Often people will speak of priorities and will say that God comes first, followed by family, followed by church, followed by work, etc. This can be a helpful way to evaluate and order one’s life, but discipleship-based Christianity approaches things differently. Every priority in life is understood through the lenses of one’s faith. Alan and Debra Hirsch, in their book “Untamed: Reactivating A MissionalForm Discipleship,” put it this way, “Discipleship means loving God first and foremost, and loving everything else in light of that love.”
In other words, the question for the disciple is how does my faith in God shape how I treat my family and friends, how I approach romantic relationships, how I do my job, how I spend money, how I use my free-time?, etc. This sorting out of how faith relates to practical life is the heart of discipleship. Following Jesus is more than accepting a certain intellectual truth or having a warm feeling it requires living differently, day in, and day out (for more on this click here).
Local churches should be schools for discipleship, helping people to wrestle with how they can live their faith outside of the walls of the church building. Often churches are only communities of religious activity, but not communities where people of all ages (children, teenagers, adults) and people in all circumstances (single, married, divorced, healthy, sick, addicted, stressed, lonely, etc) can find practical training in being disciples of Jesus in their daily lives.
This is the challenge of the Church in every age, but it is particularly the challenge of the North American Church today. Increasingly the Church will become a minority institution and increasingly society will hold to values that are in conflict with the values of the Gospel. This means that individual Christians will have to learn (or re-learn) what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, that is how faith integrates with every aspect of life. This means that local congregations will have to learn (or re-learn) what it means to be a disciple making community in 21st century society that is post-Christian and post-modern.