I have a touch of Catholicism in my background. My step dad was Catholic and consequently, like many good church goers (Catholic and Protestant alike) our family went on Easter and Christmas. If I remember correctly, I believe there was a time when my step dad went to mass other days during the week, but we did not. However, at some point, my sister and I did end up in catechism.
I don’t remember much about those classes. Nor do I recall a lot about the Catholic tradition. But what I do remember and believed for quite some time, is that people liked being Catholic because they really didn’t need to think for themselves. The church told them what to believe and how to practice their faith.
Many churches (denominations) practice that type of religion. There is a central authority figure that dispenses what people should believe and then encourages them to practice it. Don’t question it. Don’t examine it and make decisions for yourself, just believe it and do it. I suspect that is why you don’t find many churches who make an effort at discipling people. When you disciple people, you equip them with knowledge and knowledge leads to questions and questions lead to examination and examination leads to more questions.
In the “Great Commission” making disciples and teaching them is central to the charge. So why are so many churches hesitant to equip people with knowledge and the ability examine the scriptures to see if what they hear and see is true? I suspect it could be threatening to some pastors to have congregants who are inquisitive and challenging. I suspect it could be unnerving to have people studying the Word and feeding on its “meat”. I also suspect that feeding on the Word, digesting its truth and examining its difficulties is what produces strong churches. I did not say large churches, I said strong churches.
Now, let me offer some perspective…in the last five or six years my wife and I have lived in three different states. We have attended, even joined, churches in each of those locations. What I have discovered is that based on denomination, give me the passage of scripture, and I’ll bet you I can tell you what the pastor’s sermon will consist of. That does not mean all churches are preaching the same gospel, it simply means that some denominations are predictable in the package they deliver. Oh, the three points and a poem may be different, but the essence is usually the same. Is it any wonder that many churches are filled with people who have a biblical understanding four miles wide and a quarter inch deep?
If we were to examine closely the development of the disciples who followed Jesus, it becomes fairly clear that their progression of “belief” went through stages. At times their next growth step came as a result of a public teaching moment by the Christ. At other times, it came when they inquired just exactly what he meant by a certain statement or parable. What if Jesus were like the soup Nazi from Jerry Seinfelds series….instead of “No soup for you!!!!”, Jesus would say, “No questions from you!” How listless would the gospel become?
Whether it is “make disciples, teaching them…” or “being transformed by the renewal of your mind”, discipleship is the essence of growing in Christ. The more I know him, the more I understand myself and my responsibility as a follower of the Christ. It may be boiled down to Love God and love others, but arriving at that purity of truth comes from maturing in Christ.