Is the word “discipleship” still useful?

Posted: December 15, 2015 by efenster in Ideas
Tags: , , ,

UM Faith SharingHow do you describe the process of growing in Christ?  Discipleship?  Today fewer are using this term according to a recent study by the Barna Research Group.  What are people using instead?

  • “becoming more Christ-like”  43%
  • “spiritual growth”  31%
  • “spiritual journey”  28%

Fewer than one in five Christians preferred the term “discipleship.”  Interestingly enough, those who are more active Christians prefer “becoming more Christ-like,” while less active Christians prefer “spiritual journey.”  Only one in four who were polled find the word “discipleship” still relevant.  It isn’t that what it represents isn’t important to them, it’s just the terminology isn’t meaningful.

So, why is any of this important?  Well, we United Methodists frequently refer to Jesus’ Great Commission:  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”  (Matthew 28:19).  Why?  Because it is at the core of the UMC’s mission statement:  “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  Our denomination even has an agency that’s officially called the General Board of Discipleship, also known as Discipleship Resources.

Furthermore, the Indiana Conference’s Fruitful Congregation Journey, which has involved over 260 UM churches, challenges churches to clarify their “discipleship” pathways, that is the system they use to help people take their next step on their faith journeys.  The Barna study suggests that many in our churches prefer using different language.  What about yours?

My contention is that no matter what language your church may use, the important thing is that it is talking about disciple making, that it’s intentionally focused on helping its members live out the Great Commission.  So how are you and your church doing?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s