There are two main dimensions to being a disciple of Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is essentially what God has done for us, He will then work out in us in order to work through us. A disciple’s job is to apply the first (that is after all God’s work not ours) to the second and third areas.
The way I talk about this is that as disciples we need to be maturing AND multiplying.
In the conservative evangelical subculture I grew up in, the focus was very much on the maturing side of things. We read the Bible, we pray, we grow in wisdom and the fruits of the Spirit. It is character formation. This is a good thing. Mostly though there was little to no multiplication. There was little understanding or focus on the command to ‘go and make disciples’. Missionaries did that. Somewhere else.
On the other hand many movements today have focused relentlessly on multiplication, especially in the light of the ever increasing secularisation of Western nations. This is a good thing. The sick need healing, the lost need finding, the frightened church needs to finds its courage and confidence. However there are persistent concerns about a lack of maturity, a lack of wisdom, a tendency to loose, sloppy or downright false teaching.
In a discussion with a friend earlier in the year we remarked about the importance of the culture that a new believer is born into. What will they feed on, what will shape them and form them. I believe it needs to be a culture that immediately encourages them to share their faith, to tell others, to seek to multiply but also an environment that will lead them to a mature faith – knowing how to read the word, how to pray, how to serve, how to give.
Example emphasis: Reading your Bible, praying, serving, giving, wisdom, character development, steadfastness, theological and personal integrity
Example emphasis: Knowing how to share your faith, knowing how to lead someone to Christ, knowing how to make disciples, train, delegate, knowing how to love your neighbour, embracing mission, hospitality