Even as someone who has been trained in Christian Education, I have increasing grown in my doubts that the model of getting people ‘saved’ and then funneling them into a classroom (new member class, 101 class)where they receive a ‘brain dump’ of theological information is really what Jesus had in mind when he commissioned his first followers to go and ‘make disciples of all nations’.
So I was intrigued a few months ago when I picked up the book “Christianity After Religion’ by Diana Butler Bass. In it, she describes how the modern model of discipleship (Get people to believe what you believe, then have them behave like you behave, and then they will fully belong) contrasts with the model of Jesus. In fact, she says, Jesus ‘methodology’ was just the opposite:
- Belonging: When Jesus called his disciples, he didn’t start with the questions of belief. Jesus public ministry started when he formed a community. It began with the invitation, “Come, follow me”.
- Behaving: Jesus’ followers didn’t set around a fire and listen to lectures on essential theology. They listened to stories about how God was doing something transformative, in and among them. They listened to stories about how they were to act toward one another and how to live as people under God’s good, just, and loving rule.
- Believing: Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah grew out of all the things they had done together. . . the praying, the eating, the healing, the giving, the feeding.
This has caused me to continue to ‘press in’ on the question of what it looks like for a local faith community like FCC to make disciples today, in the 21st century. What does it mean to ‘make disciples’ today? What is, as Bass would put it, Christianity after religion? After the Sunday School, religious education models? I hope that you will prayerfully join me in digging deeper into these questions, as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission together.