We now have completed the first of three major dimensions in considering the task of making disciples. The first dimension is an acknowledgement that (to mimic the KJV) discipleship is made for man, not man for discipleship (column 1 of the Making Disciples Chart). The God who created us intended for our lives to be full and abundant. Thus, our probing humanity’s needs for identity, love, acceptance, achievement, legacy, and integrity provided the first dimension in our thinking about the task of making disciples. Discipleship will fulfill our deepest human needs so that we can live the full and abundant life.
The second dimension is outlined in the first row of the Making Disciples Chart (you will notice that subdivisions of the three major themes in row 1 result in 5 columns). This row provides the basic theological dimension that undergirds discipleship, and you will recognize it immediately as Paul’s and Martin Luther’s basic views of grace and works. Salvation and discipleship are posited on the foundation that God’s grace is always the initiating and driving force of discipleship. If we focus too quickly or push too hard for the works or deeds that demonstrate that we are disciples, we open ourselves to a works righteousness that ultimately will lead to Pharisaism rather than to genuine discipleship in the footsteps of Jesus.
Discipleship always begins with God’s initiative or with Jesus’ invitation or call; and the foundation of that initiative, invitation, or call is grace. God loves us and values us, not because we are worthy, but because love is God’s nature. The goal of discipleship is not to make us worthy; it is to make us fully human in the image of Christ. It is to capture in our being and in our living the fullness that God intended when God created us in the divine image.
Grace was not an afterthought that resulted from humanity’s sin. Grace was the underlying force “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:1) or in the when of “to begin God …” (a better rendition of Gen. 1:1). Grace is the theme both in the First Covenant (column 2) and in the New Covenant (column 3). Discipleship will always be distorted if we do not begin with God, with God’s initiative, and with grace.