“We can’t entertain people into discipleship. We (each individually) must develop practices that counteract culture and conform us to Christ.”
Roger Helland & Leonard Hjalmarson
It is now widely acknowledged that people are continually being shaped by their culture and environment. Pop culture has formed us – discipled us – through the medium of advertising and peer pressure. We feel that we must dress like everyone else, live like everyone else, spend our resources and behave like everyone else. Certainly we work hard to have nice things but, perhaps, that is part of the problem…some are working to hard and missing what really matters, significant relationship time with those we love and with Jesus Christ. We have “conformed” to the world.
The consequence has been disastrous for the church. Congregations are filled with people who say they are Christians, perhaps even sincerely wishing to be Christians, but who look less like followers of Jesus and more like the rest of the world. It all has to do with what forces we have allowed to “shape” us. Some years ago I identified what I believed are the irreducible faith practices of those who follow Jesus; The Five Faith Practices of Discipleship. The hope, of course, is that if every member were to identify a few manageable and intentional changes in priorities, they would be less conformed to the world and more conformed to Jesus.
Here are the Five Faith Practices of Discipleship:
* Worship Regularly
* Pray Daily
* Learn & Apply God’s Word
* Participate in a Ministry
* Give Financially to the Work of the Church
Naturally, these are not the only practices that mark followers of Jesus. But they are the “irreducible minimum” of intentional discipleship. This is where someone begins who desires to honor the call of Romans 12: 2 – “Don’t continue to be like the rest of the world. Start taking on the image of Jesus Christ. (My paraphrase).
It has been argued that the health of a local congregation never rises above the spiritual health of the individual members. First Presbyterian Church is a good church, no question. Here we see incredible people doing incredible things. Here we see incredible forgiveness being demonstrated and compassion and care given abundantly. But this church can be so much more and can impact the local community far more significantly. One thing is required, one thing…that more and more people reading these words begin to take seriously the five faith practices and allowing God’s power to shape them into something so much more than they are now.