The Primary Task of the Church?
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
The church, in the context of its missional calling, must work with all its energy to present people fully mature in Jesus Christ. I think we can say that mission without discipleship is ineffective and discipleship without mission is pointless and honestly can’t really even be called discipleship.
It was Alan Hirsch who said, “I have come to believe we are never going to be the movement Jesus wants unless we first et the issues of discipleship right. This is because the health and growth of transformative Jesus movements are directly related to their capacity to make disciples. No disciples, no movement – it’s that simple.” (Untamed, 17)
In Ephesians 4 we see that God calls pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists and apostles to “equip his people for works of service so that the body may be built up until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Here, Paul again is talking about the role of the church (especially those in leadership positions) in bringing God’s people to maturity in Christ. It is when we are mature in Christ that we can “no longer be as infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there.”
These passages, among many others in the NT, point out our main calling as the sent community is to make disciples – or in the words of Dallas Willard, apprentices – of Jesus Christ.
This of course begs a few questions:
Are we as passionate about this as Paul?
How do we do this?
What does it entail?
What does it mean to be mature in Christ?
In all of this, this whole entire conversation about discipleship must presuppose an understanding of the local church as a community of people sent into the world to be witnesses to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. It must presuppose a missional vocation of “witness.”
Without this understanding, our maturity simply loses its point. Sure you might argue that maturity for the sake of maturity is good for the sake of itself. But I would argue that you can’t really be mature in Christ if you do not see and understand your calling in the world.
For me, the most important question is, how do we do this? How do we shape community rhythms where people are actually becoming and continually becoming followers of Jesus?