Monday, November 12, 2012

Discipleship: In Context

By Thom Rainer

“I wish we could go deeper.”

If you serve on a church staff, especially as a pastor, you know the frustration of hearing those words. That frustration is compounded if you press the maker of the above statement a little harder, asking them a simple follow up question: “What do you mean, 'deeper?'”

That’s when the issue gets complicated. Sometimes by “deeper” people mean intellectually deeper. In that instance, they’re asking that a certain amount of Greek and Hebrew words should be included in every sermon. Others might mean a depth of obedience, and they want more specific and directed challenges issued to the congregation. Still others might mean a depth of relationship, and they are asking for increased opportunities and environments for authenticity and vulnerability.

But most of the time, when you probe the issue, you don’t get a response at all. “Depth” is something we all want, but find a difficult time articulating. It points to the Christian desire for real and transformational discipleship, the kind of life where we are walking and growing daily with Jesus.

But how, as a church leader, can we help to facilitate that kind of growth? Is it classes? Sermons? Programs? One on one meetings? The answer is yes and no. Before we get down to those specific implementations, a church must, I think, embrace and understand that they are a unique expression of the Body of Christ.

Every church is unique. Sure, they all have common traits and common purposes. But those traits and purposes are being fleshed in a unique community. With unique people. And unique leadership. Understanding those traits of uniqueness can launch us on the road to better implementing not just a discipleship plan, but a discipleship plan that fits for an individual church.

Here, at LifeWay, we are striving to recognize the uniqueness of a given church. Part of that recognition is an initiative that we are very excited about. It is specifically designed to be able to interface with a given church at an individual level and deeply understand and embrace those elements which make that church unique.

It’s called Discipleship in Context. Through this initiative, we are working with unique churches to custom design curriculum just for them. Written with their church culture and structure in mind. Aligned with their core practices and doctrine. Lifting up key initiatives from their church body. Even built around the sermon series being preached. It’s a unique approach to Bible study that, until now, you could only have with a full-time writer on your church staff.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can build Bible studies like these, those that provide trustworthy content in a way that embraces the uniqueness of a given church, visit the Discipleship in Context website at