It's tempting to make discipleship manageable rather than missional. Sadly, for generations we have transferred a model of spiritual formation that allows for personal piety without significant impact on the city. Jesus created a dynamic movement, moving from city to city witnessing the in-breaking of the kingdom that awakened longing in that city. Consequently, the model the disciples learned was dynamic - going from place to place bringing life; healing the sick, driving out demons, caring for the poor, altering life in the community and leaving behind a group of people infected by the kingdom.
Likewise Paul (the apostle) didn’t disciple people by staying with them, but rather by taking them with him. Together they engaged with the improbable possibility that whole communities and cities might respond openly and wholeheartedly to the message of the kingdom. In attempting together to disciple cities, Timothy was discipled. In attempting together to disciple cities, Silas was discipled. In attempting together to disciple cities, JohnMark was discipled. Spiritual growth occurred in their lives as they sought to serve and supply the destiny of others through the power of the gospel. For them discipleship was more than inward discipline, it was what Dave Workman calls ‘outward focussed’ passion.
Jesus used a different term. He called it laying our lives down for him AND the gospel. Interestingly, He made no separation or distinction between the two. Out there among the people, the church is being changed as she changes the community one life at a time. Her measurements of growing disciples are those who are being sent; those who are engaging with the life of the Master in the workplace and the third place; those who are not hiding from the city seeking character formation, but are engaging with the city seeking city formation - bringing hope and in so doing discovering that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.
My prayer as we are about to enter another year is for a dangerous new breed who are committed to investing their lives in the neighbourhood and the nations. They understand that individual discipleship is too low a goal. They know that disciples are made in cities, not just in coffee shops. They practice spiritual disciplines but they do so with a different mindset, one that is expansive rather than introspective. They read scripture to release, meditate to minister and pray to partner. They know that life lies beyond them and they are willing to boldly go. They refuse to practice great reduction with the great commission. They refuse to make discipleship manageable. They are led by life-giving leaders who measure the level of discipleship in the church by the level of transformation in the city.
Because changed lives change cities.