Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is Disciple Making?

Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert just made a video titled "the mission of the church," which discusses the question of social engagement. Doug Wilson picked up on the video and wrote this piece over at Blog and Mablog.

I think a lot of the confusion has to do with who is responsible to do what. Of course disciple making involves engaging with everything. The Bible addresses every aspect of life. We don't have a narrow, truncated, piecemeal faith. But, every person and every institution is not required to engage everything in the same way. Our precise responsibilities are a matter of personal and institutional callings.

Greg and Kevin seem to be approaching the question largely from the perspective of pastoral calling and the institutional church. When Kevin says (at around 7 minutes) that the Apostles didn't address or seek to transform the whole world (art, literature, education, government, economics, business, etc.), he's only highlighting the Apostolic calling (or pastoral calling) and the calling of the institutional church. But, you can't limit the callings of individual Christians (the church scattered) to proclamation and the transformation of individuals. When we read the whole Bible, especially the OT and NT eschatology, we find that it addresses the whole world.

I agree that pastors and institutional churches are not called to transform the world. We are called to preach the gospel and make disciples, teaching them to observe everything Christ commanded. We've got to center on Christ and whenever we mention anything else, it is secondary to Him. Our vocation is proclamation and making sure God's people never forget that the kingdom is Personal. If we pastors fail to "stay in the lane" of our callings, and if we start trying to excel in the knowledge or practice of politics, art, business, etc., we're going to do it poorly, and we're likely going to elevate secondary issues to primary concerns. On that level, I can "amen" the video. I also agree that every Christian is called to "proclaim" the gospel, not just "live" the gospel.

I think Wilson is right, however, that discipleship is much bigger than changing the minds and hearts of individuals. What will happen when doctors, lawyers, teachers, politicians, artists, and businessmen come to faith in Christ? They will love Christ and keep His commandments in their callings. It will change how they work in the world and the more the church scattered fills up society, the more society will be transformed. We saw this in the Awakenings. Whole towns and cultures were transformed. As pastors, we need to teach that faith in Christ and conformity to His likeness touches every part of life, including our callings.

My struggle with Wilson, and I read his blog regularly, is that he seems to think the calling of the institutional church and of pastors is to change the world. I don't see Wilson preaching Christ, speaking warmly of the Savior, clearly summoning our affections to be settled on Him, to rejoice in Him, to find comfort in Him, to delight in His imputed righteousness, and in the gift of His Spirit. Wilson seems to think his chief pastoral responsibility is to call us to change the world. I think Wilson's chief responsibility is to call us to Christ and to stay fixed on Him personally.

So, I think a lot of this debate has to do with our respective responsibilities and with keeping first things first. We need to recover the biblical Reformed doctrine of "vocation." I recommend The Callings by Paul Helm and God at Work by Gene Edward Veith for anyone who would like to read up on the subject. Institutions have callings (church, family, government, entertainment, business, education, etc.). Individuals also have callings that are usually connected to social institutions. We need to learn to trust and love Christ, to keep His commandments in whatever God has called us to do, knowing that He is the one who multiplies our labors and brings forth fruit, even when it seems like our little piece of the pie isn't that valuable and doesn't have much impact. We shouldn't feel guilty about loving Christ and keeping His commands while staying at our posts (and in our own lanes). We need to be content and take care not to venture beyond our callings, since if we are truly in our calling, then that is how we will make *the most* impact for the kingdom of Christ.

There are my two cents.

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