If you could cut me and examine my blood, I imagine aside from the physical components, you would find four elements in there. You’d find love for Christ, love for my wife, love for my football team (or soccer for my American friends), and a love for making disciples.
Disciple-making is something near and dear to my heart because it is something that I personally have benefited from. God was good to me in allowing me to have two men pour into my life at crucial points in my life — Rev. Nathaniel Ramshire, a retired Presbyterian pastor who really grounded me in the Word and in the doctrines of grace and Dr. Tom Drion, the pastor at GraceLife London, where I attended from 2012-2017, and where I really got my start in ministry. I now serve at a church where I am actively seeking to help foster a culture of disciple-making through teaching and personal ministry. I say all of that to say — I am passionate about seeing believers taught, trained and deployed in serving the Lord.
You can imagine my consternation, then, when I came across this tweet from Dr. Anthony Bradley. Bradley is chair of the Theological and Religious Studies program at The King’s College in New York, where he also serves as professor of religion, theology, and ethics. He wrote:
One of the privileges of being white in America is never needing God to stop a society from trying to destroy you & your family. So the Bible is a book for evangelicalism, disciple-making, & teaching morals. Not a book for personal AND social, cosmic survival, so your kids walk.
— Anthony Bradley (@drantbradley) February 4, 2019
Putting aside my views about the issue of ‘social justice’ and the web of related ideas and concepts, this tweet frankly infuriated me on a level I haven’t felt in quite some time. I’d like to take a minute and deal with something Dr. Bradley implied and that I take the most umbrage with.
An Unspoken Assumption
If you read the tweet closely enough, there is an unspoken implication. That assumption is that for one group of people, Scripture is a book for personal and cosmic survival and for another group, it is a book for “evangelicalism, disciple-making and teaching morals.”
I want to be fair to Dr. Bradley and say that he doesn’t explicitly make a bifurcation between the two. He doesn’t explicitly pit theology and spiritual concerns against persona, social and cosmic concerns. However, he implicitly devalues it in the context of black Christians. He implicitly suggests that black Christians are far too concerned with their own survival as a people to have the luxury of (amongst other things) thinking about disciple-making.
To that, I wish to pointedly say, “Baloney!” (Forgive me if that’s not how it is spelled — I’m from the UK!)
The calling to discipleship and disciple-making are not middle-class, Western luxuries the ‘oppressor class’ have the time for while other folks are simply trying to survive. No, discipleship is the lifeblood of the church.
Why Discipleship Matters
In the marching orders, our ruling and reigning King Jesus left for us (commonly referred to as the Great Commission), we were told the following:
“…All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
It has been said you can tell what someone’s priorities are from their last words. While that may not be a universal maxim, it is definitely valid here. Among the last words Jesus said in His time on earth is a call to go in the authority of the Kingdom and make disciples of all nations. As I’ve noted elsewhere here at TAU, all believers are called to be disciples and to make disciples. Apathy, failure, and disobedience in light of this command are violations of the most direct of orders.
That an ostensibly evangelical professor at a leading Christian institution would even attempt to ‘throw shade’ at the calling to make disciples is, in my opinion, a spiritually treasonous act, demonstrating a profound lack of focus on that which is the calling of every believer.
Discipleship begins with us committing to becoming students and learners and followers of Jesus in our personal spiritual walk. That personal commitment then leads to a commitment to fellowship, worship, and service with other students, learners and followers of Jesus in local bodies led by Biblically-qualified, Spirit-empowered, Christ-honouring men. It is the context of relationships formed in those bodies that we replicate disciples for the glory of God. Brothers and sisters who are reading this post, that is the mission of the Church.Every Christian is called to be a disciple. Click To Tweet
Discipleship is Mission One
It is not a luxury for the believer to think about discipleship only if he doesn’t have survival to worry about — it is a necessity for all. It is a necessity that we dare not marginalize, downplay or ignore. It is a necessity, the lack of which is glaringly obvious in an evangelicalism where Christians cannot even answer basic questions about the fundamentals of the faith. Black or white (meaningless as those categories are for defining individuals or groups), every Christian is called to be a disciple.
If you want to know about this subject, I would heartily suggest connecting with the resource ministry of Replicate Ministries, especially their podcast Making Disciples and Dr. Robby Gallaty’s book Rediscovering Discipleship. Better still, I encourage you to do a study of the terms “disciple” and “disciples” in the New Testament, along with its related ideas and concepts. Above all, pray and seek the Lord about disciple-making in your life and in the lives of those whom God brings in the orbit of your life.
This isn’t something we can afford to do because of our affluence — it is something we must do, given the command given to us by our King.