One of the friendly critics of my newest book, “Gospelling Life Together: How a C.R.O.S.S. Community Can Change Your Life,” asked if I would please use a different word than “discipleship or disciple making.” He said, among other things, that the word is so old fashioned it either doesn't communicate or if it does, it communicates something tiresome. I asked him to find a new word that would best describe, as Steve Smallman has rightly said, “A disciple of Jesus is one who has heard the call of Jesus and has responded by repenting, believing the gospel, and following Jesus.”
I think that accurately describes what a follower of Jesus is.
However, if I have any qualms with this statement it is this: It does leave one with the impression that following Jesus, being his disciple, is basically a solo walk. So, there is one thing to add and that is “...and is following Jesus with others.”
You see, God did not call us to a single, solitaire lifestyle. We were made with the distinct purpose of enjoying life with God and others. The whole of God’s way is summed up as, Love God and Love Neighbor.
One night, a very religious, moral, highly educated, powerful leader with a lot of wealth had, what he thought was a private, one on one conversation with Jesus. Under the cover of darkness, he thought he would get the inside scoop from Jesus himself as to who he really was and what exactly he was all about.
He started very proper by introducing the meeting with, “Teacher, we know you are a teacher who has come from God because no one can do the stuff you are doing if God wasn’t with him.”
“Nic at night” thought he’d scored a point with Jesus. Now remember, this is a private one on one meeting. No one was supposed to find out. Yet, Jesus’ words to him, “You must be born again” and “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will have eternal life” have become the most commonly heard sayings of the Bible in the whole world.
Jesus was saying, “Nic, the reality is that God has come to give his life rather than ‘a teacher has come from God.’”
The last time we see Nic, he is with his fellow rich friend and religious leader, Joseph (Arimathea). They both took down the dead body of Jesus and buried him. I can’t prove this, but it really isn’t a stretch to understand that the two rich guys had heard the call of Jesus to be ‘born again,’ responded by repenting and believing the gospel, and were loving God (albeit secretly since they were major leaders in a religious/political system that had just tortured and killed Jesus) and following him together.
Perhaps, just perhaps, they had one or two other followers in their social circle that had believed as well. And remember, Jesus had not yet been resurrected back to life yet. Still, they had chosen to follow.
I imagine Nic had gone to Jospeh and told him about Jesus saying that we have to be born again. That God loved the world and gave his son, and if we believe in his son we can have life—and then exegeted Numbers 21 about placing faith in the snake on the pole and getting life back. That Jesus told Nic the story was really about him.
In their ongoing new life they needed the companionship and connection to “intentionally Gospel life together through focused discussions about their Relational, Personal, Missional, and Spiritual life, in the context of regular, ongoing friendship, for a joyful, personal revolution that leads to deeper community and God honoring, Jesus glorifying mission in this runaway world.”
My subtitle, “How C.R.O.S.S. Community Can Change Your Life,” does not use the word discipleship, nevertheless, that is what the book is all about. We all need deepening connections with God and others.
The acrostic C.R.O.S.S. means, Connecting, Reviewing your story, identifying your own learning Objective, Strategies needed, and Supplication (prayer with and for each other).
You see, the gospel not only has power, it is the power to bring about renewal, change and growth, individually, and corporately.
At CMM, we believe every pastor, church planter, ministry leader, and missionary is created to thrive in ministry and they deserve to have a Gospel Coach alongside them as they do ministry.
No matter what leadership role you have, we suggest getting a CMM C.R.O.S.S. Gospel Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. A Gospel Coach will help encourage and equip you every step along the way.
Join CMM for Church Planter Coach Training this September in Atlanta.
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!