In our past series of posts, we have primarily dealt with what we refer to as the Peopling Framework. Taking God’s nature as the foundation for how we think about discipleship, the Peopling Framework draws upon God’s personhood as the basis for interacting with disciples as people. For the next couple posts, we will turn our attention to the second side of our discipleship model: the Kergyma, or Messaging Framework.
The foundational idea behind the Messaging Framework is the fact that God is communicative. As Francis Schaeffer titled one of his books He Is There And He Is Not Silent. As such, part of discipling others involves, well, bringing God’s message to them. That message, though, does not unfold the way we normally think of it unfolding.
One of the first questions asked when it comes to the message of the Gospel is “what do people need to know in order to be good disciples?” For many, the answer is “how to be a good Christian.” And starting with “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” we direct disciples to follow a specific set of actions. If that is not exactly what we tell our disciples, I am afraid it is what they often hear. I know that growing up, my understanding of what it meant to be a good Christian centered primarily around my actions. Did I check the right blocks, avoid the things on the “do not do” list, and perhaps complete one or two things on the extra good list? Then I was set to go—I had this Christian life thing down.
Reading Scripture, though, we quickly come to find that God usually seeks first to help his people get to know him, second to help them understand how to live. Jesus’ description of salvation is telling in this regard: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Not, “that they do all the right things,” or “that they say all the right prayers,” or, “that they faithfully serve the Church.” No, Jesus identifies salvation here primarily with our Knowledge of God.
If I were to stop there, I hope many of you would critique my thought and point out that we need to specify what that Knowledge looks like and that the aforementioned knowledge would require specific action on our part. And you would be raising excellent points if you did so. In their own way, though, both of those objections strengthen my overarching argument, namely that knowing God is more important than knowing how to Christian.
On the one hand, arguably when Scripture talks about our knowing God, it is doing so in the context of relationship, not research. With God being infinite, we will in a very literal sense never be able to fully know God. There will always be more to discover. Indeed, this is what we end up finding in our human relationships. Gandalf’s remarks about hobbits could just as easily apply to the people around us: “You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.” While our discussions about knowing God can and should be informed by the content of that knowledge, how we know is just as important as what we know. Being able to rattle off a list of data points about a person does not a relationship make. Consistently spending time to know them better, that is closer to the mark. If we needed a pithy way to sum it up, this might work: knowing God is active, not static.
On the other hand, it is absolutely right to point out that our knowledge will demand action. The more we learn about God the more we will be confronted with how our lives do not completely line up with His will. However, we stunt our disciples’ growth when we push them straight to the action piece without allowing them to marinate in the knowledge piece. Sure, in the short-term they will look amazing, because they have been coached on how to act. In the long-term, though, they have not been equipped for either growth or retention of the life-patterns they were taught. Instead, they have been taught solely to look to God for rules and regulations—and there is only so long you can last in a relationship which centers solely on rules and regulations. Some of them will find their way past the rules to the King and Father behind the rules, getting to know Him and building their understanding of the world on Him. Others will only ever see the rules, eventually burning out trying to follow and love a God whose only interest with them and the world seems to be to hand down additions to the do and do not lists.
And so some contours for sharing God’s message emerge. Directing our disciples in how they should act starts with introducing them to the God behind the directions. Some of that introduction will be centered around the important, foundational facts (otherwise the Church would not have developed Creeds and Catechisms), but the real introduction is one of relationship—a growing, developing knowledge that continues to deepen and increase over time. And, if we are tempted to jump right to the rules, we should remember Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees as people who lay heavy burdens on others’ shoulders, especially when our King issues the following call:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
If our goal is to direct disciples to know God, what are some of the ways and places that God reveals Himself that we can point them towards?
What are some ways that you have seen encouraging this growing, relational knowledge of God done well?
References and Notes
Acts 16:31. Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standad Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord Of The Rings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993), 76.
 Matthew 23:4