Revolutionary Sunday School: Changing Converts into Disciples

Friday 10th November, 2006

I am reading a book that is making me reassess the job churches are doing in discipleship. The book is The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship by Dallas Willard. In the introduction he states that a "disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice--a practitioner, even if only a beginner" (p. xi). And he believes that "the greatest issue facing the world whether those who...are identified as 'Christians' will become disciples...of Jesus Christ" (p. xv).


Dallas accuses the church of creating "vampire Christians" who in effect say to Jesus, "I'd like a little of our blood, please. But I don't care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won't you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I'll see you in heaven" (p. 14). Wow, that is heavy! Jess Moody called them "undiscipled disciples." What an oxymoron! Willard says that our attitude is that "discipleship clearly is optional."

Along with Willard I want to ask you, how can Sunday School take "converts through training that will bring them ever-increasingly to do what Jesus directed" (p. 6)?  Yes, I am making the assumption that Sunday School has a part to play. While it cannot accomplish this work of discipleship alone, I believe it can make a difference. I don't have all the answers to this question, but I believe seeking answers for these ten questions can help us to move in that direction:

  1. How can we help attenders see what is being taught as relevant for their lives?
  2. How can we lead attenders to practice spiritual disciplines, including prayer and Bible study, between meetings?
  3. How could we teach them to reflect/meditate on what God is teaching them so they don't miss it?
  4. What methods of accountability could be built into the process to encourage them to obey, to live out the truth?
  5. How could we lead them to encounter God in His Word rather than just an author of a pupil/teacher book?
  6. Are we trying to teach too many verses at one time? How can we focus more effectively?
  7. Are we trying to do this work in our own power rather than in God's? How can we change this?
  8. In what ways do our lives demonstrate the truths we are teaching?
  9. How can we help attenders desire and work for the change God wants?
  10. Where should we begin? What is the first step we need to take?

Even if I had a magic pill that could simply change converts into disciples, I don't know if I would use it or share it. There is great benefit in dealing with the issue and these questions. Changing converts into disciples is going to require God's help, working together, and intentionality. The fruit of the Spirit will be required: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But the reward is great in this life and the life to come. Can you imagine what would happen if we set loose on the world "discipled disciples?" It is time to stand up and be revolutionaries!

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