Disciple Development 2.0

We hear it nearly everywhere we go….

Pastors, church staff persons, lay leaders, denominational ministers….so many in this Jesus Movement are asking how we can help people in congregations claim their identity as disciples of Jesus; how we can cultivate robust, invigorated disciples.

When a question is asked by varied people from many different locations and contexts, then the question itself is instructive. It’s no accident so many are curious about discipleship at this point in the Church’s journey.  As we move through the Modern to Postmodern Transition, as the Church on the other side begins to rise, we recognize that the way we have been disciples will not suffice in this new era. Too much has changed to cultivate disciples to the level which we did when church was more culturally reinforced and embraced.

Remember when?
I was talking with an older disciple who described their move from Illinois to the South Carolina 43 years ago. While sitting at dinner after being in their new home for several weeks, she asked her twelve year old son about the differences in school. He responded that in the North they asked IF you go to church while in the South they ask WHERE you go to church. Certainly there are regional differences in this country regarding church involvement, yet the world this disciple described is fading quickly, even in the Bible-belt. Those of a certain age remember when Christianity and culture were so intertwined in this USA, barely any daylight could be seen between them. We remember the Church being at the center of the community’s life. Many people participated, while those who didn’t always felt slightly guilty.

Those days are gone. O yes, that culture still exists in some smaller towns and cultural enclaves, but where most of us live, it’s history. Church participation doesn’t earn one community respect nor social accolades like before. Sometimes the opposite results; suspicion and discounting. So in this kind of world, the Postmodern world we currently inhabit, we need invigorated disciples. Church membership culture (rights and privileges thinking) won’t sustain us. We need robust, invigorated, forward-moving disciples of Jesus.

Given this, many people are now coming alive to their identities as disciples. These cultural changes in our contexts are like strong winds blowing on the embers of our faith, fanning them into flames. Church members are waking-up to their identities, claiming their calling to live in the Way of Jesus.

As this move from church member to disciple is ongoing, many congregations are discovering they are not structured or positioned to support or cultivate this kind of living among their people. Congregations know how to cultivate disciples who live in the Modern era world, but this new level of discipleship needed in Postmodern USA…that’s another thing.

During this first ten years of Pinnacle’s existence, developing disciples has been a theme in our ministry. We’ve spilled quite a bit of ink describing the shift from member to disciple identity. Yet we must keep updating our understandings of what’s going on, since this Jesus Movement continues to evolve in its expression. Though this article is entitled “Disciple Development 2.0,” we expect to see 3.0, 4.0, and on and on.

To that end, the next 3 e-news articles will describe what we are learning, observing, and suggesting for those who are eager to live into disciple identity more fully. We will describe
  •          Disciple Developing Capacity and Structure
  •      Rule of Life 2.0
  •      Individualized Disciple Development Pathway
  •      Leading Your Disciple Developing Movement
Certainly many of us can “remember when,” enjoying the afterglow of a previous cultural expression of our faith. We will cherish those memories. Even so, many of us now are being swept up into God’s ongoing world makeover, transforming this planet towards the kingdom. Claiming our identities as disciples and living into the aliveness found in Jesus Christ….it’s like honey to the bee.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA