Dying Without Discipleship

“The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” ~Abigail Van Buren

Without discipleship, the church is dying.

Perhaps I should qualify my statement by defining discipleship. In keeping with the hospital theme, I’d like to offer an acronym using the letters ICU.


  • I’m referring to gospel intentionality here. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples…” and the word “Go” in the original Greek really means “In your going.” This is a radically different message! It’s “ordinary people doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality” (Total Church by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis). Intentionality means that we are taking every moment, every breath God gives us, as an opportunity to make God known (as opposed to hiding Him… really, we’re doing one or the other).


  • “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25). To meet whenever is convenient is okay, but there’s more strength in meeting regularly. Let me be clear: consistency does not mean it has to be on the same day at the same hour. It’s about valuing the person and saying “you are worth my time.” I cannot tell you how much it means when I get a text from a friend saying “Thinking about you today… is there something specific I can be praying for you?” Yet how much more uplifting when I get that text several times a month, rather than simply once a year. Consistency is one of the greatest signs of character.


  • To suggest that one or two exposures will do the trick is arrogant. Unceasing means you are choosing to be available as needs arise. Yes, life happens, but also, life happens. It’s devotion, no matter how poorly you are treated. Also, it’s the chance to portray what a christian life actually looks like… not just when you can put your happy mask on during a bible study, but at the restaurant when you’re overcharged, at the laundromat when your clothes are ruined, and at home when your kids are screaming.

Discipleship must be intentional, consistent, and unceasing. We need all three parts to function harmoniously because all three are integral. But often times based on our own wiring and passions, it is very easy to favor one or two.

In isolation, this is what it can look like:

  • Intentional  truth & no love
  • Consistent – loveless, routine service
  • Unceasing – love & no truth

And here’s what happens to the church when we neglect one:

  • I + C – U = understands truth, service-oriented, but lacks love
    …finds identity in what they know and what they do.
  • C + U – I = service-oriented, nurturing, but lacks biblical understanding
    …finds identity in what they do and what others say about them.
  • U + I – C = nurturing, understands truth, but self-centered and not others-minded
    …finds identity in what they know and what others say about them.

But if we get discipleship right, if we balance I+C+U, and we finally find our identity in what God knows, what He says about us, and what He’s done for us, we’ll see true transformation and vitality in the church again.

How about for you… which of these are more natural and which are more challenging? What are some other things you’ve found helpful in discipleship?


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