Discipleship and the Body of Christ

Every church is faced with the following question: How do we go about making disciples, mature followers of Jesus. One way we try to do this at our church is by having a “discipleship process.” This process is intended to cover the basics of what it means to follow Jesus. The “steps” of this process are Worship, Connect, Grow, and Reach.

Worship is what we do on Sunday mornings, singing together, praying together, and listening to the preached Word of God.

Connect covers the fellowship portion of discipleship. We get together in “Bible Fellowship Groups.” We work together to apply the Word to our lives. We develop deeper relationships that enable us to meet each other’s needs.

Grow refers to those things we do which deepen our understanding of Scripture. It includes special Bible studies and the Sunday night service.

Reach refers to all those ministries that either directly serve within the church (like working on the building and grounds team, visiting our shut-ins, etc.) or serve those outside of our church (like working in Attic After School or putting on our Fall Carnival).

Put another way Worship means to love God. Connect means to love one another. Grow means loving God’s word. And, Reach means love God’s world.

I was also thinking about these components of discipleship in relation to a metaphor common in Scripture, that of the church as the “body of Christ.”

If we relate discipleship process to the body of Christ metaphor we can see, through a new perspective, why each of these is important.

The goal of worship is to strengthen our connect to the head; to Christ. A church cannot function if it is disconnected from Christ. He is the one who gives us direction and from him springs the life and vitality of the church. A church disconnected from Christ has lost its identity. This is one of the purposes of worship, to ensure that we are single-mindedly focused on Jesus and to ensure that we regularly enter into his presence through the Holy Spirit. When we gather in His name, He is present with us. When we forsake that fellowship, spiritual life wanes and spiritual direction disappears.

The goal of connect is to strengthen our relationship with one another. A hand cannot function as a hand if it is disconnected from the body. A foot cannot function as a foot if it is not disconnected to the body. A collection of parts cannot function unless those parts are built together in love. Discipleship is part and parcel with obedience and there are a great number of commands, like the “one another” commands, which we simply cannot perform apart from connection to the body of Christ. If you are not connected in a meaningful relational way with a church, you will be less effective as a Christian. If you are connected then not only will you be more effective, but so will those around you.

The goal of grow is to increase the fitness of each individual part. A hand is not effective if it is disconnected from the head (worship) or if it is disconnected from the rest of the body (connect). But it is also ineffective if it is itself weak or diseased (or, in my case, had a dislocated finger). A believer grows, becomes more spiritually mature, in direct relation to their understanding of and obedience to the Word of God. As we let that word take root and as we nourish ourselves on it, we become more effective within the body.

Finally, the goal of reach is to provide action and function to the body as a whole. Some parts of the body serve primarily within the body. I have internal organs which keep me healthy and active but which is not particularly visible to the outside world. But with other parts of my body, like my hands or my mouth, I can serve and communicate with the world around me. A body with no movement, no matter how well connected with the head, or within itself, even if it is physically fit, is still useless. Without movement, without mission, without action, a body will do no good. And a body with no movement will eventually become lifeless itself.

We need all of these elements in order to become fully mature in Christ, as individuals and as communities. How we do all of these things will be different based on the individual and the church, but each of these (corporate worship, fellowship, study and application of God’s word, and service to others) is an essential aspect of the Christian walk and of discipleship.

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