In the Christian world, we are never far away from someone – or several someones – loading us up with guilt about something or other we need to think about, do more of or that we aren’t doing but we definitely should because someone, somewhere else, does it and it’s really vital. It can, at times, get a bit overwhelming. As I argued a while ago here, give yourself a break and remember if it isn’t in the Bible you don’t have to do it.
But some things are in the Bible. One of those things is discipleship. Sure, the Bible doesn’t say exactly how we are to do it. There is more than one way to skin a cat (not that I have ever tried but I take it on trust). But there is no question that we are certainly called to do it. It is when we are called to do something in scripture that we are faced with a raft of people soon telling us exactly how we ought to be doing it too. Things that the Bible doesn’t expressly demand, but nevertheless have been deemed useful and helpful. But it is often a short jump from what is helpful and useful to an insistence it is the best way, and if the best, why would you want to do anything less for the Lord? That is, it becomes de facto biblical and, with it, something you really ought to do.
Well, let me give you a bit of relief. If you are meeting as a church weekly and you are teaching the scriptures, devoting yourselves to the Apostles teaching, then you are engaged in the task of discipleship. To put it in the form of a question: why does everybody overlook the preaching of God’s Word and the fellowship of his saints on Sunday when it comes to discipleship? It’s not as if the Bible hives off discipleship apart from the gathering of God’s people. The Bible doesn’t suggest or imply that true discipleship is done apart from the regular, formal gathering and only the discipleship done in the week apart from formal meetings counts. Why do we so quickly forget that the weekly gathering – and the preaching of God’s Word – is discipleship?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that other things aren’t helpful. I’m not even saying other things might not be demanded of us in scripture. All I am pointing out is that the preaching of the Word on Sunday is as much discipleship as anything else. The fellowship together is as much part of discipleship as anything else. But it is routinely forgotten.
So often, what we do on a Sunday is dismissed as a given. Of course we will attend church on Sunday. Of course the pastor (or someone) will preach the Word. But what about real discipleship? What about all the other stuff (often not mentioned in the Bible) that we need to be doing to truly disciple our people? Won’t our people fail to be adequately discipled if we’re not doing all that, what it happens to be?
Well, in short, no. Home groups can be a helpful addition to your Sunday service, but they aren’t demanded of us in scripture. Meeting up for one-to-one bible studies might be great, but Jesus doesn’t insist we do that. Conferences, blogs, quiet times, family devotionals, bed time readings, Christian books, podcasts, all potentially valuable. But none of them in the Bible. None of them demanded of the saints world without end.
But do you know what is? Gathering together as God’s people to sit under the Word as it is preached and to share in the ordinances. Far from being irrelevant to discipleship, your Sunday meeting is discipleship 101. It is the very heart of your discipleship and training. You may find any other number of things helpful, you may think your church should be doing all sorts, but your primary point of discipleship is the weekly gathering of the saints around the Word with a focus on fellowship, prayer and the breaking of bread.
I am not here to suggest that preaching can accomplish everything. But I am here to suggest that preaching should not be so quickly dismissed as not part of discipleship, not true discipleship, just a thing we happen to do every week. It just isn’t so. Your primary place for growth is the weekly gathering of the saints. Your primary means of spiritual input is the weekly gathering of the saints. Your primary place to be taught the Word and how it applies to your life is the weekly gathering of the saints. This is the discipleship demand Jesus makes of all of us. Meet with God’s people, sit under the Word and grow in community on a routine, weekly basis.
I suspect much of our issue is over-familiarity. Sunday meetings become a bit routine. They aren’t always very exciting. They can seem quite pedestrian. More like meat and two veg than a delicious gourmet meal. But that is the primary means Jesus has given for our growth. Extra is fine. More can be helpful. But this is the biblically sanctioned primary means of growth; the weekly gathering of God’s people. Let’s not overlook it.