Upon arriving at work today, my supervisor had on a Christian talk radio station. As I listened I heard some, shall I say, interesting lessons from a couple big name preachers. One dabbled with the Word of Faith prosperity gospel while the other had issues with his source material.
Correct Discipleship Requires Teaching Correct Theology
The first man, preaching on prayer, said, “prayer can do whatever God can do.” He then went on to say that we “shouldn’t expect $1,000 blessings from 10¢ prayers,” “the more we pray, the more we will be fruitful,” and that “when we don’t pray, we don’t deny God anything, but deny ourselves blessings.” So, based on this preacher’s teachings, we don’t need God because prayer itself is powerful enough. Also, prayer is about us, not God, and about us receiving blessings.
While this theology may be accepted by some Christians, it’s certainly not biblical. Deifying prayer (even by implication) is wrong, and to make prayer about man ignores the opening lines of Jesus’ Model Prayer:
Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
(Matt 6:9-10, NASB, emphasis added)
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The next preacher that came on didn’t flirt with the prosperity gospel, but did run into some problems with the sources of his teachings.
Correct Discipleship Requires Teaching from the Bible
I can’t remember what his text was because he rarely mentioned it and hardly went back to Scripture. Instead, he spent more time talking about the lessons we can learn from dendrology, specifically redwood trees, than from the Bible.
His lesson was that redwoods have small roots, but they gain strength from intermingling their roots together. This, he said, teaches us that we cannot survive on our own, but that we thrive when we come together as Christians.
While arborists and ecologists may love the foliage-based life lesson, I was less impressed. What does the Bible say? I’m not sure because he spent 10-15 minutes teaching about redwoods and a fraction of that looking at the Bible. This made me wonder what other lessons can we learn from trees.
I thought about a lone oak. There it sits, all by itself, surviving through terrible thunderstorms, bitter cold, and blazing heat. Why? Because oak trees have massive, strong roots that give them strength and durability. A lesson I can learn from this tree is that, as a Christian, I don’t need to attend church. Rather, I can spend time developing a strong, deep relationship with Jesus and thrive all by my lonesome. Just me and God. Just like that lone oak.
While that may sound good to some believers, the “lesson of the oak” is not biblical. However, the lesson is drawn from the same place used by the preacher on the radio: trees.
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That’s not to say that we should avoid books or materials other than the Bible. In fact, there are many high quality biblically-sound works available such as Wayne Grudem’s Christian Beliefs and Millard Erickson’s Introducing Christian Doctrine. Rather, when it comes to teaching, the Bible is our main source, our primary source.
When it comes to making disciples, the best resource we have is God’s Word. In it we discover both the meaning of correct discipleship and how to achieve it.
Scripture Teaches about Correct Discipleship and How to Achieve it
What is “correct discipleship”? I’ve mentioned it multiple times already, so what is it? Some people strive to do discipleship right. However, correct discipleship is effective discipleship.
Effective discipleship means teaching others sound doctrine and life principles who in turn teach others the same. We discover this from Paul’s instruction to Timothy and Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in the Great Commission.
Paul told Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2, NASB). This passage includes at least four generations: Paul, Timothy, Timothy’s students, the students’ student. Here’s the breakdown:
- “You have heard” = Timothy
- “from me” = Paul
- “faithful men” = Timothy’s students
- “others also” = The students of Timothy’s students
This verse shows us that effective discipleship means we make disciples who will make disciples, who in turn will make disciples. To put it simply: we are to make disciple makers.
Along with Paul’s instruction, the Great Commission offers further insight into effective (or correct) discipleship: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20, NASB).
These two verses are packed full of information, but I won’t get into everything. Rather, I want to point out that Jesus teaches us that correct discipleship means evangelizing non-believers, teaching believers sound doctrine, and using the right source material. Here’s the breakdown:
- “baptizing them” = evangelism (baptism refers to becoming a Christian, cf. Rom 6:4 and “The Meaning Behind Believer’s Baptism“)
- “teaching them all that I commanded” = instructing believers sound doctrine and biblical Christian living, i.e., discipleship
- “that I commanded” = Jesus’ teachings, and he taught Scripture
Other passages point to the same lesson that correct discipleship means teaching correct doctrine from God’s Word: Deuteronomy 6:4-9;Psalm 1:1-2; Acts 2:42; and Colossians 1:28 (just to list a few).
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Discipleship, done correctly, teaches correct theology from Scripture. We should not be like those famous preachers I heard on the radio today and dabble in false theology or use questionable source material as our main source of teaching.