For a blog that at times resembles a Walter Brueggemann appreciation page, it's been far too long since I quoted one of the most prolific and provocative scholars of our time. I'll make up for that with an extended quotation from an article he wrote on Evangelism and Discipleship:
Discipleship is no easy church program. It is a summons away from our characteristic safety nets of social support. It entails a resolve to follow a leader who himself has costly habits, in order to engage in disciplines that disentangle us from ways in which we are schooled and stupefied and that introduce us to new habits that break old vicious cycles among us, drawing us into intimacy with this calling God. Discipleship requires a whole new conversation in a church that has been too long accommodating, at ease in the dominant values of culture that fly in the face of the purposes of God.
It is right to conclude, in my judgement, that the God who calls is the God of discipleship, the one who calls people to follow, to obey, to participate in his passion and mission. Such disciplines – in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and now – intend and permit a drastic reorienting of one’s life, an embrace of new practices and, most particularly, a departure from other loyalties that have seemed both legitimate and convenient.
As I've mulled over discipleship for an essay this semester, I've come to realise that discipleship of Jesus doesn't occur in a vacuum. It is not a case of people either being discipled or not being discipled. Discipleship is a competitive sport, with discipleship of Jesus challenging the "technological-therapeutic-military consumerism" school of thought that is constantly discipling anyone who breathes. That is why Brueggemann can write that "discipleship is no easy church program".
We do not add discipleship to a list of local church ministries. Rather, every act a church engages in ought to be permeated by a "summons away" and a "resolve to follow". If a church lacks discipleship of Jesus, we do not say that it needs to add a discipleship program; instead, we may legitimately say that we are not sure whether the church is in fact a church in any meaningful sense of the word.