I believe that it is time to put the TRAINING back in Discipleship Training.
I hesitate to share what I am thinking, because I am still formulating my thoughts. My hope is that you will enter into a dialogue with me that will solidify my thoughts and challenge yours.
Historically, Baptist Training Union’s purpose was to TRAIN the church members to be the CHURCH. In Church Training, people learned what we believed (doctrine), how church worked (organization), why we do what we do (church), where we came from (history), and how to lead (leadership). Listen to this quote from Following the Living Christ, proceedings of the Fifth Southwide Baptist Training Union Conference, written in 1941:
As the training agency and the expressional agency of all our churches, its work will go along with the study of God’s Word in Sunday Schools until Christ comes; and our churches will no more think of quitting their training and expressional exercises in the Training Union than they will think of stopping their study of the Bible in the Sunday School.
The pioneers in discipleship such as Arthur Flake, Dr. I. J. Van Ness, Landrum P. Leavell, E. E. Lee, Paul Harris and Roy Edgemon never imagined the demise of training union. One of my predessors, whom I greatly respect, shared with me that I was killing Discipleship Training. He is correct in this respect, Discipleship Training as we have known it through the years is slowly dying on my watch as the State Discipleship Leader at the Tennessee Baptist Convention. But, could it be that it is dying because we lost the primary purpose of discipleship?
Today, we have members who know how to be better parents and stay out of debt. But they don’t know what we believe, how to study their Bible, or why we do what we do. Most could not tell us about the AnaBaptists and why we baptize with immersion. We lost the TRAINING in Discipleship Training.
The quote above and other historical readings as brought me to this conclusion: Sunday School was supposed to be and still is the teaching, reaching, and relationship arm of our church. In other words, it really was the program designed to help individuals get connected and be transformed by the study of God’s Word. Not a book about God’s Word, but HIS WORD. When we changed the name from Church Training to Discipleship Training, the focus changed from TRAINING to TEACHING Topical Studies designed to help a disciple become a fully devoted follower of Christ. This was a worthy goal, but in the midst, we lost the TRAINING in Discipleship Training. You can kill and cancel the program of Discipleship Training, but every church MUST develop an assimilation strategy for TRAINING its members to be the CHURCH.
I would love the opportunity to discuss these thoughts with you.
Upcoming FREE Webinar:
Join me Wednesday, February 16 at 9:00 AM (CT) for a webinar on Approaches to Discipleship. This free webinar will focus on the various approaches that churches are using to make disciples. This webinar is applicable to churches of all types, whether you are traditional and have a traditional Sunday School and Discipleship Training program or non-traditional utilizing small groups.
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