The decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ is something of an idiosyncratic matter. Individuals are influenced by their cultures, for example. Some cultures promote individual responsibility and decision-making, so those of us who have a Western mindset tend to emphasize personal decisions to follow Jesus. This often is expressed by walking down the aisle of a church and making some sort of a public declaration that the individual wants to become a follower of Jesus.
I remember how surprised I was many years ago when an internationally sponsored statement on evangelism sponsored by Billy Graham highlighted the importance of corporate decision-making in many cultures. The statement acknowledged that in some societies the decision made by the leader of a tribe to become a Christian often meant that the whole tribe adhered to that decision. This has frequently reminded me that people make decisions to become followers of Jesus in very different ways.
The last row of the “Making Disciples” Chart focuses on “Integrity,” the quality or state of being complete, whole, sound, or fully integrated in one’s essential being. While that integrity certainly focuses on individual integrity, we cannot overlook the importance and influence of a community in contributing to and shaping a corporate integrity. In many ways, people are conformists. They are shaped and influenced by the group of which they are a part. That group may be as large as a society or as small as a family or even a tight-knit group of noncomformists. Everyone is capable of making individual decisions, and we make many individual decisions every day; but our sense of integrity most often is shaped by what our peer group recognizes as authentic, sincere, and genuine.
Over the next few days, I want us to work our way across the “Integrity” row of the “Making Disciples” Chart and look at the interplay between the corporate and the individual influences that shape our discipleship. (NOTE: The “Making Disciples” chart is available to you via email. Send an email request for a copy to: firstname.lastname@example.org.)