How politics corrupts discipleship …

I’ve consistently written about how mixing our faith full of political positions is bad for our faith and the church. Here’s another reason why: A focus on politics has led to a preference for “self-discipleship” in the church.

There’s a strain of Christians who have so saturated their faith with their political views that there’s more politics than there is Christlikeness in what they believe and how they behave. A strong cord running through their political views is that each person should take care of themselves, there should be no “hand outs.” So instead of mature Christians discipling new and younger-in-the-faith Christians, we give these new and younger believers some pointers about the Bible and list out what they are supposed to believe, and then expect them to exercise daily spiritual disciplines to disciple themselves.

Just like we politically think every man should “pull himself up by his own bootstraps,” every Christian needs to grow themselves to spiritual maturity.

But the Bible teaches something very different.

In His commission to the church, Jesus included these words: “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you …” Matthew 28:20a.

The Apostle Paul didn’t miss Jesus’ instruction to be thorough about discipling new disciples. Instead, he poured his life into the lives of others to guide them to spiritual maturity: “We want to present them to God, perfect [mature] in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me,” Colossians 1:28b-29.

We routinely make the mistake of thinking this teaching is just building head knowledge, but biblical discipleship is more than that. To make disciples is not only to equip a Christ follower with the words of Jesus, but with the ways of Jesus as well; it’s not only building a knowledge of Christ, but a development of His skills as well. We not only teach disciples we should love as Jesus loved, but we help them build the skill of actually loving.

The early church understood this fuller concept of discipleship. Look closely at the following passage from Acts and see how the early church not only focused on being taught, but also on building the skills of living out (in a very real way) what they were learning from the apostles:

42 All
the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to
fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They
worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s
Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity —
47 all
the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And
each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved,”
Acts 2:42-47.
That kind of living as a disciple of Jesus cannot be built or experienced through “self-discipleship.” And living interdependently as these early Christians did certainly flies in the face of much of our modern political views or what we’ve constructed as “faith” today.
Maybe if we purged from our faith the politics we’ve soaked it in, and returned to clear, specific, and simple biblical teaching, we could make disciples who more greatly mirror biblical Christianity than the “self-made” disciples we have today who more closely reflect our culture than they do Christ.
Is your church making disciples of Jesus Christ, or encouraging a “self-discipleship” that results in making cultural disciples? Are you personally discipling someone to become like Christ? Have you been discipled to spiritual maturity?