The always-excellent Pyros have some great material this week on a topic that’s been bouncing around a little in my head.
First, Dan Philips on understanding discipleship
The Greek word translated disciple is perfectly straightforward and uncontroversial. It is μαθητὴς (mathētēs), and it means “student, pupil, learner.”That’s it.
What, you’re waiting for some deeply-spiritual, mystical sense? There isn’t one. And I think that in itself is really terribly important.
The way I’ve seen many folks approach Christianity in general, and church-selection and church-involvement in particular, has convinced me that they have no clue about this element. They do not see themselves as disciples, which is to say they do not see themselves as students, learners, pupils of Jesus Christ.
Christians simply do not see themselves as students who are expected (by God!) constantly to learn and grow, and never to graduate. So when it comes to picking a church, the thought of selecting a church which above will (hel-lo?) teach them the Word of God simply is not a priority, or perhaps not even a factor. When they evaluate a church, its music or furnishings or programs or a thousand other elements are central, but its effectiveness in teaching them God’s Word is not.
so where is he getting this from?
Perhaps someone is thinking, “I don’t see the Bible making the big deal about this that you’re making.” No? How about this?
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””Make disciples” (mathēteusate) is the lone imperative verb in the Greek text, so it is the anchor-thought. The rest supports this activity. The presence of Jesus is guaranteed to the church as it engages in this activity — making disciples, pupils, students, learners.
“Oh, huh,” you say. “I always thought that was about evangelism.” Evangelism is included, but it’s just the introduction to the whole enchilada, the discipleship enchilada.
worth reading in full. As Dan goes on to explain this therefore means serious concerted effort in hearing from God from His word – and one of the best means of doing that is through the sermon at church. Enter Dan again…
From a preacher’s perspective, it’s our happy task before God to craft and deliver a sermon that’s worth listening to, attending to, learning from, and retaining. Any regular reader of this blog probably attends a church whose pastor takes this as a solemn, joyous, exhilarating, devastating, God-given duty.
On that assumption, then, how can you gain the most value from the sermon?
I’ll tailor my remarks specifically to profiting from an expository sermon in a book-study series. Some of these suggestions will apply to any Biblical sermon, but I have in mind a series that progresses through a book of the Bible.
Spot on. Working away at that sermon is a little bit (a little bit) like spending the whole week preparing a massive Sunday lunch so as to feed that family entrusted to you. We slave away at it for the benefit of the church. So how to make the best of it? Here’s the start of Dan’s list:
- Pray in advance. Pray for your preacher, because sermon preparation is both a science and a spiritual exercise. It’s his part to “consider,” but he needs the Lord to “give understanding” (2 Tim. 2:7). Pray for yourself, because you need the work of the Spirit to open your eyes to your riches in Christ (Eph. 1:16-19). Pray for others who come, includingunbelievers, that the Lord might open their hearts to respond to the truths of God which your pastor will preach (Acts 16:14).
- Read the passage in advance, asking yourself questions, or imaging the questions you might be asked. Priming the pump is a terrific way to learn the most. It’s always both humbling and a blessing to have read a passage, and then to see it anew when a brother brings out valid insights that had never occurred to us.
I want to say that even if the first two were done that would be a massively brilliant thing. The sermon is a sustained feast on the word of God (or, at least, it should be) and, trust me, your pastor’s most effective means of looking after his sheep. A very wise man who I trained under in London impressed this upon me. The shepherd has one moment a week when he can speak to all of his flock – ought he not, therefore, plough his time and energy into preparing for that moment? He could, of course, visit them all one by one (and that would be a good thing) but to actually set himself apart a large block of time to prepare to speak to all the people – well that’s a far better use of his time and stewardship of the gifts given to him.
So that’s what we do when we preach. Help us out by doing your bit too. Read the rest of the list here.
And one more thing. Yes, I know that the week is hard and long. But Sunday lunch is the main meal of the week – don’t waste it.