In my book Transformational Discipleship, my coauthors and I lay out the case that the church in North America has a deficiency in discipleship. It is a sad reality, but a reality nevertheless.
One of the key reasons as to why this deficiency exists is because of the process we’ve used for the goal of discipleship. Too often the church has defined discipleship as either behavior modification or information overload. Neither of these lead to a spiritual transformation. They lead to moral and smart people but not Christ-centered people.
In speaking about these issues, I am often addressing church leaders. Some are pastors. Some are Bible study leaders in the church; whether it be children’s ministry, adult Sunday School, and the like. Most of them are people who are communicating truth at one level or another for the congregation. We have, for better or worse, set up a system that those who speak are the primary leaders in the church.
So… what are they teaching?
Not knowing the answer to that question, I set up a tension for them to wrestle through on the local level. It is simple and uses two book titles. Here it is.
Then I ask this question:
Are we creating a dystopian future based on behavior modification and punishment for usurping authority or a transformational experience where our communities reflect God’s kingdom?
Our choice is really that stark. We either live out the authoritarian rule of The Hunger Games or the beautiful image represented by Augustine’s The City of God.
(For all of the theological nerds… I know that we don’t agree with everything St. Augustine wrote, but just go with the surface-level analogy. Please.)
Quite frankly, it is easier to help people to be moral. My friend Ed Stetzer introduced me to this definition of the church that is attributed to Mark Twain: “Church is good people standing in front of good people telling them how to be good people.”
Ratcheting morality into people’s lives is easier than the messy process that births spiritual transformation. But we must count the cost for what will cause people to abide with Christ rather than what will make them tolerable to one another.
The church must move beyond simple rule-keeping and toward a process that guides people to love Christ deeply and desire to see his glory in their cities.