Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Disciples or Apostles?

So a question has been running through my head a bunch lately at it is this question:  Should the church be "making" disciples or apostles?

I put making in quotation marks because really I question the whole "making" language as truly (as many have said in the past and present) it is God who "makes" disciples and the church just helps in the process.

Okay, but seriously I am wondering if our language of discipleship basically gives us a bunch of passive learners/consumers.  I mean if I am supposed to be a disciple doesn't that mean I am a learner or "pupil." The images that come to my head when I explore that is a student at a desk just furiously taking notes and learning from the one who has the knowledge.  Sound a little familiar?  Many of my acquaintances and friends who are Christians often approach church in the same way:  they go to worship but also mainly to "learn" from someone who has a knowledge.  They want to know what they are to believe.

Our language doesn't exactly challenge that notion even though most pastors I know cry about the lack of "ministry of all believers" being actively done.  Well what do we expect?  We say we are "making" disciples.... and what we are "making" is learners who need us (pastors, you know, who have the knowledge...even if that isn't what we want).

I have been reading Jim Walker's book Dirty Word, and a quote stuck out to me that connected with this thought running through my head.  He writes:
Koinonia isn't something we talk about, read about, or sit and watch.  Koinonia is action; it's what we do.  When I was learning to drive, I was told and I was shown.  I even got to use one of those driving-simulation machines in high school.  But it wasn't until I actually got behind the wheel and hit the gas that I learned how to drive.  Does the church teach people to drive by putting them behind the wheel?  Do we help people experience the kingdom of God?  Or is church a big tour bus where everyone piles in, and there is one driver who points out the window at the kingdom of God, but no one actually gets to get out and experience it? (emphasis mine)
What a great picture that I feel captures some of my frustration.  To me it feels like our language of making disciples creates nothing more than tourists on the journey of life, hearing about the kingdom of God and believing it is there but not actually going out into the world and stepping off the bus to experience it.

But what if we were about "making" (loosely used) apostles.  You know apostles (definition: one sent on a mission), those people Jesus gathered and gave the command to in Matthew 28.  Maybe instead of living the command of the story we should enter into the story.  What if we were about intentionally saying that we are going to send people out?  You are here and we will help equip you and then we are sending you out:  you are an apostle!  Currently, we have the language of apostles but in most circles it is the "clergy" who are in the category of apostle.  What greater way to reinforce the sense that clergy are the ones who do the work of the kingdom and the rest just sit and learn.

Personally, I would love to see an image of the church as a bus where the bus stops and the driver opens the door and says don't just look at it, GO EXPERIENCE IT!  Don't just learn it, GO DO IT!  YOU ARE SENT!

P.S.  Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling.  It is not polished.  It is not finished.  I just had to let it out.


  1. Hhhmmmm. I don't like it. I generally believe most Americans will like what your saying here as most Americans are rugged individualists who decry authority and love to rebel. On that note many protestant Christians are still in protest although what we are protesting is usually not theological but instead social. My main objection is your eclessiology (understanding of church). An apostle is one who is called by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to lead Christ's Holy Church of which Christ is the head. Apostles follow a line of succession all the way back to Peter and then Christ himself. Not everyone is called to lead the Church. All of us are called to discipleship but only some of us are called to be apostles. I do think you are called, appointed and ordained to lead Christ's Holy Church. Don't be afraid to lead the Church. Don't let the American culture overwhelm your calling as an apostle. Remember this. The Church is a theocracy...not a democracy. We don't get to vote who God will call to lead the Church. God calls who God desires to call and then gives them the anointing and authority to lead.

    (Just my initial reaction. I could give you a whole bunch of Biblical and Theological reasons for my initial reaction if you desire. My guess is not cause you know where I'm going.)

    Peace of Christ,

  2. Brian-

    First, you continue to lump me in some group that I would not agree with. I think you should practice a little Duke sympathetic reading ala Amy Laura Hall.

    What I am not arguing for is a decontruction of authority, for I agree that Christ is the head of the church. What I am pushing against is the way it seems to me that the church has replaced that authority with our pseudo-authority.

    I know what you are arguing against and that is not what I am saying. In your analysis you need to account for the fact that two people could say the same thing but have totally different intentions or reasons for writing them. You bang against the individualism of Americans (rightfully so in my opinion), but fail to account for the fact someone could push against what we currently are from a perspective that accounts for community and submission to authority (of Christ). This isn't about creating a bunch of individual apostles it is about creating a community of apostles called to a mission by Christ.

  3. Ok...I'm reading sympathetically. I do like how you are engaging people to take their role in the church seriously...their call to Christ seriously. This I love. Many people are indeed on a sightseeing tour... they are religious but not spiritual. As well there are many more people who are spiritual but not religious.

    The Church universal is in crisis and many are running around proclaiming this loudly thus I doubt many would argue the Church universal is healthy. The real question seems to be what to do to address our crisis? Are you challenging the general gathering of persons called Christians riding on the bus are you challenging those of us driving the bus?

    If it is the general ridership, I wouldn't worry about the semantics of disciple over apostle as there needs to be a much larger focus on catechisis (spiritual teaching or formation). If you are challenging those of us driving the bus to continue to deconstruct our eclessiology I would argue that it has already been totally deconstructed and what we need now is people to build a new with a driver.

    Peace of Christ,