Growing up in the South, there is nothing more soothing to the soul and dear to the heart than the sweet summer indulgence of a Mayo sandwich with a homegrown, sliced tomato. As the old timers would say, "It hits the spot." There is a growing trend that many have noticed in recent years. More and more people are interested in growing their own food at home or stopping by their local farmers market for fresh fruits and vegetables. Even in some of the big name stores, there is a movement to make the products they sell look or feel like they came from the farm down the road. I've noticed Wal-Mart puts many of their vegetables in an overturned basket to make it seem like "Farmer John just came in and dropped off the latest produce from his garden."
It's a good trend. Many people today want to see something that is real and authentic. Thankfully, that seems to be catching on in the church as well. The seeker sensitive movement of the 80s and 90s created a church culture that was, in many cases, an inch deep and a mile wide. The truth is that many people in 2019 are tired of the show. They want to be surrounded and immersed in truth that stands the test of time. They want a truth that supersedes the circumstances of their lives or any era of human history.
With that frame of reference in mind, I think now is the time that we need to take a fresh look at what the primary calling of the church is: worship God and make disciples. There are lots of other ministries and functions of the church, but these two are central to the mission of the church. In fact, you could argue that if a church doesn't do these things biblically, they functionally cease to exist as a New Testament church. So, what does the Bible say concerning homegrown discipleship?
1. Discipleship should be saturated with the Word of God.
It is interesting, if not disheartening, to see how many Christians utilize the Word of God in their discipleship process. Unfortunately, we have made the Bible anthropocentric rather than theocentric. We have placed ourselves as the main characters in a Biblical narrative that is really about God. It's a type of literary idolatry. We don't want to call it that, but that's what it is none the less. Far too often, we are quick to place ourselves in the middle of the Biblical narrative, and we use verses like Philippians 4:13 or Jeremiah 29:11 to justify our methodology. Yes, God loves you and has a plan for you, but the Bible is not about you. It is about God.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible for a reason. It is a man seeking to grow more in love with the Word of God and to be more obedient to God. He desires the Word. Putting it plainly, he desires God. By the way, it was also written as a discipleship tool. There is an acrostic throughout Psalm 119 that goes through the Hebrew alphabet. The Psalmist wanted others to fall in love with God's Word.
The Puritans understood this rightly. They taught their children science, reading, history, theology, civics, and principles of life using one textbook: The Bible.
2. Discipleship is not a program to implement. It is a lifestyle to follow.
Deuteronomy 6 is a clear example of this. The greatest commandment was known to the ancient Hebrews as the shema. It basically boils down to this - God is one, and you need to love Him with everything you have. We are told to talk about the things of God when you sit in the house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. In other words, every moment in life is a teachable moment concerning discipleship. What a solemn reminder for parents!
The Marietta Diner in Marietta, GA has everything you could possibly want on the menu. From lasagna to hamburgers. The menu literally looks like a book. The local church has so many options available concerning programs that it would be very easy to forget - discipleship happens in everyday life.
3. Discipleship is organic, not organized from the top.
Don't get me wrong, there should be organization in the church. There is biblical organization with the establishment of the offices of the church - pastors and deacons. Pastors are called to lead and preach, and deacons are called to serve as an extension of pastoral ministry in meeting the needs of the congregation. That requires organization. However, what we should strive for is discipleship that happens when individuals in the church take to heart their personal calling as disciple-makers.
In this sense, discipleship and evangelism are two sides of the same coin. Growing as a disciple means going and evangelizing. We go and evangelize with the intent of making disciples.
Many people have changed the terminology over the years, but this is exactly what Jesus did. He preached to the multitudes, but he also spent time with mainly 12 people. Many times, he only invested in 3 people. There was a type of multiplication that took place, however, when those three people invested in others.
If we change our outlook on discipleship and start to realize that it should be a process that is homegrown and not manufactured, I believe we will see fruit that is good for the church and brings glory to God. I would even go as far to say that homegrown discipleship would be more filling than a tomato and mayo sandwich on a summer day.