As I begin this series, I realize that I might offend or irritate many Godly and respectable people. Please understand that I am not seeking purposely to offend, but rather I am unsettled by the questions I have about our denomination. My line of questioning comes from a week I spent living with Soma Communities, a group of churches mainly in Tacoma Washington (from here on called Soma).
Question 1: Do we understand Discipleship?
At the start let me say, Soma is not some perfect model to be xerox’d. But it is fair to mirror Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians: that we can follow the example of Godly brothers and sisters in as much as they follow the example of Christ. Rather than bombard everyone with a very long article, it seems best to ask three questions in three posts, and conclude with a final assessment of what we might learn.
For most leaders in the PCA what is discipleship? Is it the process by which we groom prospective elder candidates? Is it moving younger Arminian Christians into the Reformed faith?
As far as I can tell it is not something that we have a good grasp of within the PCA Community. I went to a Reformed Seminary. I’ve been connected to many Reformed Churches, but I’ve never seen the type of discipleship which I saw at work at Soma. There, I saw men and women walking in faith, bringing the gospel into the lives of their friends and neighbors. Not flawlessly, but faithfully. Faithfully calling people to deeper discipleship, and yet standing with them as the grow in grace.
I’ve seen this happen from time to time, but they have been isolated situations. I’ve never interacted with a church, other than Soma, where so many people were being discipled at the same time. Sure, I’ve seen it within the leadership and more mature Christians in some churches, but never among the whole congregation. The amazing part was that Soma is not simply a group of well fed people. Rather, it is a group of followers putting into practice the idea that disciples ought to be making disciples of their own.
Why have we miss this so often in the PCA? In Jesus’s call to make disciples; isn’t there a built-in command that all of those disciples will be reproducing? Now sure some people will just not be very good disciples, but that ought to be the exception. If we can’t look at our churches and see many disciple-making-disciples, how can we really say we are disciplining?