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The Great Omission

When people find out you’re having your first child, you get lots of advice. Out of the many things shared with me in recent weeks, one bit of advice from a Christian friend has stuck with me: “You need to let your child figure out a lot of things on his own and that will prepare him for having to figure out a lot of life on his own.” This particularly troubled me. Have we as Christians been so influenced by our broken culture that we default to individualism, disregarding coming alongside others to build them up, equip them, and do life together? This is discipleship. We need not forget that discipleship broadly includes teaching moments in corporate worship, age-specific education classes, and Life Groups. But what of life-on-life discipleship?

One scholar recently noted “From Jesus’ way of discipling others we learn that discipleship is the drama of real life that takes place on life’s main stages.” Jesus’ own call to discipleship is his gracious invitation to follow him (Matt. 4:19; 10:38), an invitation by which he is saying “Do life with me!” Going at life alone is the way of the “old self” that Christians are instructed to put off for the “new self”—individualism is “not the way you learned Christ!” (Eph. 4:20). As I was reminded recently by a NT commentator, “The final outcome of Christ’s call to discipleship is God-dependent, Christlike individuals and communities maturing in the context of the unending rule of God. And these maturing, transformed people and communities are called to have a transformative influence on their personal, cultural, economic, scientific and political surroundings until Christ returns.” Are we engaging in transforming relationships? As we see our covenant children at church, greet each other in worship, encounter next-door neighbors and clerks at Safeway and waitresses at El Molinito—are we asking how the Lord might use us to disciple them? Are we asking more mature believers to disciple us so we don’t have to figure out life by ourselves?

Gospel-focused discipleship helps transform the world around us into a Christ-centered culture. In speaking of the decay of our culture, evangelical Christian writer Cal Thomas suggested that a lot can be attributed to the failure of believers to engage in such transforming discipleship: “The problem in our culture…isn’t the abortionists. It isn’t the pornographers or drug dealers or criminals. It is the undisciplined, undiscipled, disobedient, and Biblically ignorant Church of Jesus Christ.” Might he be correct in such an assertion? Have we reduced life as a believer to merely dwelling on the eternal things of God—surely a necessity—instead of desiring to be a student of Christ in the here and now by engaging with God’s Word and engaging with others? If we are not making disciples, we are not following the Great Commission—and that is a great omission.

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