This is part 1 of a series on discipleship, the nature of the Church, and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Follow our article series as we explore these topics over the next number of weeks! This series will be reaching for the top shelf in regard to study, but feel free to take your time or re-read as needed!

Part 1: Discipleship Defined

The call to “make disciples” has been the driving purpose of the True Church for the last two thousand years. Some churches have taken discipleship seriously, and others have not. Many churches have remained faithful to the call of Christ to make disciples for the kingdom; many churches, swayed by the popular culture, have not. While the early Apostles taught the Church to point others towards Jesus, why does it often seem the case that churches do this so poorly? Why is it that the culture tends to choke out seemingly faithful churches?

To understand the answer to why discipleship has often failed, one must find the dominant worldview that existed in order to pull the church away from the call of Christ. Simply put, “a worldview is a set of fundamental beliefs that inform the way we see and engage the world. It is the framework through which we interpret everyday life and make decisions.”1 While discipling Christians to become more like Christ, and less like the world, the church leaders need to understand rightly the worldview they are trying to lead people away from as much as Whom they are leading people to.

Today, churches in North America are faced with yet another question regarding how they will disciple, namely, what are they do to with Critical Race Theory? Critical Race Theory (CRT) has quickly emerged as a dominant form of thought catching many Christians off guard. This article series will help us to understand the nature of discipleship in the church, and Gospel contextualization as it pertains to Critical Race Theory.

Before someone can biblically disciple others, they must become a disciple themselves. To be a disciple means to be a follower of someone. One can technically be a disciple by following someone’s teaching and example from afar, perhaps by reading a book by Tony Robbins or listening to a song by Bono. But to be a disciple of Christ means much more. To be a true disciple of Jesus is to follow in His steps, doing as Jesus taught and lived, but most importantly, entering into a personal, saving relationship with Jesus.2 In the New Testament, Jesus calls twelve men to follow Him and enters into a discipling relationship with them. He invites these men to walk alongside His ministry for three years, showing them through His own life how life ought to be lived in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

The apostle John records Jesus’ further invitation to not only follow Him, but to abide in Him.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love."3

The word abide in its original language is μένω (menō) which means to remain, lodge, or dwell. Just as in the way that God tells His people that He will dwell with them, He calls His people to dwell with Him. This call is still relevant today. The God of Christianity is a God of relationship. This is demonstrated not only in the perfect union of the Trinity, but also in His call to abide in Him. But to abide means more than just mental ascent, acknowledging Him as God. To abide means to fully throw ourselves at the feet of God and depend upon Him for all things.

The individual becomes personally discipled by Christ, and as they do this, they not only grow into deeper relationship with and dependence on God, but actively demonstrate what it looks like to behold the beauty of God as He forms His disciples. One metric of discipleship that can be seen is when the believer moves from believing in the gospel as just good news, to a deep beholding of the beauty of God who is the standard of all beauty. Kyle Strobel (via Jonathan Edwards) is helpful in describing this relationship with the great disciple maker, Jesus Christ. Strobel writes, “Truly seeing God is grasping him as the highest good, truth and beauty. It is having your eyes opened and taking in the reality of who he is. It is receiving the love of God in full and having God as the object of your own love.”4

Furthermore, entering into discipleship under Christ is not done out of self-help or self-development in a worldly or “spiritual” way. Instead, “in seeking to glorify God in all things, we come to know our calling as ambassadors and witnesses.”5 Being a disciple then is not only an individual act between the believer and Christ, but is also a repeatable and corporate rhythm.

We will continue this thought in part 2.

1 Ed Stetzer, Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is at Its Worst, 2018, 134.

2 Mark Dever, Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus, 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016), 13–14.

3 Crossway Bibles, ed., ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version, ESV text ed (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles, 2007) , Jn 15:4-9.

4 Kyle Strobel, Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Books, 2013), 25.


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