The Church Is Built Upon Discipleship

By Steve Manskar

‘Why do you call me “Lord, Lord”, and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house’ (Luke 6:46-49).

Every house needs a good foundation. A weak foundation will result in cracked walls, slanted floors, and other serious problems in the structure of the house. While it is seldom seen or noticed, the foundation is an essential part of a house.

In Luke 6:46-49 Jesus speaks about two kinds of houses. One is built on the solid foundation of stone. The other is built upon sand. He says the house built on stone is a people who hear and obey his teachings. That house is able to withstand the flood and storms of the world. The ones who heard Jesus’ words but chose to disregard his teaching built their house on sand. That house could not withstand the flood.

Covenant Discipleship groups are part of the foundation that is obedience to Jesus' teachings. The people who participate in the groups are the members who are listening to and acting upon Jesus’ teachings summarized by him in Matthew 22:37-39

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Covenant Discipleship groups form the leaders in discipleship every congregation needs to faithfully obey Jesus’ commission to

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The weekly process of mutual accountability and support for their daily walk with Jesus in world, guided by the group’s covenant shaped by the General Rule of Discipleship (To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit), helps the members grow in holiness of heart and life. Habitual practice of acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion opens the heart and mind to Christ’s love for the world. The process of daily practice and weekly accountability forms persons more and more into the women and men God created them to be. They are equipped to serve as small group leaders, Bible study leaders, and class leaders; they are the disciples who disciple others in the congregation and in the world.

Jesus tells us in Luke 6:46-49 discipleship is the foundation of the church. Discipleship is knowing, listening, learning, and obeying Jesus. I’m reminded of a quote from Mike Breen in his excellent book, Building a Discipling Culture:

If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples. …

Effective discipleship builds the church, not the other way around. We need to understand the church as the effect of discipleship and not the cause. If you set out to build the church, there is no guarantee you will make disciples. It is far more likely that you will create consumers who depend on the spiritual services that religious professionals provide.

Covenant Discipleship groups serve as an essential part of disciple-making process that must be the foundation upon which a congregation is built. Other parts of such a foundation are shared pastoral leadership, catechesis (Christian teaching with formation), evangelism, and stewardship. Such a foundation leads a congregation to live and serve as a community that listens to and acts upon the words of Jesus.

The mission of Covenant Discipleship groups is to form leaders in discipleship the congregation needs to faithfully live out its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Every congregation needs members who listen to and obey Jesus’ teachings.

When was the last time you took a look at the foundation of your church? Is your church built on the solid rock of obedience to Jesus' teachings?