Discipleship Economics

All I ever really understood in my college economics classes was the basic supply and demand curve.  If I remember correctly, everything hinged on figuring out the relationship between those two variables.  High supply and low demand dropped prices.  High demand and low supply increased prices.

When I look at the church today, it seems like the price of discipleship is going up.  If that’s true, the problem is definitely on the supply side, not the demand side.  As someone planting a church to reach the young leaders of Washington, D.C., I can tell you the demand for discipleship among younger believers is high.  That’s not the issue.  What we need as a church (both Restoration City specifically and the church generally) is more mature Christians who are willing to step up on the supply side of the equation.

If you aren’t pouring your life into at least one other believer who is a little behind you in the race of faith, you’re missing out.  For the last nine months, I’ve met every other week with a UNC student named Joey.  We met randomly in a coffee shop because he had a Summit Church sticker on his laptop (he had a Mac, so I knew the kid had potential!).  After having lunch together, we figured out we had a decent amount in common, he had a desire to grow and we both decided to make time to meet every other week.

I hope I’ve made some small difference in his life.  What I know for sure is that I’ve loved the experience and have gotten a lot out of it myself.  If you’ve never discipled someone, here’s just a bit of what you’re missing out on:

  • The joy of seeing God transform a life.  The apostle John gives us great insight into the heart of a pastor in 3 John 1:4 when he writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  But I don’t think that’s just a verse for pastors and I don’t think it just applies to people you’ve personally led to faith.  It represents the heart every mature follower of Jesus should have towards seeing others grow.  If you can’t get fired up about seeing someone else grow in their understanding of the gospel, I have to question how deep your understanding of the gospel really is.
  • Regular reminders of how God has worked in your life.  There’s nothing like sitting down and discussing what God is doing in someone else’s life to remind you of the great ways He’s worked in your life in the past.  I love watching Joey wrestle through questions or situations I encountered a few years ago.  It reminds me of how God met me and led me through those situations.
  • Encouragement and challenge in your own walk.  Please don’t think discipling someone is just a one way street.  It’s most definitely a two way conversation and you’ll be challenged by the faith, the devotion and the excitement for Jesus you see in the person you’re discipling.  For example, Joey always anchors his prayer requests in Scripture.  That’s something I aim to do as well but he’s honestly more consistent at it than I am.  So, our meetings have definitely pushed me to up my game in that area.
  • The sharpening that comes through teaching.  Teaching is the greatest way to figure out where the gaps are in your own understanding of the gospel.  Having to explain something to someone else will definitely stretch you, grow you and increase your own personal understanding.  Turns out teaching is one of the best ways of learning.

I regularly pray God would send more mature followers of Christ to Restoration City.  We’ve got plenty of young leaders – what we need is more men and women willing to invest their lives in this next generation.  If you want to join us in that, we would love to have you.  But you don’t have to come to RCC to pour into others.  I have no doubt there are plenty of people right in your own church that would love to be discipled.

It would be great to see the cost of discipleship go down in our churches as we see a resurgence on the supply side of the equation.

2 thoughts on “Discipleship Economics

  1. I think there is both a supply and demand problem. I am pleased to hear young believers you encounter are thirsty, but I fear a broader sampling would not be as encouraging. This is a shared problem – within the Church as an institution and Christ followers as disciplemakers (as you point out in your supply metaphor).

    Too many haven’t grasped who the real Jesus is. This is a bit of a catch 22 since growing as a disciple entails greater knowledge of the real Jesus, yet that knowledge itself stimulates one to grow in greater and greater knowledge.

    Platt in a keynote address at Verge 2013 said that if one truly knows the real Jesus and He in fact “is life”, they would be “supernaturally compelled” to follow Him without regard to the cost. He says this would be exhibited by living with: radical abandonment for His glory, joyful dependence upon His grace, faithful adherence to His person and urgent obedience to His mission. So, if Platt is correct, we have a bit of a math problem:

    ‘Value / Cost’ of following Jesus < 1.0?

    If so, perceptions of lesser perceived ‘Value’ means people are missing the abundance of truly knowing Jesus and perceptions of higher ‘Cost’ means there is too much competition of priorities in our culture and/or the sacrifices of following Jesus are too great. Are we competing with too many ‘options’ and other priorities, both inside our churches and outside? People decide based upon perceived value and their experience, but will they chose a set of options that help them become fully devoted and maturing followers of Christ?

    As the Barna research suggests, many Christians don’t exhibit Jesus’ actions and attitudes and for all practical purposes look much like others in our culture. Could it be that too many idolize what our culture offers vs. what Jesus offers? Or could it be that the barriers to less than full commitment to missional incarnational living are not knowing ‘how to’ live out one’s faith in this world where the forces of consumerism, materialism and individualism reign, taking time away from knowing and serving God and relationships with people. Have leaders themselves failed to teach and model missional living? Have we failed to share stories of grace told by early adopters to encourage our middle majority; stories that are compelling and model desired attitudes and behaviors?

    In their book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005), sociologists C. Smith and M. L. Denton characterize the state of faith as moralistic therapeutic deism – where God exists and wants people to be good; the central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself; God is not particularly involved in one’s life except when He is needed to resolve a problem; and ‘good’ people go to heaven. Many feel these findings are equally applicable to our adult population. If so, are we fitting Jesus into self-defined boxes and marginalizing Him and His power in our lives?

    So I think in our churches, in our own lives and as disciplemaking we have to make a lot more fuss about Jesus whom we follow. If the supply siders and demand siders get this, all else falls in place!

  2. Howie, couldn’t agree with you more. The real issue is on both the supply and demand side is the number of people content to play church without really understanding the gospel or Jesus. Grateful that you aren’t one of those people!! Appreciate the way you’ve impacted my life and so many others.

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