A conversation I had on Christmas eve sparked the ol’ thinking juices. Bear with me, this is a bit wordy.
Most folks, regardless of what they claim as their “faith engine,” are simply religious at best. A Christian, a Buddhist and a Hindu are no different from each other IF they are not a disciple.
In the midst of folks who are religious, but not spiritual, how do you go about creating a disciple?
In church circles, most agree that the Spirit is essential to bringing someone to faith. In fact, biblically speaking, that is what happens. We have no problem with that.
When it comes to a person’s growth in their faith, most churches remove the Spirit and insert their program. I don’t think they intentionally mean to exclude the Spirit; it seems more of a “thanks for bringing them in, we’ll take it from here” kind of response. Unfortunately, we aren’t quite of the same caliber as the Spirit.
I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’ -John 16:12-15
If the Spirit is adept enough to bring someone to the point of faith, doesn’t it follow that he can also mature them? The story of the Ethiopian eunuch provides a tad of insight. The Spirit took Phillip to where the eunuch was, Phillip taught him, baptized him, then was whisked away, leaving the eunuch on his own. Do you think that God intended to leave the eunuch at that point? Was he going to head back to Egypt and enroll in a local church’s Sunday School? Was he going to join a nonexistent church and have the pastor place food on his plate?
Facetious? Yes. God had something in mind, obviously.
We need to create an environment that is conducive to the Spirit’s activity. We need to invest time and direction in them. We need to believe that the Spirit is capable of doing something in them that we can’t. Otherwise, we make the process of discipleship much too complicated and extremely ineffective.
The nonbelievers I was chatting with on Christmas eve had all been in church for years, in programs, classes, small groups, etc. But the Spirit had never been involved.
We do everyone a disservice when we abort the Spirit’s operation in a person’s life after they enter the Kingdom. Perhaps we should stop doing that.