“Okay, we go back to the basics this morning. . . .”
The red-faced coach held a football high overhead, so every single player on the championship team could clearly see.
“Gentlemen, this is a football!”
If you follow sports at all you have heard a passionate speech about “fundamentals.” You see, it’s easy for fans to get caught up in the things that have nothing to do with becoming a successful team. For example, I have a childhood memory of my mother, on rare occasions sitting down on the couch and watching a football game. She liked watching the Vikings because she loved their purple uniforms. I sometimes yell at the coach, through my television, demanding different plays. Doesn’t the coach see that these plays don’t work? The truth is that stylish uniforms and well-designed plays do not result in winning games. Well-coached teams, comprised of talented players, perform at their best when they execute the fundamental disciplines of their sport better than their opponent does. Pay attention to the fundamentals, and winning will take care of itself. The next Super Bowl champions began their journey years ago, by learning how to tackle, block, pass, catch, and kick. And, yes, what a football looks like.
Who was that frustrated coach? Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, champions of the National Football League. One day earlier, a clearly inferior team had defeated them badly. Even the best need to be reminded of the fundamentals.
As a Christian leader, I am a coach. There can be no question about the missions that Jesus gave His disciples. “Go and make disciples,” was the clarion call and it continues to this day. If a good football coach clearly understands the basics of the game and how to teach those skills to his players, what are the fundamentals of disciple making? Am I clear about what those fundamentals are, and can I teach them to those I serve as a leader? Leader, if you have not done it for a while, sit down with a legal pad or tablet and make a list of non-negotiables for making disciples.
First, what qualifies as a “fundamental?” A fundamental is something that is basic and so critical to the makeup of the disciple-making process that it must be included in the process no-matter-what. Without it, you might be leading, but you will not be making disciples. Compiling a list of basic discipleship Sounds easy. It isn’t.
After much thought and after wearing out an eraser, here is my list of fundamentals of discipleship…
1. The Bible. This is where it all begins. Nothing else matters without an authoritative source, the final arbiter of truth and practice. For followers of Jesus, the Bible is that source. When we correctly interpret and diligently live out the directions of the Bible, we are hearing from God and doing God’s will.
2. Faith. Often, we speak about the beginnings of our discipleship as “coming to faith.” Faith is the realization that the gospel is true and that Jesus is trustworthy. Disciples, after all, are known as followers of Christ—Christians. Having come to faith, we continue to live by faith—trusting the Lord and the Bible.
3. Worship. Humans are created to worship, and we do. When a person follows Jesus, they acknowledge that only God as his or her Sovereign. Worship is proclaiming the worthiness of God, declaring our allegiance to God, and living under the Lordship of Christ through words, actions, and attitudes.
4. Jesus. The “second person” of the Holy Trinity was born into humanity; lived a sinless life; died to pay the penalty of universal human sin; rose from the grave; and is returning to rule the earth and to receive all disciples to Himself.
5. Holy Spirit. The “third person” of the Holy Trinity is God’s divine presence with and within the followers of Jesus. The Spirit accomplishes the new birth, transforms persons into the image of Jesus, and empowers Christ’s followers to accomplish the works of God in this age.
6. Grace. All that disciples receive from God and do for God are a result of grace—God’s unmerited favor. Human beings, as fallen beings, are incapable and unworthy. Grace transforms us and qualifies us for divine blessing.
7. Prayer. Followers of Jesus have direct access to God through prayer. Prayer is a two-way communication between God and God’s people.
8. Church. No one follows Christ alone. The Church exists as the community of the Spirit. It is the family of God, an inseparable source of nurture, support, and accountability.
Fundamentals are basic; that means that they are the foundation upon which the disciple constructs a life of integrity and service to the Kingdom of God. Effective disciple makers never leave the fundamentals, they build upon them and reinforce them often.
Work on your list, and may God bless your leadership.
David L. DeGarmo (D. Min.) serves Global University as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Theology. Along with his wife Ruth, he is also a U.S. Missionary. He has extensive experience as an educator, missionary, and pastor.
David writes an additional blog on a variety of topics. Check it out...