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Anyone who follows cultural trends as they relate to Christianity has likely seen the so-called rise of the “nones” ‒ people that self-identify as not belonging to any particular religious group. “Nones” represent 23% of American adults and they are increasing. In 2007, this number was only 16%. It is likely that respondents have always felt this way about the faith, and in a culture that is less and less Christian, they finally feel comfortable being truthful to themselves and others.
Many of the so-called “nones” have grown up in church settings but were never shown how to grow in and follow after Jesus Christ. As a result, our culture suffers from a lack of what Dr. Tony Evans calls “kingdom disciples,” which he defines as visible, verbal, full-time followers of Jesus Christ.
The primary calling of pastors and leaders in the Church is to lead people to become the type of disciples Christ has called them to be. And this means that ministry leaders must model what it means to be disciples. Dr. Evans’s definition of a disciple provides a helpful framework:
1. Disciples of Jesus are visible.
When Jesus compared His followers to a city on a hilltop (Matt. 5:14), He meant that people should be able to recognize His followers in the world. The light from such a city casts a long shadow, and our faith should inform all that we do. Ministry leaders help people be visible by being visible themselves. Much of being a disciple is caught rather than taught.
2. Disciples of Jesus are verbal.
The “mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Luke 6:45). One reason the early church grew so rapidly is because the disciples talked about Jesus. They loved Him and the grace He brings, so they told people. Actions are not enough; they must be accompanied by words. While our faith may be visible before we are verbal, we must also be verbal. The Gospel is transmitted through words. We must be like Peter and John who were “unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
3. Disciples of Jesus are full-time.
Following Jesus is not a hobby but a call to die to ourselves and find real life in Him. Nothing can be more important to us than the call of Christ. We will never be visible, verbal followers without being full-time followers of Jesus. He takes priority over everything else and should shape all that we give our time and attention to. Christ should uniquely change the way we approach vocation, relationships, rest, and hobbies. Your people need to see that as a church leader, you don’t simply play church on Sunday but live for Christ each and every day.
Jesus changed the world by inviting twelve men to follow Him. He modeled life in the kingdom and then told them to make disciples as He had made them disciples. The path to having a church family filled with visible, verbal, full-time followers of Jesus Christ begins with you being one yourself.