I have just released a new Bible study called The Case for Antioch, based on Jeff Iorg’s book by the same title. The big idea of this study is to challenge your people to be a church like the Antioch church.
Here is an excerpt:
A transformational church changes lives.
Following Jesus in community is one of the primary ways Christians are shaped to become more like Jesus. At least that’s the way church is supposed to work. God designed the church to be a transformational community. It welcomes sinners, assimilates new believers as members, and shapes them into fully devoted Jesus followers. The Lord explained this when He spoke what is commonly called the Great Commission, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20).
Because English translations often put “go” at the beginning of verse 19, usually capitalized and set apart with a comma, readers incorrectly assume the emphasis in this passage is on going. This interpretation is strengthened by our evangelical propensity for missions and evangelism. We know we should be going, so we emphasize this aspect of Jesus’ instructions. But the linguistic emphasis in this passage is on making disciples, not going. To capture the appropriate emphasis, consider this slight adjustment to the above translation: “Go, therefore, and make disciples.” Understanding the Great Commission with those words emphasized will help us keep the emphasis straight. Jesus told His followers to make disciples by baptizing and teaching, both activities that can only be done in community. (Think about it—at least two people are required for either activity!)
While baptism signifies entry into a new lifestyle, the primary means the church uses to develop disciples is teaching. Teaching shapes the mind. As new thoughts emerge, new attitudes and actions result. Paul amplified these ideas when he wrote, “The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4–5). Spiritual growth is rooted in changed thinking. Carnal thought patterns, the strongholds of “arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God,” naturally dominate the minds of unbelievers and new believers. Learning God’s Word and God’s ways takes time and may call for undoing years of wrong thinking and learning to think biblically and to behave accordingly. The best word to describe this process is transformation.
The theological word for this is sanctification. While that word literally means “to make holy,” the doctrine of sanctification broadly encompasses all aspects of spiritual transformation. While justification describes your once-in-a-moment conversion experience, sanctification involves a lifetime of spiritual growth, change, and development. Sanctification is becoming more like Jesus, God’s process of every believer’s being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). While this process is personal, it wasn’t designed to be accomplished in isolation. Spiritual formation requires a group effort.
The biblical metaphors for churches are collective descriptors implying life, growth, and change. The church, for example, is called the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–31), a temple of living stones (1 Pet. 2:5), branches on a vine (John 15:5), and the family of God (1 Pet. 4:17). All of these images communicate the corporate nature of church life and spiritual growth. Through their teaching ministry, churches play a vital role in personal discipleship. A church provides biblical instruction necessary for spiritual formation. Paul admonishes believers to “not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). The mind is renewed through new information, biblical truth, producing the enlightenment necessary for God-honoring choices. Through this process a believer develops “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) or the capacity to consider, reason, and understand life from a biblical perspective or worldview.
This type of transformation—a renewed mind producing new choices based on an ingrained biblical worldview—should be a church’s goal for every member. Disciple-making in a corporate context leads to personal renewal. Spiritual formation, spiritual growth, and spiritual maturity all describe becoming more and more like Jesus in character and actions. While the results are personal, the best context for producing these changes is the fellowship of a church. While the results are individual, the ultimate conclusion is corporate—a transformed and transformational church.
Jeff Iorg, The Case for Antioch (Nashville: B&H, 2011).
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