So, how do we see a culture of discipleship created? In our first post, we considered the need for church culture before church programs. In our second post, we considered what a culture should look like – a family of faith who is “concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works” (Heb.10:24). In this post, we’ll consider how a formal culture of discipleship fuels an informal culture of discipleship.
Hebrews 10:25 says that an informal culture of discipleship (v.24) is created and fueled by “not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Many people want to pit the organic church against the institutional church. Many want to emphasize the informal elements of the faith to the exclusion of the formal elements of the faith. This is a dichotomy that does not exist in Scripture. Christianity is both personal and corporate. In Hebrews 10:25 we see that the way you get the vibrant culture of love and concern is to gather together. Literally, the word for “worship meetings” is equivalent to “synagogue.” It’s the formal gathering, the assembly of the people.
What happens when we formally gather? We are reminded that our relationship with Jesus is personal, but not private. We follow Jesus with His people. Therefore, as we gather, we are not gathering as consumers looking to get our individual needs met. We are gathering as a community of faith seeking to be formed by God’s Word so we can display the values of Christ’s kingdom more faithfully throughout the week. Think of an eye of a hurricane. Inside the eye of the hurricane all is calm. But in the calmness, the strongest winds are being generated that make up the hurricane. When we gather, week after week, we do seemingly ordinary things:
Hear the Word – from the call to worship, to Scripture readings, the text of the sermon, to the closing benediction (1 Tim.4:13)
Sing the Word – songs in which we sing to God, and encourage one another about the character and promises of God (Eph.5:19; Col.3:16)
Pray the Word – prayer from Scripture, in line with Scripture, and in response to Scripture (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim.2:1)
Preach the Word – an exposition of a biblical text where the main point of the sermon is that of the text (2 Tim.4:2)
See the Word – the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper give us visible signs of invisible realities (Rom.6:1-4; 1 Cor.10:16-17).
And because God’s Word is “living and active…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb.4:12), it changes us! It strengthens us. It forms us to be a people who show concern and love for one another. Culture is created through steady patterns that root us in our identity in Christ. Supernatural love for one another happens through ordinary means of a Word-driven liturgy.
This is not to say that we should be content to be spectators who go through the motions each Sunday. We must not only be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word (James 1:22). It is to say that we must not negate the formal commands of Scripture and only seek to do the informal commands. There is an interdependent relationship between the formal and informal. The formal strengthens the informal. And the informal brings vibrancy to the formal.
To close with an illustration. A building needs pillars. Though they can be beautiful and ornate, the pillars are not ends in themselves. They simply provide support to the building so it can be an inhabitable space where good stuff happens. Without the formal (institutional) pillars of a church, the informal (organic) cannot be created nor can it thrive. A culture of discipleship happens when the church gathers as an outpost of God’s kingdom, receives their orders, and are sent out as the people of God to give glory to God. This is the way God has designed it – “that through the church the the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph.3:10).
In our next, and final, post, we’ll conclude with some practical thoughts for how a culture of discipleship takes shape.
Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion – Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck