(Photo: Derwin Gray)
Pastor Derwin L. Gray of Transformation Church in Indian Land, S.C., is one of a growing number of Christian leaders in America who want to see churches do a better job of teaching discipleship in order to develop multi-ethnic congregations. The former NFL linebacker said that a key to helping Christians mature within churches that are struggling is to model after the ethnically diverse churches of the first century.
"As a pastor of an intentional, Gospel-centered, multi-ethnic church, the biggest problem is getting our people to believe that the Gospel of Grace is really as wonderfull as it is," Gray told The Christian Post via email. "Because we are ethnically, socially, economically, and generationally diverse, we are constantly teaching our people that at the heart of the Gospel, is servanthood."
He believes Christians should ask, "How can we embrace one another and learn from one another just like ethnically diverse churches of the 1st Century?" Adding, "Unity in the midst of diversity is simply breath-taking and a powerful witness to the unbelieving world."
Gray, who will be speaking on the same subject at a major Christian leadership conference later this year, blogged recently on the topic in his post titled, "Why the Church Has a Discipleship Problem – 8 Reasons and 8 Remedies." He told CP the blog has "hit a nerve" and has more views than any other blog he has written.
When asked by CP about why the issue of discipleship was important to the typical churchgoer, he answered, "It is vital people grow in grace because the Gospel, in essence is Jesus offering humanity our humanity back. To be conformed into the image of Jesus is the restoration of our humanity. And as we are restored as humans, we fulfill our purpose as children of God who advance their Father's Kingdom on earth through our lives."
Gray said problems with discipleship occur when Christians don't realize they are the people of God on mission with God, and approach God as consumers instead of co-laborers.
"Consumers want comfort and they want to 'pimp' Jesus to build their kingdoms instead of His," he said. "Because we fail to mature in Christ we are conformed into the image of the culture instead of being transformed into the image of Christ. Thus, our lives are really no different than unbelievers."
In his blog he writes that one of the ways that he defines discipleship is that, "Discipleship is not knowing more information about Jesus, but knowing Jesus and being transformed into His image through the constant exposure of the Gospel of grace in the context of a local church. His life and mission becomes ours as we live by faith in Him in the everydayness of life by the Spirit's power."
The first three of his eight reason/remedies about the "discipleship problem:"
REASON 1: We have a discipleship problem because we divorce people from the story of God – which is Eternity, Creation, The Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.
REMEDY 1: We must teach people to see themselves in God's redemptive story or they will develop a customer mentality and futilely attempt to place God in their story. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
REASON 2: We have a discipleship problem because we teach unknowingly, or knowingly, the Homogenous Unit Principle. This produces a theology of comfort, disunity, and consumerism.
REMEDY 2: We must teach people that Jesus creates one new people, a multi-ethnic, blood-bought community that is on mission with Him. (Ephesians 2:14-3:1-13)
REASON 3: We have a discipleship problem because we teach people that "church" is somewhere you go on the weekend, instead of the identity of God's people "on the go" with Jesus.
REMEDY 3: We must recapture the essence of God's people gathering on the weekend, and scattering them during the week as missionaries into their spheres of influence. (Matthew 28:18-20)
The full list can be found at Gray's website blog here: http://www.derwinlgray.com/church-discipleship-problem-8-reasons-8-remedies/.