Lots has been written about discipleship. Many churches have some kind of discipleship program that appears every now and then. It’s a process that’s expected to happen once we become a Christian. This is what Dallas Willard says on the subject in his book, “The Divine Conspiracy”.
Non-discipleship is the elephant in the church. It is not the much discussed moral failures, financial abuses or the amazing general similarity between Christians and non-Christians. These are only effects of the underlying problem. The fundamental negative among Christian believers now is their failure to be constantly learning how to live their lives in The Kingdom Among Us. And it is an accepted reality. The division of professing Christians into those for whom it is a matter of whole-life devotion to God and those who maintain a consumer, or client, relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for over 1500 years.
And at present – in the distant outworkings of the Protestant Reformatrion, with its truly good and great message of salvation by grace alone – that long accepted division has worked its way into the heart of the gospel message. It is now understood to be a part of the ‘good news’ that one does not have to be a life student of Jesus in order to be a Christian and receive forgiveness of sins. This gives a precise meaning to the phrase ‘cheap grace’, though it would be better described as ‘costly faithlessness’. “
– Dallas Willard, ‘The Divine Conspiracy’, 1998, Chapter 8, pg 330 in my paperback copy.
So – are the evangelical churches unwittingly teaching ‘cheap grace’? Is the emphasis on winning converts at the expense of encouraging real discipleship? Do churches have the intention of making disciples, and if they do, is it more than just a bunch of actions by which you can measure if you are a disciple or not? Are people really disciples if they do a few things they are supposed to do – turn up on Sunday, go to a home group regularly, tithe and give? Is there time in our lives for a discipleship that goes beyond what we do to how we ‘be’? If more of us were true disciples, and over time, transformed by this, would we need evangelistic programs?
What makes a disciple? Do we know people who really are disciples and how do we recognise them? Is this something missing in some of our evangelical settings and lives?