“How can discipleship to Jesus—in a sense recognizable from the Bible, with the spiritual transformation it brings—be the mode of operation in a thriving North American congregation?”
Renovation of the Church p. 9
I believe this question, articulated by Dallas Willard, is the question for the western church in today’s North American culture. The forces of consumerism, affluence, entitlement, fear, and individualism have pushed and pulled the church so out of shape it is almost unrecognizable from its form, mission, and function in the past. How do we wade into this massive challenge in a way that we will be able to stand against the gravitational pull of outward success, pastoral/leadership ambition, and attractional/consumer based Christianity?
Willard suggests that the starting point is for the leaders in the church (including but, in my opinion, not limited to the pastor) to sever the root of ambition for personal or corporate success expressed in the cultural mantra of “having things my way.” We have raised up a generation of church going, cultural Christians that live by this mantra in their homes, careers, families and in their church. Until this root of pride, selfishness, individuality and personal preference is cut out and laid aside, there can be no progress in the spiritual life. However, once this root has been discovered and the process of putting off the old nature has begun, the journey of putting on Christ can begin.With this
With this realization and commitment in place, the community of faith can resume its true purpose and goal of making disciples that are mature in Christ. This goal will totally redefine 1. our understanding of success, 2. our purpose for coming together, 3. the way we view and utilize our resources, and 4. the way we organize ourselves and make decisions.
So, the primary decision for us to make at the outset of this journey is, “do we realize the primacy of being and making disciples of Jesus, and if we do, are we willing to walk the road to maturity together?”
There are no secrets or shortcuts to this process. Scripture and tradition are clear in the method, the costs, and the intended outcomes. History shows again and again that when a group of believers commits themselves to this process God is faithful, His Spirit is sufficient, and apprentices of Jesus are the results. Are we ready for this journey?