MARK YOUR CALENDAR! Dr. James Dobson will broadcast a two part interview with NCMM leaders on Thursday, October 7, and Friday, October 8, 2004.
Here’s a bit of scholarship to help us continue zeroing in on a good definition of a discipleship (found in conjunction with my PhD studies)…
Discipleship can be defined as a) beginning with a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, b) developing by involvement in a process of spiritual formation and c) finding expression in acts of Christian service to others (Francis & Astley, 1997; Sullivan, 2003; Willard, 1998). Willard goes as far as including one’s vocation as an expression of Christian service.
The only available survey data for discipleship reports involvement in groups and classes (i.e., 16% of churched adults, Barna, 2000), which may exclude introverts involved in private study or Internet discipleship. Francis and Astley, in a study of adult Christian education, found a strong emphasis on discipleship methods that appeal to extroverts like: discussion, participation, and experience learning. The result? Introverts may feel uncomfortable or even stay away (1997, para. 2).
Sullivan described ten ways to increase discipleship including: reading Scripture, private prayer, community worship, sermons, integration into daily life, sharing responsibilities, fellowship, service, and study of the church’s teaching (2003, p. 9). So just because an introvert may not be “in a group” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not getting discipleship. Many introverts are getting discipleship without being counted (like my wife!). So the 16% in discipleship figure could be greater by the introverts not counted, but less by the people in growth groups who don’t profess faith or serve the Lord.
I would propose we define discipleship not on the basis of being “in a growth group,” but based upon the three-fold criteria of a) profession of faith, b) involvement in a process of spiritual growth (whether group or private), and c) participation in Christian service or ministry
Together in the battle for men’s souls,
Barna Group, The. 2000, 2004a. Christian Education/Sunday School. [Retrieved from Internet, August 8, 2004, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=9]
Francis, L. & Astley, J. (1997). Is adult Christian education mainly for stable extraverts? Studies in the Education of Adults, (Vol. 29).
Sullivan, J. (2003). From formation to the frontiers: the dialectic of Christian education. Journal of Education & Christian Belief, (Vol. 7, pp. 7).
Weick, K. (2002). Puzzles in Organizational Learning: An Exercise in Disciplined Imagination. British Journal of Management, 13(3), S7.
Willard, D. (1998). How to be a disciple. Christian Century, (Vol. 115).