Barna shows that evidence of radical discipleship is difficult to find. According to a Barna study regarding the state of the church in 2020, only 25% of Americans are “Practicing Christians” (those who identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives, and have attended church within the past month), which is down from 45% in 2000. That means almost 50% of those who were Practicing Christians 20 years ago are now either non-practicing Christians or non-believers. Additionally, the study finds that 36% fewer Americans attend church weekly in 2020 than in 1993.
Some possible reasons that Barna gives for these drops are a “growing number of Gen Z and Millennials making up the U.S. population, disputes about who gets to be a part of or lead in the Church, past and current church scandals and perceptions of the Church’s role in politics, to name a few.” However, there is another reason that is not mentioned in the study that is undoubtedly one of the main causes for these precipitous drops:
A lack of discipleship.
It is not too difficult to find statistics regarding the issues of discipleship in the American Church. That many Christians will attest to never having been discipled is the simplest test regarding the issue. The greater question is: why are churches not discipling their members?
While the answer to this is manifold, the fact that few churches feel the need to disciple people is because discipling is hard.
Not hard as in “difficult to do.” Hard as in “we don’t want to upset people.”
We live in an age and place where the church is afraid to speak the truth for fear that people will leave the church when they are either offended or asked to do something difficult, such as change behaviors or attitudes.
When the church decides to try to please people rather than God, God stops sending people to those churches.
While most Christians may not have the titles or authority to change the church, they do have the ability to change themselves. The question one needs to answer is: do I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? If the answer is “yes,” then you cannot wait until the church decides to change its ways and start a discipleship program.
You need to begin the work of becoming a disciple yourself.
This is not the ideal situation. If it were, Jesus never would have created his church. The plan was always for the church to make disciples who would disciple others (Matt 28:19-20, 2 Timothy 2:2).
Yet, the Bible also teaches that a day was coming that people would want to hear only what their itching ears desired (2 Timothy 4:3). We live in that day. And since we live in that day, we need to make sure we are not left behind by a church that insists on tickling the ears of weak believers rather than building up those believers who desire a truly transformed life.
If you are one of those who wish to experience radical discipleship, many things will need to happen, including spending time reading the scriptures, making prayer time a priority, and finding someone you can bounce things off of and ask questions, even mentor you as you grow. Take on The Most Important Role of a Christian.
But the most important thing you need to do to experience radical discipleship is to become radically reliant on the Holy Spirit.
No Christian can become a disciple of Jesus by following in their own power. Only by the power, guidance, and wisdom of the Holy Spirit can anyone be a disciple.
Not every Christian truly wants to please God. Many want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). Unfortunately, since we are more concerned with taking care of ourselves than we are with being good and faithful servants, most present-day Christians will not have the pleasure of experiencing this.
But you can.
Become a true disciple of Jesus. Give yourself up to God. Experience radical discipleship. Determine to read the Bible daily. Set up a time for prayer every day. Seek out someone who can help answer your questions. Find a mentor. Become a mentor. Be a great witness.
But most importantly, become radical in your reliance on the Holy Spirit.