One of the measurements of a church’s growth is the annual number of baptisms. If we were to review the church’s (and, by this, generally all American churches), the percentage is not particularly great. It certainly does not meet the so-called New Testament numbers.
A lot has changed over the years. In certain traditions, infants are brought to be baptized into the life of the church. While the Church of the Nazarene generally dedicates infants, functionally it often ends up being the same.
Is baptism a good measurement? Yes…and no. Baptism does not a disciple make. It would be nice if it were that easy.
There is probably a reason why the order is disciple, baptize, teach. The two primary modern pathways are baptize/teach and teach/baptize. Discipleship seems to not be part of the primary paths.
Yes, the word disciple is used a lot. The actually living as a disciple seems to be lacking. But, you say, we have a discipleship class or book or…really, something that teaches.
The evidence of a lack of discipleship is all around us. Look at our culture. Look at our news. Look at our sports.
Paul’s words somewhat feed into that. He states that he was not sent to baptize, but to preach. Now we often immediately equate preach to teach (not just because it rhymes). Paul seems to separate that.
Especially in the apologetic intellectual Christianity of today, preaching is often used as teaching. Paul calls his preaching foolishness. Paul’s foolishness wouldn’t seem to be the same as today’s preaching.
It might even mean that the wise, the teacher of the law, the debater of the age might very well be the church and its practices. This is not to tear down the church, but to examine it. This is meant to examine us.
Jesus, you commanded your disciples to make disciples. Help us to do our part. Amen.
1) What is discipleship? What does a disciple look like?
2) What is the difference between being a disciple and being taught?
3) Do you think Jesus meant the three (disciple, baptize, teach) in a particular order or to actually separate them? Or do you think Jesus had something else in mind? If so, what?