This is part 9 of our ten part series on the fundamentals of building a community of Discipleship. Here’s the other parts:
When discussing the practical matters of how to disciple, Titus 2 proves to be a wealth of information. Several items we’ve already discussed come up in the first few verses of chapter 2
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith,in love and in endurance.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
We see the need for community, for people serving each other in both word and deed; we see the emphasis on doctrine and life. It is verse 11 that I want to think about a little in this blog.
11For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
This verse clearly says that the same Grace, the same undeserved love and power of God in our lives, that saves us is the same force that teaches us self control and Godly living. So often church leaders act as if they believe that Grace saves us but something else trains us. Paul, here wants Titus to know that somehow, even as he encourages Titus to some structural and doctrinal points, that it is the Grace of God and not the instruction of Titus which trains us.
Clearly any plans we have for discipleship have got to wrestle with this question of what it means for Grace to train us. Among other things it means that any thriving community of Discipleship will have a culture of Grace in its DNA somehow.
Here’s some thoughts on how you can assure your discipleship plan takes into account the most important tool for discipleship, the very Grace of God.
- Be vigilant to make and keep a culture of grace. With our responsibility to train, equip and motivate the saints, it’s easy to justify anything which seems to do these things. It is a matter of faith and wisdom though to remember that while things like, the law, fear, grace, obligation, and guilt may have short term benefit, they do not truly train us to say yes to Godly lives and no to ungodliness and worldly passions. If we are not vigilant to continually and regularly preach grace, emphasizing the freedom of the Gospel, our saints will always mitigate and compromise, bending toward their own fears and pride, both of which argue against the grace of God. Our environment of grace is necessary for a thriving community of discipleship. While you can develop a community which appears holy and righteous through fear, duty, and strict accountability, this is not a community of discipleship. Consider:
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
A pastor who is motivated by grace will likewise motivate by grace, but to the extent you are leading from fear (fear of losing members for example) or anger or pride, this also will translate to your community. What are you building into the culture of your community? A community of Grace is not a permissible community, it is a community where dependence upon Christ alone for our righteousness and help is practiced regularly and daily, where we learn to count upon only Him above all else for our growth.
- Articulate Grace: Does your community understand what you mean by grace? Do you have a solid definition in your head? Does your culture have a shared picture, vision or definition of Grace. When I teach I use the following definition: The power and desire of God to do good to you. Both his power and benevolence are aspects of His immutable character and cannot be increased or decreased by any action you take. Having a clear picture makes it easier to understand how this plays into our discipleship plans and helps build a culture of grace.
- Teach and exemplify the stewardship of God’s Grace. Peter says this amazing thing: Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. Peter says that we are actually stewards of God’s very grace in the context of spiritual gifts and service. Likewise, Paul speaks of a “portion of grace” which is used to bless people in our spiritual gifts. This concept is directly tied into our understanding of discipleship as a community exercise, rather than a one to one exercise. God has directly granted each of his people a slice of his Grace to be stewards of. This stewardship is more important, valuable and directly relevant to discipleship than any of the other stewardships we regularly talk about: money or time for example. How do you hep people to see their service to each other as a distribution of the very grace of God which trains us to Godliness? Does your structure, philosophy and discipleship plan encourage the likelihood of the members of your community serving each other in divine appointments or does your plan hinder this?
The Hidden Life Conference is a very popular and, I think, useful vehicle to help stimulate your saints to think differently about Grace and faith, to help you as you build this culture of Grace. Contact me if you are interested in this conference.
As always I encourage you to explore these questions in community with fellow leaders if you can. If I can help, consider contacting me and we’ll see if there are any ways I might be able to be of service. Contacting me is free, as are some of the resources I offer.
Also, questions, comments, and arguments are always welcome in the comments.
I’d love to hear anything you’ve learned along the way or any questions you might have in the meantime. In fact, if you post a question here, or email it to me, I’l be glad to address it in our next post.
Smiling at the future,
I founded Discipleship Matters to help churches with leadership retreats, pastoral coaching, guest speaking and conferences as another supporting voice in your work of discipleship. We can create a custom long term plan (anywhere from 6 months to 2 years) or arrange an al-a-carte conference. (If the information in this series intrigues you, I’d specifically suggest the Big Ideas conference where I help you and your leaders work through these important first questions on your way to a unique plan of “How” to build a thriving community of Discipleship. I value you and the work you do and want to help if I can in anyway. Call me at 505-393-5433(LIFE) or email me at Pastormac_@mac.com (put Discipleship Matters in the subject if you want to get my attention right away.)