One of the fundamentals of this exploration is the idea that Jesus was intentional in what he was doing with his followers, and that in exploring the intentional things Jesus did to transform his disciples we’ll find the answers to lots of our own questions about what it means to be a Christian.
Jesus didn’t walk up to Peter, James or John and go through the Evangelism Explosion presentation. He never asked them to pray to receive him as their Lord and Savior.
No. Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God was near. (Mark 1:14-15) He invited men to follow him and be made into Kingdom agents. (Mark 1:17) Based on John’s Gospel’s account, it appears that Jesus’ original followers were following him as a candidate for messiah, so designated by John the Baptist. Their frequent interactions with Jesus indicated that they were eventually convinced that Jesus was messiah and would follow the “script” of becoming the King/deliverer of Israel.
What was actually happening was an intentional, three year process- a word you’ll be hearing a lot- of becoming disciples. Much of what the disciples needed to know wasn’t available to them until after Jesus’ death, resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, but the disciple shaping process went on throughout Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the Gospels.
In looking at Jesus’ intentional actions of “disciple-making,” we need to be clear that the central revelation about the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ mission and purpose were only available in the light of the cross/resurrection. But Jesus’ time with his disciples was not a waste. Everything he did was intentionally designed so that when they were given complete understanding/sight (Mark 8: 22-26) they would know how to begin to live and operate as Jesus-shaped followers.
The cross, resurrection and arrival of the Holy Spirit are the critical center of the discipleship process, but the intentional ministry of Jesus to and with his disciples provides much of the raw material we need to examine to answer questions about what does it mean to be a disciple.
If we don’t understand this, then several things happen:
We will start promoting the epistles over the Gospels.
We will reduce discipleship to believing in Jesus.
We will become pragmatists, doing whatever “works” in our culture to reach the ends we’ve chosen as “Christian.”
We will adopt extraneous ways of hearing and seeing Jesus’ ministry that will make his teachings and actions increasingly meaningless and unimportant.
Spectator, entertainment-oriented, consumer oriented Christianity will replace the like and call of the Kingdom of God.
We will begin distorting scripture so that it adapts to our truncated, reduced version of the Gospel.
In a future posts, I’ll be taking a look at the content of the processes Jesus used to shape his disciples.
For now, here’s the short list (so far. Revisions likely):
1. Rituals and Traditions (Relating to a larger story)
2. Missional Worldview (The Gospel of the Kingdom of God)
4. Commands and Teaching (Actions)
5. Commands and Teaching (Character qualities)
6. Jesus’ example
7. The Work of God the Holy Spirit
Now, here’s today’s kicker.
I don’t think anything like today’s music dominated evangelical worship service is remotely on Jesus’ menu for creating disciples. I think we’ve badly missed the boat on that one and the kind of disciples the American church is producing shows that we’re producing passive consumers of church culture, not Kingdom agents living out their faith in the Gospel of the King.
Now, what we’ll experience at this point in our flight is the turbulence caused by that moment when bunches of you say “Yes, but….” at the same time.
You have a musically dominated worship model because it is congruent with church growth and makes a mot of other things possible, right? And the music is good, and people are truly worshiping God. Right? Everyone is happier. Right?
Of course, I won’t argue with you. I’m just going to tell you what you already know: When Jesus was incarnate on earth, he didn’t produce disciples by large group musical events or music dominated worship. If he showed up today and looked most evangelical churches as outposts of his movement, he’d ask why we are spending so much time getting high on tunes.
Every piece of evidence we have is that Jesus participated in music as an aspect of worship pretty much like any first century observant Jewish person. He didn’t say anything opposing music, and I wouldn’t suggest he opposes what evangelicals are doing per se.
Now don’t hate on me. I’m just telling you that if you spent three years with Jesus, went through the passion, the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t have said, “It’s really important that we sing songs for a couple of hours a week. That’s how we’ll produce the disciples Jesus commanded us to make.”
The Jesus shaped material for the evangelical music fetish isn’t there. It’s just not. The theological foundation for human beings as artistic creatures, and for the use of music in worship is there, but nothing like the contemporary evangelical approach to musical worship is coming out of the ministry of Jesus.
It’s not in the Gospels. It’s not in the epistles. It’s not in Paul or Acts. It’s not in the later New testament. There’s one passage- one- in Colossians that shows the use of music as ministry within the church to Christians.
Now if this new blog is going to be helpful for you, realize I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I’m not going to tell you I have all the answers.
I’m just going to tell you that I am not surprised that we don’t have Jesus shaped churches, Christians or movements when we ignore Jesus to the extent that most of evangelicalism is determined to ignore this.
You can have music that honors God and you can have music that contributes to the processes of discipleship. But you cannot have a Jesus shaped discipleship process that depends on music to the extent evangelicals are determined to do.
How did Jesus make worship (and any of the parts of worship) an influence on the spiritual formation of his followers? How did corporate worship, which we now focus on with the majority of our time, resources and efforts as Christians, fit into Jesus’ process of creating a Kingdom movement?
Trust me, we’re going to look at a lot more than just music. We’re going to put the Jesus-shaped paradigm to work on everything I can get my hands on, starting with the whole idea of institutional, denominational Christianity itself.
Jesus Shaped isn’t Consumer Shaped. Print the t-shirt.
See you next time.