The Kind of Disciples We’re Becoming: Gaining Clarity

Who We’re Becoming

Without a doubt, this has not been a typical January. Though January is usually the time when people start new habits and seek to gain (or regain) clarity about what truly matters in life, the ambiguity and long-term fatigue of Covid—along with the corresponding feelings of staleness that accompany it—has affected all of us, often dampening our resolve to live with intentionality.

In the midst of all of this, however, it can be a great comfort to remember that God cares far more about the people we’re becoming, than about what we’re “doing for him”—and we can become like him in any season! This is, in fact, God’s deepest desire for us—that we would be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29). God is glorified as more and more people look more and more like Jesus, saturating their locales as living, breathing representatives of Jesus’ heart, words, deeds, character, and goals.

We’re in the People Business

Jesus calls us to be disciples, or students, of him, so that we would grow in just this way. And the mandate and calling of the church is to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20)—to introduce people to Jesus’ life-giving grace as their rescuer, and then to teach those same people to submit every single aspect of their lives to his life-giving leadership as their Lord. In fact, this is all we’re called to do. We could say that the church, then, is “in the people business”. C.S. Lewis put it directly:

The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time.” (Mere Christianity)

Gaining Clarity at NSCBC

At NSCBC, therefore, we’ve made a concerted effort over the past several years to increase our clarity about what it looks like to grow as disciples of Jesus. Over three years ago, we engaged as staff, elders, and lay leaders, in the multi-month process of crafting a church-wide definition of a disciple, and to articulating five characteristics, or “marks” growing disciples. This process took a whole lot of seeking the Lord in prayer, study, and conversation, and went through many tweaks and iterations with your feedback (I remember long conversations wrangling over whether or not to add just one word or clause!)—but the result has empowered us to recommit ourselves to the work of making disciples with fresh zeal and intentionality.

Of course, it’s impossible to do justice to the fullness of what it means to be and grow as a disciple of Jesus in just a few descriptive sentences, but I do believe Jesus has been honored by our attempt to gain workable clarity in this area. And it’s paying off.

Over the last three years, armed with greater clarity, we’ve done everything we can to give disciple-making the centrality it deserves in the life of the church. We’ve preached on our definition of a disciple. We’ve made online learning tracks to help our people learn about each mark of a growing disciple. We’ve highlighted stories of people’s growth as disciples, and empowered people with the tools they need to intentionally disciple others. We’ve steadily taken steps to align our current ministries with the kind of disciples we’re seeking to make, and even taken a survey together over each of the last three years, asking our people to self-asses how they’re growing, and where they can continue to grow. Our prayer is that God would only continue to grow our clarity in this area.

Upcoming Blog Series

Over these next several weeks, we’ll be posting six-part blog series aimed at unpacking our definition of a disciple, and our five marks of growing disciples, with illustrations of where we’re seeing this lived out, and what it means for us practically as we seek to follow Jesus together. We hope you’ll join us for the journey and invest in your own growth by reading through the upcoming blogs! In the meantime, however, we encourage you to grow by:

• Revisiting to hear our preaching on the definition of a disciple, read about the five characteristics and engage the online learning tracks

• Reading through last year’s blog series on intentional, multiplying discipleship:
o PART 1: Multiplying Discipleship: Jesus’ Heart and the Church’s Lifeblood
o PART 2: Multiplying Discipleship: An Investment Mindset
o PART 3: Multiplying Discipleship: 4 Barriers
o PART 4: Multiplying Discipleship: Growth at NSCBC