the gospel in our own lives mean if sharing our faith is not the biggest part of that. It sounds like you’re saying that the first thing about discipleship us teaching how to share the message and basic discipling, then you move on to the “living out the gospel” thing. Is that right?

    I know I’m pressing a little but Tyler told me he was hoping for some more lively exchanges. I’m just trying to help out!

  5. Hey Vince – Thanks for the comments, and this isn’t nearly “lively” enough….I’m still waiting for a more hotly contested debate; however, I don’t think we’re gonna get there on this issue – we in too much agreement to argue on this one.

    I believe our primary purpose in life is to glorify God, and that our primary duty in life is to make disciples. This is what the Great Commission is all about…making disciples. And as you say, making disciples includes both sharing the gospel with the lost, and discipling them to the point where they will share the gospel with lost folks as well. This is my heartbeat, and you can go all the way back to the very first sermons at NewBranch to see that. If you go to the sermon audio page on our website, page all the way down to the January 2008 sermons, and you’ll see a whole series on “Making Disciples”.

    So, you don’t need to be “fixed on this one”…we’re in agreement. We cannot please Him if we aren’t living missionally (taking the gospel outside the 4 walls of the church to those who are lost). BUT, part of living missionally is seeing our role in building one another up in the church. Some Christians are too beaten-up by life to be engaged in living missionally. Some Christians are struggling with such temptation that they are useless to the Kingdom in their current condition. If we truly care about what Jesus cares about, we can’t ignore these folks. Part of “being the church” is encouraging them, “spurring them” (Heb. 10:24-25), preaching the gospel to them so that they stop believing lies about themselves and God….with the hope and intention that they will be transformed by the gospel to the point where they CAN engage in living missionally for the glory of God again.

    In other words, we all desperately need genuine connection to a community of believers in order to be fully engaged and effective in sharing the gospel with those to whom God has sent us.

  6. Okay. So what you are saying is some people are saved, but have been off mission for so long, they are in need of guidance and support, so they can get back on mission, right? I hope that is right because that would keep discipleship all about training and encouraging people to be on mission as it’s purpose…

    Are we having fun yet? I have to go drive all day again today. I’ll try to pull up that sermon to listen to as I drive through Texas!

  7. Pingback: Fight Club: The Rules of Engagement – Part One « Roots Run Deep

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