Christ's Call to Discipleship: A Review

Currently, I'm trying to post once or twice a week summaries of chapters from books I've read over the past few years. These are the books that have really informed my thinking on discipleship and small groups. Hopefully, they'll provide a good opportunity for you to think through some of these same thoughts.

Today, I'm looking at chapter two from the book Christ's Call to Discipleship by James Montgomery Boice. This chapter is entitled, "The Call to Discipleship."

Discipleship is the purpose for small groups. Different churches may use different terms, and some churches may suggest that the primary goal of small groups is something different like "community" or "fellowship", but all will agree that community and fellowship are being done for a greater purpose, and that purpose is discipleship. We want to help people be like Jesus, and that's why we do small groups.

James Boice's book on discipleship is a classic treatment of this topic. It is rich in insight and biblical depth and yet extremely readable. He launches his book by saying:
There is a fatal defect in the life of Christ's church in the twentieth century: a lack of true discipleship. Discipleship means forsaking everything to follow Christ. But for many of today's supposed Christians -- perhaps the majority -- it is the case that while there is much talk about Christ and even much furious activity, there is actually very little following of Christ himself.
My hope is that Boice's words and ideas will help us to develop a concept of small groups that is less about busyness and what we do and is more about helping each other follow Christ. Boice believes that this disconnect between the church and discipleship is largely due to a faulty understanding of discipleship. He suggests that discipleship is not something that is separate from salvation, but rather that one cannot be a Christian without being a disciple. He says:
discipleship is not a supposed second step in Christianity, as if one first becomes a believer in Jesus and then, if he chooses, a disciple. From the beginning, discipleship is involved in what it means to be a Christian.
Dr. Boice suggests that "follow me" is the primary command of Christ which must be obeyed by his discipleship. This idea will continue to be a theme throughout the book, but in this chapter, he suggests five elements which are involved in following Christ:
  1. Obedience -- Those who are genuinely Christ's sheep obey His call from the beginning and enter into a life characterized by obedience.
  2. Repentance -- Jesus said in Luke 5, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."... anyone who thinks he can follow Christ without renouncing sin is dreadfully confused. And anyone who claims to be following Christ while actually continuing in unrighteousness is deluded.
  3. Submission -- the Lord pictures discipleship as putting on a yoke...chiefly it suggests submission to Christ for his assigned work. In ancient times it was customary for a ruler, when he had conquered a new people or territory, to place a staff across two upright poles, perhaps four feet off the ground, and require the captured people to pass under it. By this act they passed under his yoke or submitted to his authority.
  4. Commitment -- A lack of commitment means deviating from His path or falling away from Him.
  5. Perseverance -- This is because following is not an isolated act, done once and never to be repeated. It is a lifetime commitment that is not fulfilled here until the final barrier is crossed, the crown received, and it an all other rewards laid gratefully at the feet of Jesus.
I wonder what impact it would make on a small group if these five elements became core to their time together. If every time they gathered, they discussed and encouraged one another in regards to their obedience and submission; would they be more obedient and submissive to Christ? If they regularly reminded one another to persevere and maintain their commitment would they find their weeks easier? If they spent time in repentance would their struggle against sin be more victorious?

Discipleship is what we desire. Certainly Dr. Boice has presented us with compelling thoughts regarding our journey together of following Christ.

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