When does discipleship begin?

I am loving every page of the book I am currently reading, called Breaking the Missional Code, by Ed Stetzer & David Putman. In fact, I love it so much that I would really like to spend some time reflecting on their thoughts on here, and even hearing some feedback (that’s where you come in!). So, I hope that these next few posts will (1) urge you to buy this book and read it, (2) inspire you to think on the topics raised, and (3) cause us all to change our lives to be more missional!

Tonight I want to mention the author’s thoughts on discipleship. Their views have really caused me to think (and even re-think) about the whole concept. Up until reading this book I have always thought of discipleship as a post-conversion process. After a person becomes a believer, they then begin the long journey of learning what that means, both mentally and in life-application, right? Well, according to Stetzer and Putman, they urge believers to begin to view conversion and even pre-conversion as a part of the discipleship process.

The book presents the concept of discipleship in a couple of ways. The first is a three step process (p. 123)…

0 – Regeneration or Conversion
1 – Growth

2 – Spiritual Reproduction

The authors suggest that “‘Conversion to Christ’ takes place most often among a community of committed believers” (p. 123). Because of this occurrence, believers are urged to shift from having a focus on evangelistic strategies to living a missional life. This has everything to do with being wholistically intentional. The authors further define the process in the following terms (p. 128):

Searching (commitment to being open to spiritual matters)
Believing (commitment to relationship with God through Jesus Christ)
Belonging (commitment to relationship with other believers)

Becoming (commitment to freedom in Christ)

Serving (commitment to ministry and mission)

According to Stetzer & Putman, these steps will not always occur in the same order. The are all experienced, however, in the midst of genuine Christian community. This community is different from church, as the authors state, “Church and Christian community must not be the same thing. Unbelievers can and should be invited into the community, but they cannot be part of the church. A church is a body of believers. A person becomes part of the church with the second and eternal conversion, the conversion to Christ.”

This second conversion occurs after a first conversion the authors suggest to be the conversion to community (p. 124). This makes 2 commitments of every believer so very important. First, we must start with a deep commitment to bring those outside the church into experience with the Christian community. Second, each and every believer must strive to do his/her part to develop this kind of vibrant and authentic fellowship with brothers and sisters within the faith family.

After much thought, I really like this new (to me, anyway!) perspective on discipleship. I like it primarily because it is wholistic and calls believers to be intentional to the whole process. I agree that we do need to shift our focus from evangelism strategy to missional living. What do you think?

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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