Monday, August 7, 2017

Making disciples

Today, we have largely diminished “being a disciple” to making a profession of faith and receiving baptism. After that, you’re on your own. American rugged individualism has led us to act as if we do not need one another.

But the early church demanded more. The initial discipleship process for new converts included a regimented three-year plan for growing new believers in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (Apostolic Tradition 17.1) . New converts—called catechumens—regularly heard biblical preaching, received basic theological training, and renounced their sinful practices. ....

The rhythm practiced by the earliest Christians was one of relational mentoring. Christians who were well-grounded in the faith would regularly engage with and teach those who were new to the faith. This practice built meaningful relationships, accountability, and responsibility into everyday Christian living. Moreover, it reminded believers of the need to grow in faith and theology.

This rhythm was at one time also found in Christian homes through a process known as catechizing. Catechizing children has long been important to disciple-making. Recognizing that this practice was standard in the early church, John Calvin exhorted all churches to reclaim this ancient practice. “How I wish that we might have kept the custom which…existed among the ancient Christians!” he exclaimed concerning catechesis. ....
If this discipline were in effect today, it would certainly arouse some slothful parents, who carelessly neglect the instruction of their children as a matter of no concern to them; for then they could not overlook it without public disgrace. There would be greater agreement in faith among Christian people, and not so many would go untaught and ignorant; some would not be so rashly carried away with new and strange doctrines; in short, all would have some methodical instruction, so to speak, in Christian doctrine. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion)