Un-utterable: Core Beliefs, Disciples & Leaders

This week’s post may start out feeling a bit political. It isn’t. It’s about leadership’s duty to discipleship.

There are some words you simply cannot bring up without raising the emotional temperature in the room—the words are essentially “un-utterable”.

These kinds of words energize people. Not as in enthusiastic, but as in amps up, as in anger and anxiousness. There is no mountain peak to crest on these words—only sides to take.

Un-utterables give away your core beliefsyour ethics programming.

Core beliefs are how you see things in terms of good and evil, smart or dumb, justice, motives, politics and even sports preferences.[1]

Here’s an example: If I say the word “Putin”, what impressions just came to your mind? If you live in the West, perhaps “Dictator” or “Enemy” or “Murderer”. Those kinds of reactions are the result of a belief system, sizing up people and events, then pointing us toward convictions consistent with those beliefs.

As a disciple Jesus declared that our duty to “go and make disciples” [2]. In other words, disciples change people’s core beliefs—in themselves as well as others.

Core beliefs cannot be debated into changing. Trust is necessary first.

Interestingly in the Matthew 28.19 passage mentioned above, we’re all commanded by Christ to be among people, so their thinking and beliefs can interact with ours. That’s relationship, which is the greatest single leverage in accessing and perhaps affecting someone’s core beliefs.

Leadership in the Western Christian world, sadly, owns a mostly unrecognized biblical responsibility. 

The primary role of leaders in the Church is to organize people so as to immerse them in the biblical culture they are called to as disciples. Most churches get the “learning, equipping and activities” part. But a fundamental biblical asset in discipling is usually missing: one disciple, pairing up with one or two, deeply relating to other people.

At the risk of repetition, leaders exist to create an environment where disciples want to change core beliefs in themselves and with people around them.

This isn’t about morality codes on how people dress or their music or their views on climate change or identity.

Leadership’s duty is to make it easy, motivating and expected—that disciples will go out, connect with people, like pairs or maybe threesomes, so relationships can truly form.

Teaming with people is a hard sell in the radically individualized Western world.

Most of us don’t want to be known in our real life. We tend to fake it in churches, by being in a small group, where we can offer plausible deniability that we’re in somewhere. Unfortunately, most small groups are just too big for a discipling relationship of any depth to form.

Relationships in clusters of fives, tens or thousands tend to be shallow, puffed up and “phygital” (digital, minimal real world). But that’s the way it’s been for Christians since around the 4th Century. Big groups, little relationship. And it is writ large in our Western folklore. That’s a lot of cultural history and momentum to overcome.

So our thesis is that discipling relationships, not a church, are the building blocks of biblical discipleship.

Big group gatherings and ministries and worship? Those are symptoms of disciples.

This makes things interesting. Because if you as a leader don’t understand your role, the role to create an environment (a culture) of relationships, then odds are, you’ll have very low yield in disciples as Christ defined disciples[3].

How? Leaders have to evaluate their local people and circumstances in retooling a discipling culture. Your church may fare better with a few influencers that will start as renegade disciples-making-disciples group. Some of you, but not many, can walk in next Sunday and say “Here’s where we’re all going” and most of your people will take the journey with you.

But change in Western Christian leadership is vital. Our research suggests that about 95% of the Protestant churches today spend their leadership’s time focused on management and growth opportunities rather than the true duties of leaders: Mission, culture and bringing thought and change leaders in their congregations back to the core of Christianity—discipleship.

We have some core beliefs to change in the larger world regarding the reality of Christ’s amazing resurrection, and how that event changes everything in terms of good, bad, right, wrong and oughts.

Leaders owe a greater duty to their communities – changing misinformed Christian core beliefs:

  • My membership & activities are discipleship
  • My small group is discipleship / relationship
  • The yawning gap between biblical discipleship and Western discipleship is not my problem
  • I do not need / want to team with another believer, I’m good
  • Having an answer for the reason for the hope within me? That’s the Pastor’s job.

Is it time to utter the un-utterable: “Is our discipleship is compromised”? What would you do as a leader, to help reshape Christian culture for disciples? Reach out to us.

We’d like to participate with you in that conversation.

[1] Structure and Consistency in Public Opinion: The Role of Core Beliefs and Values, Stanley Feldman American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 32, No. 2. (May, 1988), pp. 416-440

[2] Matthew 28.19

[3] Examples: Matthew 16.24; Luke 10.1-3, 14.27-33; Colossians 3.5

© 2024 Dennis Allen | Morgan James Publishing

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