Tomorrow, I will make my way to Boston to speak at the New England Lectureship, talking about discipleship. As I do, this recent article by fellow disciple-maker Matt Dabbs will be “ringing in my ears”…
I was shocked when he said it…maybe even a little offended. I was sitting in a room listening to Curtis Sergeant deliver one of his workshops (which I highly recommend). Here is what he asked:
“Are you a disciple worth multiplying?”
That stung…but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the thoughts this provoked needed to be provoked. Not that we are ever going to be as good as Jesus…what student is greater than their teacher? But we do need to live lives that, if replicated, would be a blessing rather than a curse. We need to live lives that draw people closer to Jesus rather than push them away. If there were 1000, 10,000, or 1 million of me—would the world be better or worse?
The age-old question
Does being come before doing (are our actions driven by our being/character), or do we do things that form our being/character?
The answer is simple: Both.
We do things out of our being and what we do further develops who we are.
If we want to be a disciple worth multiplying, we have to make sure that who we are is founded on the firm foundation of Christ, his teachings and the Holy Spirit. Not only must we know those things—what makes those things become part of who we are is that we live those things.
“We do things out of our being and what we do further develops who we are.”
An example from 1 Corinthians
For example, the Holy Spirit’s presence in us makes us belong to God. Because of that reality in our being, there is a way we are to live (things we are to do and not to do).
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Cor. 6:18-20)
Do you see how being and doing work in concert with each other to continue to affirm who we are and establish (in an ongoing way) who we are in Christ by the power and presence of the Spirit? You are a temple of the Spirit…so live like this (spiritual formation). If you live another way, it will affect your being (spiritual deformation).
“Do you see how being and doing work in concert with each other to continue to affirm who we are and establish who we are in Christ?”
This is discipleship
You are a follower of Christ, living for Christ, being obedient to Christ (Matt. 28:19-20), and becoming more and more like Christ through the transforming/conforming work of the Holy Spirit.
God sets our identity/being by the Holy Spirit. We maintain and continue to affirm that identity through our continued following of Christ and his teaching (obedience). This is the being/doing working in conjunction.
As our passions and intellect grow Christward, we mature and become more like him and it is all grace that any of this even makes sense to us in the first place or catches our attention and affections.
As we grow in Christ as disciples, we are then able to help others grow in Christ as disciples. Discipleship was never meant to be a one-generation enterprise. From the very beginning in Acts 2, Peter said this was for the nations (“all who are far off”) and for the generations (“them and their children”).
Before making disciples, it is important that we establish the fact that who we are (our being) matters tremendously, and that we are submitting to Christ’s lead and the transformative work of the Spirit as obedient followers of Jesus.
So back to Curtis’ question: Are you a disciple worth multiplying?
He didn’t ask if you are a perfect disciple (no one is), but one worth multiplying. If not, what keeps you from saying you are?
“As we grow in Christ as disciples, we are then able to help others grow in Christ as disciples.”
Call to action
Begin imitating Christ in your life. Read the Gospels, imitate the Jesus-life. Follow His lead and submit to the Spirit’s formation in your life.