This is a continuation of my personal reflections on the world and where I might fit into it.
Is doing “church” separate from doing discipleship? Let’s investigate that question. I have always assumed that the two were actually the same but recently I have come across a couple of definitions of church that seem to separate the two practices.
Here is a definition of “church” from Greg Ogden in his book Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ: ” The church is a caring community, a serving, studying, praying, healing community. But what is the fundamental purpose of the church? If it is true that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then fundamentally the church is a worshiping community”.
Is it possible that doing church and doing discipleship are indeed be two different things? Do we have one group of Christians who form our worshipping community and another, for those of us who are so inclined, to reach beyond our door out into the world. My church is certainly strong in worshipping God and they do it very well!
I don’t know if that is common to most Christians or not. I may certainly perceive this wrong and I hope this doesn’t come off as judging, but it seems that my church mainly wants to do the usual things: worship service, Bible studies, church dinners and of course a full menu of committee meetings. But many members just don’t seem to have as strong an interest in the poor and down trodden that I do.
Don’t get me wrong, we do have outreach but never enough for my satisfaction. This year we have done or will do several projects in our community. We are perhaps more engaged than many churches in our area but never enough for me . It is usually only a small core of members actually participate in these activities and they are almost always one-time events, not an on-going thing that requires day-to-day commitments.
My discipleship work takes me around the community and, at least monetarily, around the world. I give my time and financial support to a local homeless shelter, a regional food bank, the Salvation army and a couple of international “feed the poor” organizations and even a Christian organization focused primarily on political issues. In the past it has bothered me that my “church” members don’t seem to share the same commitment in the things that I have passions for.
I used to get upset about this but I am now learning to chill out somewhat now. That is just the way it is I guess. My pastor keeps telling me that I may not be aware of what others are doing and spending their time on. Maybe they are committed to a day-to-day discipleship activity but I am not aware of it? I know that I am a retired old white guy who now has the time to spend on discipleship things. Maybe, actually probably, I am being too harsh on others who do not share my enthusiasm for such things. I also have more time to read the Bible and as a result I hear Jesus “screaming” that loving your neighbor is where he wants us to be. No one, including me, ever seems to be able to do enough! At least the need never seems to be even remotely quenched.
In summary, is doing church and doing discipleship the same thing. In a perfect world they would be but given the reality of our times they are not the same today. Christians today are just not that homogeneous anymore (if they ever were). We seem to concentrate on only our personal limited versions of both these topics.