Grace Based Discipleship

Taking a few minutes break from prep. I am teaching an MA course in Christian Leadership at WEST next week. Looking forward to getting with a small group to think about leadership in depth for a whole week. Nearly my definition of a perfect week!

I am just completing some material  on developing a discipling mentality rather than an events/teaching mentality in a church. My main contention is:

  1. That the foundational task of all leadership is to lead people in progress and joy in the Lord (Phil 1, 2 Cor 1)
  2. The foundation for people making progress and having joy in God is receiving his grace (Rom 5:17)
  3. Therefore the foundation of all discipleship and spiritual direction is being a companion with people to seek God for his grace in their lives

Talking about grace, rejoicing together in grace and spurring one another on in the Christian life is normal Christian living. Regularly asking "what is God doing in your life at the moment?" is the key discipleship question. Regularly being concerned for the joy of the Lord in each others' lives is the foundational expression of Christian love and community. 

That doesn't sound so very difficult, does it? So why does church life in so many places not actively prioritise these things? Why is it that we assume that people grow in praying, worshipping, sacrifice, godly desire by receiving our upfront teaching programmes? What if they don't? I know people who sit under godly teaching all the time and it doesn't seem to penetrate to the point where it transforms their behaviour.

We need to find ways not only to teach, but also to train, to disciple, and to provide opportunities for living out what is being taught in order for the content of the teaching to have finally been learned and absorbed. Mere teaching can go in one ear and out the other.

So why don't we? I suspect the major answer for many teachers is that we know how to teach and not how to disciple. And our teaching is sufficiently in demand that it requires all our time, so there is no incentive to change the situation. But that way lies church-as-teaching-centre, rather than church-as-discipling-community. I'm not sure I have easy answer for how a church can go from being the first to being the second. Anyone got any thoughts?