Does Western Christianity have a discipleship problem? The Symptoms Say Yes (#1 of 4)

If you talk about disciples or discipleship today in a gathering of Christians, you often compete with yawns and cell phones, as people’s minds wander from a rather pedestrian term. The idea of being a disciple is a conundrum all unto itself for many believers. Some say it means to be a “super-christian”, while others argue a disciple is just another word for being a member somewhere. The biblical job description is a third view. Save that issue for another blog. Modern discipling is in trouble. The problem looms larger every month, and the trends are not good. We can approach the problem from a couple of different angles. One is looking the symptoms themselves, and wondering how these symptoms equal “that” kind of diagnosis, spelling trouble.  The other way to view the problem is to compare the Christ-centric biblical discipling model with what we claim as discipleship in practically all Christian communities today. In this first of a series “Do we have a problem?” we’ll start with symptoms. The details and research citations are laid out at length in The Disciple Dilemma, at Chapter One: “Is Something Amiss?”. But the short story is this: Do you know anyone with friends or family members who have walked away from their faith? The trends say six out of Millennials (1980’s~2010) are or will walk away from their faith. That’s noteworthy because many earlier generations walked on their faith, but children brought them back. Not so the Millennial. What constitutes the typical life of a follower of Christ? The data points say 80% of the Protestant population runs along without anything other than an occasional sermon in their life. No Bible study, no prayer life, no association with other believers. In other words, off the grid. How do people in Western Christianity view Jesus Christ? 4 in 10 do not think of Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life” but rather as “a way, among several”, leading to life with God.  Is it important for Christians to explain their faith to other people? A third of believers think that’s not their job, or that they are not equipped, either way, it’s the pastor’s responsibility to do that. Significant desertion, sedentary servants, skeptical followers and mute gospel communicators. Do we have a discipleship problem?

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