What does it mean to be a Discipleship-Focused Church?

What does it mean to be a Discipleship-Focused Church?

Vision2021… and Beyond: Discipleship Focus
What does it mean to be a Discipleship-Focused Church?
By Pastor Craig Baxter

“What defines you?” This is hardly the kind of question you are going to be asked at a friend’s party. Instead, the question asked will be a little less confronting and perhaps something like, “What do you do?”. A person doesn’t have to have lived long in this culture to know that what is really being implied by the question is that we are defined by what we do, more than by who we are. So, providing “what you do” aligns with social expectations; you can take a bit of cake, look them in the eye, and answer confidently. Or if what you do does not align with social expectations, you may find yourself needing to get your drink topped up just at that moment.

It was only after I left running our family business in 2011 to study theology did I realize how much of “what I do” made up who I was. It was at that point that I really came face-to-face with my Christian identity. I had to ask, was I a manager of a company or a student studying theology who followed Jesus, or was I a follower of Jesus who managed a business or studied? Don’t be fooled by the supposed subtle difference. The difference is immense.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Our Lord was making a crucial point and the point is this. Our identity, who we are, how we live, what we do, is found in Christ’s life living through us and not our life living for Him. When I understand completely, without hesitation, that Christ is my identity, my whole life changes. All life, work and ministry become an outflow of His life in me. I don’t simply come to Christ by faith, but I live my life in a continual posture of faith.

One of our four pillars outlined in our Vision2021 … and Beyond document is that we want to be a Discipleship-Focused Church. This means that we will strive to be a church that works together in community to build one another up in Christ so our identity is first and foremost Him. This will look like studying the Word with others, living life with others, confessing sin to others, carrying burdens with others, praying with others, and carrying out the other 30+ “one another” passages in Scripture. In short, it is to practically “love my neighbour as myself” as a direct outflow of my love for God (Mark 12:31).We look forward to growing together and working together and manifesting this kind of Christ-centred love, that “people will know that [we] are [His] disciples” (John 13:35).

So, next time you are asked the question, “So, what do you do?”, take a bit of cake, look them in the eye, and say something like, “I follow Jesus! And at present He has me doing this or that for His glory!” (you may choose other words but you get the idea!). You will either see an interested enquiry or the sudden need of your new friend to go and top up his or her drink. Either way, both of you are under no illusions, “apart from [Christ] you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

4 Comments

  1. Josh

    Great article! This reminds me of something I heard from Steven Lawson, which I’ve cut & pasted below:
    “The story is told about Mr. Armour, who was the head of the Armor Meat Packing empire. He was a man well-known to be successful in his enormous business. One day, he boarded a plane, and a young salesman sat next to him. To make conversation, the upstart businessman introduced himself to Mr. Armour, not realizing to whom he was speaking. “And what do you do for a living?,” he asked. The famous, older Mr. Armour replied, “My name is Mr. Armour. My job is to tell other people about Jesus Christ. I just pack a little meat on the side.”

    • Craig Baxter (Author)

      Hi Josh, thanks for your comment and quote from Steve Lawson. That is a great example of what it practically means to have our identity built upon the right thing, Christ. A challenge to us all!

  2. Kerin

    When I travelled to Kenya with Compassion to visit Compassion Projects, staff members, churches and the children we support, people would greet us with “Hi my name is X. I am a born again Christian. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour. Praise the Lord. AMEN!” and the person would expect you to respond with “Praise the Lord AMEN”.
    The first time I was greeted this way was such a shock – they are so proud of their faith and open about it, unlike in Australia. But after a couple of days we Aussies started introducing ourselves this way too. 🙂

    • Craig Baxter (Author)

      Hi Kerin, thank you for sharing your story. It is so refreshing to see such open joy in being a follower of Jesus. It is certainly something we need to get better at. May the Lord so captivate our hearts afresh so that it feels wrong not to share our joy in Jesus with others.

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