A House of Cards – Modern Discipling’s Appeal – and Its Fate

Augusto Del Noce (1910-1989) was an Italian philosopher and Statesman known for his writings on Atheism, Marxism and Secularism. His famous phrase “the heterogenesis of ends” – meant that a culture of Marxism would succeed/fail. It would succeed in distracting and animating people, he wrote, because Marxism appeals to the prevailing winds of envy, greed and coercion, disguised as noble government.  And then, Del Noce said, Marxism would fail as its idealism collides with the true nature of men. A “house of cards”. There is no example of a long-standing Marxist culture, only oppressive and failing ones.

Modern discipleship is often structured like a kind of house of cards. We stack up our ideas of being a good Christian on a culture of resume, membership and attendance. Or nowadays, leave the attendance behind, just the resume. The thinking goes something like this: If I do good things I’m fine. Jesus has saved me because I prayed a sinner’s prayer, and I’m good doing what I do – maybe I do a lot, maybe I’m chill, but my works and roles and titles are virtuous – so I’m good. If I belong to a church and show up some, so much the better. Disciple? Check. Surrendered? I just showed you my resume didn’t I?

Where did that kind of thinking come from? It’s a cultural thing. An eighteen centuries-old cultural thing. And culture is really good at surrounding you, permeating you, convincing you that if you do these kinds of things, you’re good. And if you don’t conform to the culture? Well then, you just are not with it.

Here’s the problem. If you stack up what Scripture teaches – Old and New Testament – you find that Jesus did not care about what was in your rear-view mirror. Your sins, along with your accomplishments are just “filthy rags” (See Philippians 3). Any culture that pulls you in to a religious system without first defining your new life as a bondservant (Matthew 4, 1st Corinthians 6), follower (Matthew 16, Luke 9, John 21) and dying-to-self disciple (Colossians 3, Galatians 2 & 5) – that kind of religious system is not Christianity.

And here we need to talk about the role of the leaders – the Pastor and staff of course, but also importantly, the governing folks in your church, your teachers and small group leaders, and anyone who is mentoring anyone personally. The role of leaders (Matthew 28, 2 Timothy 2) is to change expectations among their people to realize and pursue the duty, expectations and obligations of every person in that Christian community as unconditionally surrendering, constant-following, death-to-self, bondservants of Jesus the Christ.

Leaders – your people need a culture that will demonstrate Christ’s way of close-in relational discipling for emerging disciples. People need personal mentors and friends as disciples who will be useful showing people “the ropes” and helping to consult along the journey, and helping people learn how to “make” (read as progression) other disciples. Is that kind of discipleship prevalent in your church culture?

Everyone, of all stripes are welcome to come and see, to hear about and investigate Christ of course. In addition, a biblical discipling culture motivates believers toward building reflexes and muscle memory and sanctification practices as believers, to be followers, and to invite other people to come check out Christ. Those are disciples living such a way for the rest of their lives.

A house of cards is an image of reality – close, but not quite. Western discipleship has many wonderful tools in facilities, pastors, sermons and small groups. Those are all good – but not quite the complete package. Leadership’s vital role for the Church – for its disciples – is to ensure Christ’s way of walking alongside disciples, of “go and make” disciples, for the rest of their lives is priority one.

How will you, as a leader, help us to tear down modernity’s house of fragile discipleship, and restore the house – the disciple – standing firm on the biblical rock?

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