“Miles Wide and Inches Deep”: When We Fail to Make Disciples (2)

So if the church of Jesus Christ is called to make disciples (and I don’t think we can argue that is not the case – see the previous post for more discussion of that), then the question is no longer whether we should make disciples but how do we make them.

Such a subject is vast and a lot of ink has been spilled on how to do this – some profitable and some just leaving you wondering why the person even sat in front of a computer to write, I’m sorry to say. A helpful outline for disciple-making comes from a man who has influenced me highly in this area – Dr. David Platt, senior pastor at The Church at Brook Hills. In his series of discipleship, Dr. Platt gives  three steps to the disciple-making:

(1) HEAR THE WORD: It’s very basic on the surface, but you cannot give what you yourself do not possess. The commodity we are attempting to pass on is truth – not just a list of things to do and not do, but the living and active truth of God’s Word. That can take so many forms especially in our information age – first and foremost through the reading of the Scriptures, then through the hearing of the Word preached, fellowship with other believers and good Christian resources rooted in the Word. This provides a body of truth with which discipleship can occur.

(2) SHARE THE WORD: Once the Word has gone in, it is now able to go out. Now at this point, the question becomes, “How?” The answer I have come to is that discipling can take one of two forms: one-on-one and groups. Time doesn’t permit to break that down into components and “how-to’s”, however I would gladly recommend picking up a copy of The Trellis and The Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall for practical pointers in this regard.

(3) SHOW THE WORD: At this point, I appreciate some may retort that this sounds entirely like a glorified Bible study exercise – which, in all honesty, it would…were it to simply end in some newly discovered information each day or week you were to meet. But there is a third step to this process – that Word which has been worked in can now be worked out in the life of the disciple. Whether in Christian service (a vastly neglected area in church life today – see Dr Peter Masters’ fine booklet Your Reasonable Service) or on the job (or in the classroom for that matter), the real purpose of discipleship is the same: to set forth Christ as He has been formed in the life of the disciple (cf. Gal 4:19) and to equip the Christian to do the work of the ministry (cf. Eph 4:12)

Dr Platt presents some great insights in hitting the ground running with this in day-to-day life:

The long and short of the matter is: the church is called to make disciples who makes disciples through the preaching of the Gospel to the lost and through grounding believers in the truth. The failure to do so has created the “Miles Wide, Inch-Deep Church” and will continue to do until we reverse the disciple decline.

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Posted on October 10, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Loved the first part. The second half was too ‘me focused’ show Jesus’ holiness and purity by my holiness and purity? Right. Give me a break.

    We are sinners and behave as such, even as we try and conceal it. Christ came for who? The ungodly. That’s who we really are. But He puts that sinner to death in our Baptism (Romans 6) and raises the new man. Yes…Baptize and teach about Jesus…and that Word will do in people’s lives what it will.

    I would bet anything that Dr. Platt does not value Baptism and what God does in it. And when that is true, the whole project will turn inward. It’ll become a ‘holiness’ project…and when that happens, one will either end up in despair…or pride.

    Thanks for the opportunity.

    • Douglas K. Adu-Boahen

      Well, firstly, thanks for stopping by. Always nice when someone comments and gets a discussion going.

      Considering I wrote this back in late September for a team blog I’m part of and then posted it here, I will admit a slight bewilderment at the accusation leveled at me. So I waited till I was less busy and then re-read both parts of the series.

      I’m currently working on a series on sanctification which will be released over the Christmas and New Year period but allow me to make a few comments as per your remarks:

      1. I think you (and a lot of people in evangelical life these days) are conflating any sort of command with “self-justification”, “legalism” (a term I strongly dislike nowadays simple because no one can define the thing) or “being me-focused” to use your term. I read the NT and I am confronted by two equally true realities:

      A. I am a sinner in need of grace – this truth is writ LARGE from Genesis to Revelation. All men are not just drowning in a sea of their own sin – they’re dead and floating in it…until the “kindness of God our Saviour [and]…His love for man” was made manifest in the death of Christ. ITitus 3:4)

      B. Grace is not only pardon from sin but power for righteousness: One of the most riveting texts in the NT for me in Titus 2:11-15. To summarize, the Apostle presents both strands of the Bible’s teaching on salvation: The Grace of God manifest in the Gospel has not only saved us from sin BUT it ALSO teaches us to “deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age” (Titus 2:12). That teaching work of grace is laid out in the numerous (ain’t that an understatement) imperatives of the NT – this is me trying to do anything in my own power but relying on the grace of God to instruct (as the HCSB renders the verb in Tit 2:12).

      It is not “preaching works”, then, to suggest that one holds these truths together and in parallel as the NT does.

      2. I think you are conflating “indwelling sin” in the Christian with the state of the sinner prior to conversion. Recently, I was grieved to see a prominent minister of the Gospel in the theological camp I would loosely consider myself a part of attempting to argue Christians are “depraved”. At the risk of tramping on evangelical piousness – NO. WE. AREN’T. Paul says that in Christ, believers are not the same creation with a ticket punched for heaven or the same old house with a new lick of paint but a NEW CREATION (2 Cor 5:17). I need a Saviour as much as my unsaved neighbours – but the fact remains that as a believer in Jesus, I possess all the righteousness of Christ both positionally and practically as He leads and guides by His Word and Spirit. Sin doesn’t have dominion over me – that is why my “works” can be considered a “sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). They are most definitely MY works – I am the one doing them – yet simultaneously they are not mine but the Spirit’s work in and through me as God’s own child.

      3. I gather you are a Lutheran and as a Baptist by conviction (as is Dr Platt), I gather we have radically different views on the nature and effect of baptism. The same would be true of my Presbyterian and evangelican Anglican friends who believe it to be legitimate to practice paedobaptism. We can have vigorous, spirited disagreement on the issue and still be brothers in the Lord Jesus. All that being said, I find your remark that “Platt doesn’t value baptism and what God does in it” to be a deeply loaded and rather unbecoming fact, especially if you are not aware of his stance on the issue.

      4. Finally, I think it is a fatal shorting of the doctrine of salvation if we adopt a “que sera sera” approach to seeing fruit in our spiritual life for fear of “morbid introspection”. The problem with that phrase is not the “introspection” but the “morbid” part – no amount of self-and-soul-searching will do what the Gospel can. No baptism, no Lord’s Supper, no good preaching – NONE can do what the Gospel can. That being said, for one to sit and take stock of where they are spiritually, acknowledge shortcomings and cling to the Saviour when we fall short need not land one in the ditches of despair and pride. That, my friend, is “poisoning the well” when you offer those as the only valid solutions.

      Thanks for your time.

  2. Yes, we do have a great many disagreements.

    But I did guess correctly, that Dr. Platt was one who denies Christ’s presence and will in Baptism.

    When one does not have the true presence of Christ in Baptism and Holy Communion then one will constantly be on the ladder. Climbing…working on ‘the project’. No real rest. No real freedom.

    It’s a shame, because Christ died to set us free from all that stuff.

    Anyway, I pray nothing for you but God’s richest blessings. In spite of our differences, I’m looking forward to meeting you someday…probably in Heaven!

    Thank you.

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