In the 1st century church, a few disciples were known as Christians. But there were no Christians who were not also disciples. In the 21st century church, there are a few Christians who are known as disciples. But discipleship is not the norm.
Acts 11:26 – not all disciples were known as Christians, but all Christians were disciples
and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.
Nominal Christianity (Christianity in name only) is dead. This is true in at least three senses:
1. Christians in name only are really not Christians at all, and so are spiritually dead
2. Our culture has lost patience and respect with this kind of “casual” Christianity, which is betrayed by the shallowness of its beliefs and commitments, and by the absence of life change.
3. It is dead in that it has no spiritual power associated with it. It has institutions and patterns which have created a kind of Christian sub-culture, but it is dead and dying, and such churches are drying up and closing down. This is supported both by the text of 2 Timothy 3, and by the statistics related to dying churches, found in a variety of sources, such as Harry Reeder’s book, From Embers to Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church, P&R, 2004.
Discipleship Christianity is alive and well
1. These Christians are related primarily to Christ, and secondarily to a local church.
a. It is Christianity; not church-ianity
b. Their Christianity is personal, a real relationship with a living person.
2. These followers of Jesus are consistently seeking how to live Jesus’ life in every arena of their lives.
a. It is not Sabbath or Sunday Christianity; it is everyday
b. Their Christianity is universal, pervasive
3. These disciples accept responsibility for representing Jesus to their families, friends and associates; and they accept the consequences
a. They do not rely on pastors, missionaries, or churches to take care of their Christ-representation
b. Their Christianity is missional, persecutional
The Shape of New Covenant Discipleship
New Covenant discipleship is not an effort to behave better, but to follow Jesus as fully as possible, to have his character stamped on our hearts, so that we resemble him. NC discipleship is not primarily performance-oriented, and it certainly is not a superficial conformity to a set of rules for appeance’ sake. It is transformational, as the Spirit of promise establishes ownership and control in our lives, including our minds, our affections, and our will.
New Covenant discipleship is representative. As I am fully and completely represented before God by Christ, I in turn seek to fully and completely represent Christ in the world.
New Covenant disciples have:
• A new Captain under a gracious administration
• A new identity and a blood-bought fellowship
• A new mission that cannot be measured in dollars, or numbers, or status
• A new worldview that drastically changes the definitions