The Old is New--Again

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This is a guest post from Rev. Dale Slings

Among the hot topics for leaders who care about the future of the Church and Kingdom of God, discipleship is now at the top of the list. My question is, what is the lowest common denominator in all the discipleship models of which we can say; every organic discipleship model must have these ingredients if we are going to raise up men and women, boys and girls who  look and act like Jesus?

It strikes me as interesting that what was old is often new again. What the Reformers were concerned about among their parishioners, and the conclusions they came to, are once again worth looking to. Philip Melanchthon, a 16th Century friend of  Martin Luther, offered  up  three words  which  are worthy of  consideration  again  five centuries later. He posited the idea that for a person to become a fully devoted  and mature disciple  three  ingredients must be  present:

1.  Notitia: The disciple must have knowledge of salvation by grace through faith. Without an understanding of the biblical foundations of salvation, there will be no faith. So the church must teach the Scriptures. That should go without saying.

2.  Assensus: This word refers to the call of God to affirm that the content of our faith is true. It is possible for a person to know the Bible well but still not affirm its truth. So churches need to call for its members to profess their faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

3.  Fiducia: A personal experience of God’s power is also needed to make a complete disciple. Every true follower of Christ must personally learn to trust in and rely upon the  power of God in  his/her  life. A friend gave me the following quote which I have carried with me for many years:  “Faith is not the result of an argument, but the after-effect of an experience.” This rings more true for me now than ever. Its not just knowledge alone or even the added conviction that God is real and His Word is true that changes us from mere believers into disciples. Its  the  experiential knowledge of  our personal God who has  acted and is still acting  in our  lives. This happens when I put my knowledge about God and my professed belief  in God on the line in some way. I pray, and He answers, I step out in faith and He puts my feet on solid ground, I give in faith and He out-gives me.   

And with each experience of Fiducia–faith in action my knowledge of God (Notitia) grows, and my personal affirmation of faith (Assensus) is strengthened and I have more courage to  actually trust God (Fiducia) more to do in and through me what I know a disciple of Jesus ought to do.

So, once again, the old is new. Experiential learning in disciple making is no new thing. In fact, it is exactly what Jesus meant when he called his disciples saying, "Follow me..."

Questions:

  1. What is the ingredient that is most often missing in our discipleship processes?
  2. When have we seen the greatest changes in our members which caused them to raise the bar in their own lives?
  3. Why is it that churches have the most difficulty helping its members experience fiducia?
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I agree with these three ancient words, that seem true now, just as they have always been. I would also add that genuine community is a key element of discipleship. We are not called to be disciples alone. All through Biblical history, God has been raising up a people to reflect his glory; we are together being built up into a spiritual temple where he dwells; we are different parts of one body that will grow into full maturity with Christ at the head. And I could go on with "one another" examples and images of our oneness in Christ. The individualism in our culture and in our churches hinders discipleship. I feel so blessed to have a few dear sisters in Christ with whom I have experienced deep, community; we've shared prayer, heartaches, joys, struggles, learning, and also amazing "fiducia" moments. When I think of discipleship, I think of them and what we have together (we do not attend the same local church, but together we have been the church to one another).

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