Groups 244

On the Need for a New Confessing Movement (or Disciples Life Practice Covenant) and its Implications for Church Planting

Part I -- Introduction -- Prolegomena

It has been become painfully evident that the Church in North America has slipped its Biblical moorings and is adrift at sea. It has become so corrupted by culture, politics, and extra-biblical requirements that the term “Christian” means anything and nothing at the same time. The saddest thing is that voices that could be communicating life changing power that could be made available to a lost and dying world have been largely rendered impotent. For these reasons, during these writings the term Christian will be avoided, opting to focus attention on the meaning of the word disciple.

There is such an enormous divergence between the behavior and practice of the average pew warmer today and that of a Biblical disciple that perhaps an illustration will help make the point. Imagine that you walk into a bakery and have your heart set on a nice loaf of hot banana bread. Instead, the waiter brings you a sunbaked cake made of mud and lard cake (such cakes made like this are common in poverty-stricken areas). One cake would have given you pleasure to eat and some nutrition; the other serves only to stave off hunger pains but provides no nutrition at all. One could argue that both items are pastries, but I doubt most of us would find the second one appealing, especially those of us banana bread aficionados! This would be an unpleasant surprise to say the least. Jesus warns us all His hearers that another horrible surprise might be in store for some when he said:
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
The average pew warmer participates in “Christian” activities much in the same way a country club member does -- show up at club meetings, votes, pay dues, and go away feeling good about what they heard; but their behavior is largely unchanged and rarely if ever do they invite new members to join with them! The true disciple knows in his or her heart that serving God is about much, much more than that – and is disappointed others around them do not seem to “get it” at all nor get involved in spreading the Gospel or planting new works.

When opening a new product line in a factory, marketers, researchers, inventors, and executives all discuss in detail the characteristics of the new manufactured item. Likewise, when planting healthy new churches, one must reflect upon what a healthy disciple ought to look like; then develop strategies to teach what is essential to them early in their development. A confession or covenant such as what I propose could help in this regard, by not only spelling out what one ought to believe (every church and denomination has that in one form or another) but more importantly, how one ought to behave as a disciple. It is my belief that healthy disciples breed healthy disciples that yield healthy, vibrant communities of faith – the type of which Innerchange Communities will become in the region where I live and work.

Could such a confession or covenant help with church revitalization? It is possible, I suppose, though my feeling is that most traditional (and dying, whether they see it or not) churches are far too comfortable in their ways to want to change their pattern of behavior and will continue to drift further and further from the shore of Biblical orthodoxy and closer to the cultures and subcultures around them.

What will follow is an imperfect attempt, in several additional parts (additional posts to follow), to define the general beliefs and behaviors that disciples ought to exhibit in their daily practice (with plenty of Biblical references as well).

Part II – Serving God first, serving others second

Disciples believe and obey One God, in Three Persons, and accept Jesus as not only their Savior but also their Lord. This is a daily submission to His authority. They strive to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They also strive to love and serve their neighbors as themselves. A key aspect of this love for neighbor is a lifestyle of verbally sharing Jesus with those that do not know Him. Communion with Him and fellow disciples is a normal part of daily living; and spiritual gifts are used to help fellow disciples as well as to reach our neighbors. Disciples let God change their way of thinking, and constantly examine themselves to ensure they are walking with the Lord as they should. (Genesis 1.26; Leviticus 19.18; Deuteronomy 6.5; Psalm 25.5; Matthew 7.13-14; 21-23; 22.37-40; John 3.16; John 15; Acts 2.42-47; Acts 4.32-37; Romans 12.1-2; 1 Corinthians 12.7; 2 Corinthians 13.5; 1 John 3.18; 1 Thessalonians 5.17.

Commentary:
Biblical Discipleship and “Lone Ranger Christianity” are not compatible. Disciples are in constant communion with God and always looking for genuine communion with others, and to serve others in practical ways. “Savior Alone Christians” – those that said a prayer one time thinking that got them out of Hell – but do not submit to him nor obey Him daily as Lord – quite probably are not saved, and certainly would not be considered as disciples in a Biblical sense.

Part III – Word Centered

Disciples follow the Bible as their sufficient, authoritative, and inerrant guide for life and work. They meditate upon it, sing its truths, and search it to find the answers to life questions. Disciples strive to obey immediately as God speaks to them through the reading, hearing, or meditation on His Word, putting into practice what they understand God is telling them. The Holy Spirit guides and illuminates the disciple as he or she studies the Word.
(John 5.39; John 14.15; John 15.10; 14.26; Acts 2.42-47; Acts 4.32-37; Romans 8.26, 12.1-2; 2 Timothy 3.6; Hebrews 4.12; James 1.22; Psalms 25.5; Psalms 96.10; All of Psalms 119 (especially verses 15; 54-56; 105).

Commentary:
It is not optional, but mandatory, that we be doers of the Word and not just hearers.

Part IV – Regular Confession

Disciples regularly confess sin individually and corporately – to the Lord, one another, in accountability partnerships, and in disciple group / house church gatherings. All is done with wisdom and discretion, and what is said in confidence, stays in confidence. (Matthew 5.23-24, 18.15; James 5.16; Psalms 51.4; 1 John 1.9; 1 Timothy 2.5; 2 Corinthians 4.2; Ephesians 4.25, 32, 5.8-9; Galatians 6.1; 2 Chronicles 7.14)

Commentary:
Being saved from the penalty and power of sin does mean that we may not fall into sin against God and others. Scripture admonishes us to be healed through confessing our sins to one another. Obviously, this requires a trust bond and discretion and what is shared between disciples is kept in confidence.

