A decade ago the congregation I was serving caught the vision to be an outward-focused church. We had honestly examined ourselves and determined that if our church would suddenly disappeared or died, that we would not be missed. We felt we had no significant impact beyond the way we served ourselves. And that was not enough.
The word missional was not yet in our vocabulary. We had not examined the Word sufficiently to frame our thoughts in a scripturally significant way. We had not yet begun using the language of discipleship. We just wanted to change course and move towards Christ’s vision for his church.
Later we would discover that we would need to create a new culture—a culture we now refer to as a culture of discipleship.
At the beginning of that journey we made a decision to let the Holy Spirit be the leader of the church. We understood that it was the Holy Spirit’s role to lead, teach, empower the church to carry out its mission from Jesus. The Holy Spirit would lead us to be like Jesus and live for Jesus.
That meant that we needed to first look at Jesus—who he was and what he revealed about the nature of God and the Kingdom. To borrow from Howard Snyder and Daniel Runyon, we needed to take on “the DNA of Jesus.” We need to be obedient to let the Spirit shape us to be like Jesus before us if we were to be competent to do the continuing work of Jesus. To accomplish that, my elders undertook a scriptural examination of what we would later identify as the core values of a church being obedient to the Holy Spirit to take on an outward-focused mission.
As part of that process we identified 10 core values. We knew to be the church united by the Spirit, those values would need to be shared values. I remember distinctly, however, one of my elders observing, “These are the values we need to embody, but you do know, pastor, that only about 5 or 6 of them are true about us at this time.” The result of that discussion was to begin the process of becoming a church of disciples by teaching those core values and working to help the persons in the Body appropriate those values for themselves.
Why is this so important – why is this critical for creating a culture of discipleship?
Largely because many congregations have operated for a very long time without a clear connection to biblical foundations. They may have clear statements of faith and solid doctrinal teaching, but in practice they operate from a values foundation that has become altered by traditions, values of a churched culture rather than Crist, their personal family values, their personal experience of living in an increasingly secularized culture – and on and on.
Values drive behavior. Behavior impacts lives. The combination of values and the resulting behaviors produce the character and identity of a person. Only the values of Jesus can be expected to produce fruitful and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Creating a discipling culture requires first-attention to values that are embedded in the Body.
© 2012 by Stephen L. Dunn
For those of you who are interested in creating a culture of discipleship, especially those of you who are church planters, you want to check out this very important conference coming May 18-19, 2o12 at Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay, Ohio.
To learn more go to the LINK