Church experts tell us there’s a discipleship deficit in the western church, especially the church in the UK. What does that mean? It means that we’re not very good at discipleship: at following Jesus. And in particular we’re not great at discipleship-making: at helping others start following Jesus and maturing in their faith. Given that following Jesus and making more followers are basic to Christian faith (Mt 4:19; 28:19), this should disturb us.
Leadership experts tell us there’s a leadership deficit in western society, especially in the UK. What does that mean? It means that in many spheres, leaders are not leading well. And in particular they’re not excelling at raising up future leaders. When leaders lack not only vision and strategy but emotional intelligence and compassion, and are seen to be dominated by self-interest and self-promotion, then trust wanes, criticism abounds and few want to fill the leadership void. Again, this should alarm us.
A number of years ago I identified these two areas – discipleship and leadership – as being of the utmost significance for church and society, so I started this Discipleship Blog, and then a Leadership Blog too. The aim was to do what I could to equip and encourage, and I’ve been blogging in these fields on an occasional basis now for over ten years. I have no doubt that others have written better and more regularly, but nevertheless, in the midst of the many pressures of Christian ministry, of family life, of studying and of writing books, I’ve done what I can.
As I take stock and look to the future, I believe the deficit in both fields is greater, not less, than ten years ago. So I’ve decided that in the coming months I will play my part by stepping up my blogging, ideally writing weekly on discipleship and monthly on leadership. Other ideas are emerging for books and further resources that I hope will be helpful. This is not just to impart information, but in the hope of formation: that the Spirit of God will form us into disciples and leaders like Christ, so we can see communities transformed.
Disciple of Jesus and church-leader Ian Cowley understands that this is important but not easy, saying that ‘…transformation is costly. This is not about just rearranging a few things on the circumference of our lives, or adopting a few religious habits like giving up chocolates or television for Lent… This is about hard battles, costing no less than everything.’ Jesus agrees, challenging us to know that ‘whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it’ (Mt 16:25).
The discipleship and leadership deficit around us will only be reduced by women and men who are submitted to the Spirit of Christ, and dying daily to self. Are we willing to pay the price?