Christianity in the Western Hemisphere has settled for something significantly lower than a culture of discipleship. Our “spiritual” members are typically those who have consistently read their Bible and maintained a devotional private life. The most honored among us are those who have brought their spiritual life to bear on one area of their public life, be it their job or their friends. The point is, much of this falls significantly short of what Jesus intended for His church.
One of the sayings of CMA, an organic church planting fellowship I’ve learned a lot from is, “we need to lower the bar on what it means to be a church and raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple.” They believe that if church is simple enough for anyone to participate in it and everyone is a committed disciple; churches will begin to be established quickly and repeatedly. My question then is, how high should we raise the bar? The following is my list of seven benchmarks for discipleship:
Intimacy with Jesus
Every spiritual reality in the Kingdom of God is born out of a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus. When a person is truly born into the Kingdom, they are immediately grafted into a real relationship with a resurrected Lord. But we never graduate beyond that relationship. There is no level of spiritual maturity where listening, loving, and abiding becomes something you did when you were young in the Lord. Cultivating this ongoing relationship with Jesus becomes the basis for every other Kingdom activity we do. (Matthew 22:34-40, John 14:15, John 15:1-10)
Ability to Follow the Holy Spirit
Jesus expected the ministry of His Son to be carried on through those who followed Him. Jesus-style ministry did not stop when He ascended to Heaven. It continued on in the lives of those who had followed Him and in the lives of those who would come to believe in their testimony. The Holy Spirit led the expansion of the church, the direction of its mission, and fueled the internal growth of holiness in His people. It’s not necessary to take a class on following the Holy Spirit, but we all need to grow in understanding how He leads individually and practice obeying His leadership. This will include knowing His voice, following His promptings, and manifesting His gifts. (John 20:21-22, Acts 2:33, Acts 2:38, Acts 9:31, Acts 13:52, Acts 16:6-10)
We all come to Christ as enemies of God, and it’s the work of God to cause us to surrender to Christ. This change from a captive of Satan to a citizen of the Kingdom of God will have ramifications on our lifestyle. As we develop intimacy with Jesus and follow the Holy Spirit, there will be continual change of character reflected in our lifestyle. This is fueled not out of religious pressure but the work of God in the soul of man. Jesus called us to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father is perfect, Paul told us he pressed on to the upward call of Christ but had not reached it. Our lifestyles are to grow up into the image of the One who saved us. (Romans 5:8, Colossians 1:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:22-24, Matthew 5:48, Philippians 3:12-15, Ephesians 4:15-16)