Tuesday, March 16, 2010


What kind of Christians do we want to produce? What is our goal in making disciples?

The goal of some forms of instruction seem to be an external conformity. We set down a series of rules of behavior and expect people to live by them. If people meet these standards (or are good at faking it), we regard them as spiritual people. We then keep these people in line by external social pressure: if you break this rule we will condemn you.

But we can go further and require internal conformity. We can try to build a real relationship with the person in question so they will be influenced by our friendship, not just a list of rules. This is better, but is it the real solution? People can move away or drift away, and false teachers can be friendly too. If someone's faith ultimately rests on you, it is not a firm enough foundation.

If someone's faith and obedience toward God is to be solid, it must come from within them. They need an internal transformation and to hold what they hold because they have thought it out and made it their own. This is the person who will stand for God even when there is no one else there to support them. Now this individual cannot be produced without the work of the Holy Spirit in their heart (which is probably why the others are easier to produce), but they do require a different approach on the part of the human teacher. It requires presenting material in such a way as to encourage people to think it through. It requires giving reasons for what we believe and challenging people to draw their own conclusions. It is very dangerous. If challenged to think, people may reach the wrong conclusions. I believe we need to trust the Holy Spirit to work in people to bring them to the right conclusions. (If they desert when challenged to make the faith their own, did they have a real faith in the first place?) This means teaching people the deep things of the word of God and training them in the defense of the faith. God calls for us to be people who are transformed from the inside (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24) and not who just look good on the outside (Matthew 23:23-28). (In Romans 12:2, the "form" in "conform" speaks of an outward disguise, as in 2 Corinthians 11:14, but the "form" in "transform" speaks of one's true internal nature, as in Philippians 2:6.) Now sometimes when working with people we need to start with some form of conformity. But if we stop there we end up producing superficial disciples who will cave when real pressure comes (Ephesians 4:14; Matthew 13:18-23).

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