I’m going to go out on a limb and offer something that will seem very counter-cultural within western, American evangelicalism, especially in light of massive church growth strategies over the past few decades.
I do not believe all Christians are called to be disciple-makers.I do *not* believe all Christians are called to be disciple-makers. Click To Tweet
Ok, it’s maybe not so problematic. But I know it sounds opposed to all we are taught.
Well let’s see how we arrived at the all-are-called-to-make-disciples viewpoint, at least as the way I understand it.
One of the major points emphasized in the midst of the 16th century Reformation was the priesthood of all believers. This was established through such passages as 1 Pet 2:9-10 and 1 Tim 2:5. We could argue the context of these 2 passages and what is actually being communicated, but suffice it to say that I’m very happy with the priesthood of all believers (as with the prophethood of all believers as well, but that’s another day and another time).
To understand the massive uproar of Luther and the reformers, one has to understand the ways of the Catholic church in medieval Europe. Abuses of the magisterium (the papal leadership) and Rome’s priests, indulgences being sold for the due satisfaction of sins, and a host of other dubious practices, caused Luther to nail his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg church in Germany, decrying such practices.
And one of the cries that arose was that people do not need any priest to perform any rituals on their behalf because, through Christ, all had been provided for believers. This included the reality that all God’s people are priests.
Not only this, but what began to develop as well is that every single believer should have their own copy of Scripture, able to read it and interpret themselves. Scripture’s message was clear enough for each person to understand (what theologians call the perspicuity of Scripture), regardless of whether they had any education in biblical languages, theology and church history. This could be championed even more now that a new tool had arrived on the scene – the printing press. Never before could printed material (including Scripture) be made available to the mass population. Now it could!
But there are other things post-Reformation worth noting. Over the past 500 years since that famous date of 1517, the western worldview has become more and more influenced by post-Enlightenment modernity. We’ve left the more ancient ways of communal life (some good, some bad) all in an effort to attain a more individualistic society. Suffice it to say, though it didn’t officially began with this man, the more individualistic, western approach was championed through mottos like René Descartes’, “I think, therefore I am.” An individual has the power to cognitively think for himself or herself, and, so, use your individual thinking (cerebral) power to challenge the existing authority and status quo. You are your own authority!
What does all this have to do with all believers not being disciple-makers?
Well, we don’t interpret Scripture in a vacuum.We don’t interpret Scripture in a vacuum. Click To Tweet
We have a load of presuppositions for interpreting Scripture. And our worldview is flooded with what I described above – the post-Enlightenment, modernist mindset. This increased ever-more in the 20th century, highlighted with slogans like that of Burger King – Have it your way! Or all-you-can-eat buffets where we get to pick and choose what we want, and leave the rest that we don’t like behind. Everything is about individual choice – from food to clothing to cell phone to internet to education to spiritual life.Our worldview still normally runs through that lens of individualism. Click To Tweet
And our worldview still normally runs through that lens of individualism. I think it will change more and more as we embrace a more moderate postmodern worldview, but again, another day and another time.
So, when Scripture is cracked open, or we access it on our iPhone, we head to it with a personal devotional perspective – “God, speak personally to me. Speak to me as Scott Lencke.” The statements of Scripture are run through the grid of how I, as an individual, can become a better follower of Jesus. At times we step outside that construct to think about our local church or our Bible study group. But, in general, we as individuals want our “manna for today.”
Now, this seems harmless. Matter of fact, it seems THE right way to approach Scripture…
—[Read Part Two here.]