Posts Tagged prescriptive

Prescriptive Discipleship

By Paul Wilkinson

A few weeks ago, I set up the differences between description and prescription while arguing that both bring enlightenment to the discipleship enterprise. Prescriptive discipleship would give obligations and duties that make one a disciple. Or, perhaps better stated, prescriptive discipleship would prescribe what one ought to do if one is, in fact, a disciple of Jesus. To that end, an interesting exercise is to sketch through the Gospels the conditions that Jesus puts on discipleship understood to be radical submission in following Christ. Here are some of those prescriptions:

  • If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. – Luke 9:23
    • We see here the radical submission of disciple to rabbi. A disciple, who already knew the Hebrew Scriptures, would submit his own will, desire, and interpretations to the rabbi’s authoritative word about how the Scriptures apply to worldview and life. Likewise, Jesus gives us the authoritative word about His creation: a kingdom has been inaugurated through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and this kingdom will be actualized in a New Heavens and New Earth at Christ’s ultimate return. May we live now as citizens of that kingdom.
  • If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. – John 8:29
    • Jesus just taught his Messiahship and necessary suffering. We must remain vigilant to have the crucifixion, resurrection, and kingdom as our filters for life. The Scriptures are our guide. We come to learn Jesus’ worldview through understanding the Bible.
  • By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35
    • The context here is that the disciples would love one another. We must care for those who are a part of the kingdom of God, that is, believers. We must minister to believers in a supererogatory way; a way that will make unbelievers notice the love we have for one another, perhaps even desiring such love for themselves.
  • If you love Me, you will keep my commands. – John 14:15
    • Obedience and duty are not always the most exciting words in modern faith movements. Nevertheless, John loved to point the children of God to obedience, both in the Gospel and 1 John. We must obey through the power of the Spirit. Our obedience will reflect for society the good design God has for them, their families, and their futures.
  • My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. – John 15:8
    • Disciples are multipliers. Fruit here refers to new believers. Christ is the main branch of the grape vine, and as we believers are offshoots, we must produce grapes, that is, new believers. We do this through proclaiming the kingdom, sharing our story of transformation, and serving others. Invite unbelievers into your lives and live obediently in front of them. Be explicit why you do what you do: because Christ has redeemed me!

As leaders, we must be models of these five conditionals as we demonstrate for our group members what it means to be a follower of Christ. We must be intentional and we must saturate these foci with prayer. My we abide in Him so that He may abide in us for the sake of giving Him to those who are lost and searching.

Descriptive and Prescriptive Discipleship, Part 1

By Paul Wilkinson

When I was learning ethics, I had to spend a healthy amount of time learning differences, values, and dangers between descriptive ethics and prescriptive ethics. Descriptive ethics seeks to describe how people actually act, whether in this culture or that culture, whether with respect to God or not. Prescriptive ethics seeks to supply rules (or commands) for how one ought to act. It appeals to some standard that entails certain obligations and duties. This distinction can be helpful to the disciple-maker in two ways: first, we can look at how the disciples actually acted post-Easter when they fulfilled their vision of discipleship and, second, we can discern from Christ what a disciple and disciple-maker ought to do.
Descriptive discipleship would be simply to describe what we see from the disciples. I will just choose a sampling from Acts:

  • These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer (1:14)
  • Declared the gospel (2:14)
  • Devoted to apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to breaking bread, to prayer (2:42)
  • Healed or ministered to others (3:6)
  • Praised God for His works (4:24)
  • Met each other’s needs (4:34)
  • Teaching and preaching (5:42)
  • Went and proclaimed (8:5)
  • Service: kindness and charity (9:36)
  • Provided disaster relief (11:28-29)
  • Fasted (13:3)
  • Filled with joy and the Holy Spirit (13:52)
  • Followed up with those they taught and trained (15:36)
  • Disagreed sometimes (15:38)
  • Examined Scriptures to test teaching (17:11)

And of course they did these things in the power of the Spirit. Each of these points could be multiplied many times over as they repeated these tasks when going throughout the various towns. More could be said if we extended beyond Acts to the other New Testament letters and the Gospels, but I simply wanted to set forth some general description of what the disciples actually did.
The question for us is whether a descriptive look at our lives would yield a similar list. Are our actions such as those of the early church? Now, all this is not to say that if you were simply to do this list then, necessarily, you would become a disciple, rather I mean to suggest that if you are a disciple of Jesus then this list should represent, at least in part, your very life. Just like with LIFE and the descriptors attached to each function, challenge your groups with this sort of list so that they may examine themselves. I have certainly been convicted!