Discipleship as a Requirement to be a Christian

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Herald

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In his book "The Great Omission" Dallas Willard writes:

"For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship. Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership – either of entering into or continuing in fellowship of a denomination or local church. I would be glad to learn of any exception to this claim, but it would only serve to highlight its general validity and make the general rule more glaring. So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship clearly is optional."

Is the author making the error of putting a requirement on the individual prior to belief in the gospel? How in-depth should a local church go in determining one's level of discipleship before granting membership, or is this a matter to be concerned about after membership?
 

ccravens

Puritan Board Freshman
Are you asking about discipleship as a requirement to being a Christian (as the title says), or discipleship as a requirement for being granted membership in a church, as mentioned in the post?

I believe true conversion will result in discipleship, certainly.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Are you asking about discipleship as a requirement to being a Christian (as the title says), or discipleship as a requirement for being granted membership in a church, as mentioned in the post?

Both. At least this is what I think the author is getting at.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
This reminds me of many churches that "strongly suggest" to be involved in some type of "ministry" they offer so one can get the full benefits of their church. Just read about the church Barbara Bush was a member of and they not only suggest such but require such.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I know nothing about the rest of that book and precious little about the author. But my first reaction upon reading that excerpt was that when the author says discipleship, he does not mean "training," but rather "a disposition of repentance and obedience to Christ." IF that's what he means—if he means a truly Christian declaration of faith must be accompanied by repentance—what he says is absolutely right.

A certain level of discipleship should not be a requirement for church membership. But a credible profession of faith should be required, and repentance from sin (with a desire to obey to Christ) goes along with true faith.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
This reminds me of many churches that "strongly suggest" to be involved in some type of "ministry" they offer so one can get the full benefits of their church. Just read about the church Barbara Bush was a member of and they not only suggest such but require such.
Until Jack's helpful exegesis of the passage I thought same thing. When I hear "discipleship" today it is a buzz word and seems to be an add on where a random group or person you're paired with looks after and critiques you.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Phil Johnson has a wonderful sermon on youtube that covers this question to a tee.

 

Ben Mordecai

Puritan Board Freshman
Seems like this is exactly the issue the Marrow Controversy was dealing with. There are zero preconditions for placing your faith in Jesus. It is possible to bemoan a lack of discipleship without making it a condition for one's Christian identity.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I know nothing about the rest of that book and precious little about the author. But my first reaction upon reading that excerpt was that when the author says discipleship, he does not mean "training," but rather "a disposition of repentance and obedience to Christ."

Jack, which is what I hope the author means. Over the years I have seen church discipleship programs that are designed to take Christians from immaturity to maturity. Discipleship never ends for the Christian. It is not a program with a start and end date. That being said, if a disciple is to be like his master (Mat. 10:25) what passes for discipleship today is a poor representation.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Just to get myself on the same page: How do you define "discipleship"?
The ongoing process of becoming more like Christ. A more expansive definition of a noun form of the word (not mine) is, "One who, intent upon becoming Christ-like and so dwelling in his "faith and practice," systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end.'
 

Von

Puritan Board Sophomore
The ongoing process of becoming more like Christ. A more expansive definition of a noun form of the word (not mine) is, "One who, intent upon becoming Christ-like and so dwelling in his "faith and practice," systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end.'
So then discipleship=sanctification. If that is so, then I have to agree with the following:
Seems like this is exactly the issue the Marrow Controversy was dealing with.
But if we are talking about membership of church-discipleship programs, then I recoil at the mere thought of the proposal to make it a prerequisite for membership.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
If you are a christian attending the preaching of the Word, you are a disciple--you are learning. If the church has Sunday School or something similar, and you attend, you are learning (presumably). God's means for discipleship in the church seem to be the Word and ordinances--if the church is doing those well, the disciples will grow. My church requires discipleship in that it requires regular attendance to worship. It does not require other things that God has not enjoined, and I'm grateful for that.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
In the way I understand the term, (d)iscipleship has to do with a person, interested in Christianity. One does not have to be a confessor per se. Confession validates the (D)isciple, and shows itself along the lines of being baptized. Discipleship is not necessarily equated w/ regeneration and conversion. Judas was a disciple.
 

De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
You don't need to do works in order to join the external church. You need to be a baptized believer or the child of one.

If you have true faith, the good works will necessarily follow. If one is living an ungodly lifestyle, then presumably that is where church discipline comes in, in order to bring reform to the person's life and help them in their sanctification. And if they refuse, then excommunicate them.

If the church is filled with ungodly people that is because the church does not execute church discipline properly.
 
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