Part V – Growing in Devotion and Worship

Disciples are constantly growing in their devotion and worship to the Lord, through personal quiet time, meditating on the Word with prayer in song, and in disciple group / house church gatherings. Worship is never to be a show, entertainment, or performance done to please man but reverent and sincere to please the Lord. (2 Timothy 2.15; James 4.8; 2 Peter 1.5-11; Romans 12.1-2; Psalms 119; 1 John 5.14-16; 1 Chronicles 16.11; James 5.13; Mark 11.24; Philippians 4.6; 1 Timothy 2.8; Matthew 6.5-7; John 17.17; Galatians 5.22-23; Revelations 7.9-12; Romans 8.26; John 14.15-17; Ezekiel 36.26-27; 1 Corinthians 6.11; 2 Corinthians 3.18; 1 Kings 18.20-40)

Commentary:
Dysfunctional assemblies may manage to draw large crowds for man pleasing spectacles masquerading as worship. Disciples know that the aim and purpose of our devotion and worship is about pleasing God, and not man.

Part VI – Mission as a Lifestyle

Disciples accept that mission is a lifestyle. A silent Christian is not a true disciple. Disciples communicate the Gospel without compromise but attempt to be culturally relevant in that communication. We must do all that can be done to reach every people group, population segment, subgroups (such as military, for example), refugees, and those rejected by society because of social stigma. This means sharing the Gospel as well as physical acts of compassion. Disciples use all resources available to carry out the Great Task (Commission). (Luke 9.26, 19.10; Mark 8.38; Matthew 28.18-20; Acts 1.8; 2 Timothy 1.8, 2.2, 15; Exodus 19.6, 22.21-24; Psalms 10.14, 68.5; Leviticus 19.34, 25.35; Deuteronomy 10.18, 14.28-29, 27.19; Isaiah 6.1-6; 1 Peter 2.9)

Commentary:
Disciples reject the diabolical notion that it is not necessary to verbally share the Gospel, that their “life witness” is enough to attract others to Christ; Jesus speaks against those that are ashamed of Him clearly in Scripture. Disciples are proud to proclaim why they love and serve their Master and want that message to get to everyone.

Part VII – Cutting Cultural Entanglements

A disciple rejects cultural entanglements that hinder their growth or the spread of the Gospel message. They should participate in civic duties such as voting and standing up for social injustice whenever possible. They should always avoid, however, such public identification with political entities or movements so that they themselves become barriers to communicating the Gospel to the lost, our foremost task. Salvation is from the Lord alone, not in a party or movement. No true disciple should be a member of a secret society. (Romans 12:1-2; John 17:13-17; 2 Timothy 2.3-7; Hebrews 12.1; Mark 12.17; Romans 13.1-7; Ephesians 5.11-12; Isaiah 5.20; John 18.20; James 5.12; Luke 8.17; Matthew 5.34-37;

Commentary:
Disciples know that they must be faithful to the Master and do whatever it takes to share the Gospel message with those around them that have not heard or responded to Jesus yet. They try to avoid anything that might interfere with even one lost person hearing the Truth. A disciple has an undivided loyalty to serve the Lord, avoiding any group, movement, society, club, or even individuals – that would seek to divert their allegiance and silence their voice – from carrying out the Great Task daily.

Part VIII – Disciples Produce Fruit in Good Times and Bad

Disciples serve Christ voluntarily and commit to making other disciples. A disciple with no spiritual children is no true disciple. To be a disciple implies a life of suffering for the Gospel sake and he or she can expect persecution to come, both directly but often subtly. A disciple is ready to sacrifice for others and Christ’s sake, when necessary. (Matthew 28.18-20; Acts 1.8; 2 Timothy 2.2, 3.12; 1 Peter 3.14, 4.12-13, 5.18; 2 Corinthians 4.8-10. 4.17; Romans 5.3, 8.18, 35-39; Galatians 6.2; Isaiah 43.2; James 1.12; Luke 14.27; Psalms 34.19; Revelation 6.9-11, 21.4; Matthew 5.10-12; Acts 6-7)

Commentary:
Persecution and suffering for the Lord is a normal part of Christian life when disciples faithfully share their faith in a world largely hostile to the Gospel. Dysfunctional assemblies teach otherwise -- that to be a Christian means blessings, prosperity, promotions, and fame. Disciples know that Christ calls us to a life of faithful service, no matter where and what the cost might be. It might be good to remember that the famous hymn sung in many churches today “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” come from the dying words of a Christian martyr from India that first watched his family killed in front of him yet remained faithful until the end.
1. I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
2. The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.
3. Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
4. My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
5. Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.

Part IX – Application

As our aim is to plant new, healthy small church groups, rather than try to resurrect old works, the emphasis should be on raising up disciples that understand from the beginning not only what disciples believe but what disciples ought to do in everyday life! New disciples must have good models (strong disciplers) around them, thus the church planting team that starts a house church network must emulate the core values of what it means to be a disciple in word and deed. All new disciples can be taught this confession / covenant at the beginning of their walk (and periodically refreshed), and the use of Bible storying can be used to teach these principles (How this can work will be the subject of future writings). What is essential is that church planting team members integrate disciples into all aspects of the work from the beginning and become familiar with the methodology of the use of the confession/ covenant with storying so that the multiplicative effects can continue and the church planting network increase.

It is my hope that all future church plants will become vibrant communities that are multiplying but also deepening their commitment to the Lord and one another; doers of the Word, that are closer to the model we see emulated in Acts 2 and 4 – that sincere, genuine expression of love and faith that was so contagious that local residents wanted to discover how these disciples were living.