God created you to be like His Son, Jesus Christ, and He has a pathway for you to walk on the way to spiritual maturity. Nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus formed a community of people who could walk this pathway together and He called it a church.
Today, spotting the globe are hundreds of thousands of churches walking the pathway to spiritual maturity together. Why? Because God never intended you to walk the pathway to being like Jesus alone.
Far too many people consider Christianity a mere ticket to heaven, a sort of eternal life insurance policy. But Jesus wasn’t just a teacher, figure, or religious leader. He came to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life – the one and only pathway to the Father (John 14:6).
So what does it look like to walk toward spiritual maturity, a process we call discipleship? People disagree over the specifics of what discipleship includes and how it needs to be done, but we’ve thought about discipleship a lot within the leadership of Grace Hills. One of our core values focuses on it:
7. SIMPLE STRUCTURES
We fight for simplicity and keep the pathway to growth clear.
We avoid adding programs and focus on living out our purposes instead. We try to stay un-busy and uncluttered. We provide clear “next steps” for every person to take. And we trust our Pastors to lead us forward without red tape, committees, and business meetings. We vote as a church on only a few things, like buying land or building buildings.
We don’t use the word discipleship but walking with people on their journey to be like Jesus is the very essence of discipleship. As we understand it and define it, here is what discipleship is to us and why it’s vital to our very existence…
- Discipleship IS the mission of the church. It’s not either evangelism or discipleship, and it’s not about which is more important. They are one and the same. The mission of making disciples is the primary reason we planted Grace Hills.
- Discipleship happens in the context of a community called the church. It’s not a process anyone was meant to go through alone.
- Discipleship is a broken, crooked, twisted pathway that includes far more than church attendance and Bible reading. It includes suffering, repentance, persecution, sacrifice, and self-denial.
- Discipleship is incremental. That is, there is always a next step for every disciple (follower) of Jesus.
- Discipleship is a life-long process. None of us have arrived until the final, grand conclusion of all of history. If you’re alive, you’re still a work in progress, just like the rest of us.
- Discipleship is intentional. It doesn’t happen automatically. Real spiritual maturity is not merely the default result of attending church. It takes an investment of our intellect, emotions, and will.
- Discipleship is not something accomplished in a classroom. You can’t lecture disciples into existence. Granted, a deeper knowledge of God and His word are essential, but they are merely the foundation that must be built upon with life experience in the trenches.
- Discipleship includes, by its nature, multiplication. Part of following Jesus is fishing for others. Disciples go find others, else they are stunted in their growth.
The reason we worded our seventh core value the way we did was to communicate a couple of commitments. One is that we will work, as a church, to be a community of guides for the pathway to spiritual maturity. That means we’ll create kicking-off points such as our Life Matters classes as well as ongoing opportunities to study the Bible with a small community of other believers (and non-believers are welcome too) through our Grace Groups.
Our second commitment is to keeping the pathway clear. This stems from our church’s DNA as a purpose driven church that de-emphasizes programs and crazy event-filled schedules and instead focuses on a process for growing people. In other words, we don’t want anyone to feel that in order to become spiritually mature, they need to attend three worship services, two Bible studies, a committee meeting, and a potluck each week. Instead, gather on the weekend in our weekend service, scatter during the week with your small group, and spend the rest of your time living out the values of a disciple, serving the world for Jesus’ sake, and taking Jesus to a world desperately in need.
Spiritual maturity is God’s goal for you, and He has a pathway for you to walk to get there, and He never meant for you to walk it alone. If you’re not a believer in Jesus yet, God wants you in His family! And if you’re a believer who is going it alone, you’re being robbed of a community that can help, and you’re robbing others of the contribution you can make into their lives.
So let’s walk this pathway together.
Photo by noahg.