This is "reposted" from almost exactly a year ago. I just found myself thinking about this, and hope you benefit from it.
Porcupines and the Goal of Discipleship
When I was in school, I would create numerous memory aids when preparing for a test. “The Thompson girls ate strawberry ice cream” might remind the answer to “What were the effects of the French revolution on the development of political thought in Europe in the 19th century?”
I have another memory aid for you: “Killing porcupines creates stinky carcasses.” Hmm…disgusting, huh? Well maybe not when you realize that this little ditty helps you remember the purpose of discipleship—the five areas of life that God would transform in a fully developed follower of Jesus. It stands for knowledge, perspective, conviction, skills and character.
A recent Barna study report found that 81% of self-identified Christians equated spiritual maturity with “trying hard to follow the rules described in the Bible.” (That sounds like drudgery to me!) They found that 50% of churchgoers were unable to guess at their church’s definition of a mature follower of Jesus. It’s not rules, it’s life development through the word of God, through the Holy Spirit of God and through the joy of fellowship-instruction. Here’s what it means to be a mature Jesus-follower:
1. Knowledge of Scripture and basic theology
Theme verse: “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.” (Psalm 119:27, NIV)
We start with basic knowledge about what our faith teaches. Of course, this is overwhelming knowledge of Scripture.
Example: Who wrote Romans? What is the Trinity? Where can I find the 10 commandments? How many gospels are there?
Unfortunately, many have assumed that if you pump enough knowledge into people, the rest will follow. Sadly, many of the most carnal Christians I’ve met have also been well-versed in Bible verses, but not well-versed in Bible living. Knowledge is essential, but it’s not enough.
2. Perspective on life solidly based on Scripture
Theme verse: “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.” (Psalm 49:3, NIV)
Next comes a transformed perspective. Knowledge must lead to a Biblical worldview, where we can see reality the same way God sees it. In the Bible, this is often called wisdom or understanding.
Example: How do I resist temptation? How does the Bible speak to the issue of same-sex marriage? How do I face the reality of death?
3. Conviction that secures passionate loyalty to God and His kingdom
Theme verse: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NIV)
Conviction is when knowledge and wisdom catches on fire. This is truth we really care about, that we would sacrifice for, and that we would defend. Knowledge sees the cross; perspective loves the cross; conviction carries the cross.
Example: I would die for my faith. I will give the tithe and beyond for the sake of the kingdom.
4. Skills which enable disciples to effectively serve
Theme passage: “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” (Psalm 78:72, NIV)
Disciples also develop specific discipleship related skills, usually as they get involved in ministry and discover the gifts and heart for ministry. Disciples then need to engage in a lifelong process of skill development in their area of life contribution, and they need to open themselves to new ministries and new skills as God develops them and as opportunities arise. Skills share the cross.
Example: I know how to study the Bible for myself. I know how to share my faith. I know how to serve joyfully in a specific ministry.
5. Character which reflects the character of Jesus Christ
Theme passage: “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5, NLT)
God wants us to become like Jesus. He wants above all else for His life to shine through our lives. This is the ultimate goal, one that won’t be finished this side of heaven, but one which we are to run after with all our effort. Character lives out the cross.
Example: I am growing in love for my church family and for lost people.
Think of these are five rungs on a short ladder. Which rung are you on? Have you mistaken that rung as the top step? Did you skip a set? Can you see a next reasonable growth step for you as a growing disciple?