Foundations for Fringe: What I’ve Learned about How to Follow

By January 18, 2016Articles

As of this last November, Fringe Church has been in existence for one year. We get lots of questions as we’re not planting in some of the traditional ways. We love the questions, and we realize that it can be tough to discern what a church really believes solely by reading our statement of faith. Through this blog, we’re going to start telling you what we believe in plain terms over the coming weeks, and we’ll be using our Core Values as a jumping off point for this. And just so it’s been said, our Core Values are based on the even more fundamental belief that “the Bible is God’s word, without error in the original manuscripts, and is the standard for belief and behavior for Christians. The scriptures contained therein are true, authoritative, and complete.” (This is from our Statement of Beliefs – http://www.fringechurch.com/about/purpose-statement-of-beliefs )

Core Value 1: Full devotion and surrender to the lordship and life of Jesus Christ is the commitment of biblical discipleship. We are called both to BE and to MAKE disciples (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8, John 14:6-7, John 21:15-19, 1 Corinthians 11:1).

I would recommend reading through the scripture references I’ve listed along with the value, but I’ll summarize them together quickly now because my aunt says you won’t read this if I don’t keep this concise.

Jesus says that he is THE way to God, that he is also THE truth, and THE life. After Jesus’ resurrection, he commands his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Later when he reappears to them, he tells them that once the Holy Spirit comes upon them in power, they will be his witnesses or representatives to all the earth. Back in John 21, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. In fact, he asks three repetitive times if Peter loves him. Peter answers in the affirmative, to which Jesus said each time “Feed (or care for) my sheep”. This means he is emphasizing this as a critical point of loving Jesus. Then Jesus ends this exchange by telling Peter “follow me”. Paul gives a similar instruction to the Corinthians “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

So, this first core value has to do with the idea that if we love Jesus – like really, deeply love him – then we’ll want to be obedient to him. It means that our love will lead to obedience, and we will want to do what he did. If Jesus is truly the hero of our faith and our lives, then following him in this particular way is a logical next step. Kyle Idleman, in his book Not A Fan asks from the outset if we are truly followers of Jesus, or if in the reality of how we actually live if we’re simply just fans of Jesus. 

That defining question, the first time I read it, was a gut punch to me. There is no doubt that there have been points in my faith when I could only be described as a fan. My focus was far more on myself and our suburban Texas life than it was on living out the life Jesus had called me to. The kicker? This was true even while I was employed as a church staff member. I’m so grateful Jesus has fully captured my heart since then.

Idleman goes on to point out that it is those who truly KNOW Jesus who are his disciples or followers (Matthew 7:20-23). Jesus uses a special word in this passage  for “know”. It is the Greek word “ginosko”, and it means to know intimately or closely. In fact, in some uses, it is the same word for sexual congress between a man and wife. That’s a serious knowing. Undeniable intimacy, and Jesus is using it to describe how well the savior and the saved know each other.

So, someone who knows Jesus intimately, who follows him closely, who works in life by the power of the Spirit to live as Jesus lived… This is what describes what it is to BE a disciple of Jesus. It has been said that a certain Jewish rabbi used to admonish his disciples saying “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi!” This was a Jewish way of saying, “Imitate your teacher so nearly, follow him so closely, that you are covered in the dust he kicks up along the road.” Only in the last few years have I honestly been able to say that was my heart’s desire. So, let me encourage you. If you love Jesus, but you can’t honestly say that you want to follow him with your whole heart wherever he leads, ask him. He can give you that desire. I’m living proof.

Now, for the second half of the core value, Jesus’s intent for his disciples (not just the original handful, but for ALL that would follow) is not just that they would BE disciples, but specifically that they would BE disciples who MAKE disciples. It is how Christianity spread back then. It is the means by which Christianity still exists today. For nearly two millennia, this has been the pattern. However, in the last two centuries, a somewhat different philosophy of discipleship has emerged. For many different reasons, discipleship is now often viewed to be the job and work of the church “professionals”, and not the “regular Christian”. But this idea could not be further from the truth. If this had been the case, it is likely that Jesus’s choice of his first disciples would not have been a bunch of “average-joes”. 

But this choice, like all choices, means some consequences for us if we are to take the call to BE disciples and to MAKE disciples seriously. No one ever became a dedicated follower of Christ by accident. No one has ever woken up one morning and had the light bulb moment, “Wow, I’ve just helped 5 other people develop their discipleship with the Lord!” It is a way of living that we choose, and re-choose every day. It means that we don’t categorize life into ministry and non-ministry categories. It means realizing that a disciple is a disciple in ALL of life. Said another way, we are all missionaries. Right where we are. 

Being and making disciples of Jesus Christ is one of life’s greatest adventures, but it is also a costly one. It will (and should) consume us, and at the end of the day this is what it means to be fully devoted and surrendered to the lordship and life of Jesus Christ in the commitment of biblical discipleship. In my experience, it can be scary. No doubt. But I can honestly say it’s an adventure worth taking!

 

 

About James Wiebe

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