In his book, Disciple, (Crossway) pastor and author Bill Clem plows new ground for those of us who seek to fulfill Jesus’ command to go and make disciples. Clem begins with the premise that we have all been created by God to his image-bearers: “…God created man both to image God and to be in relationship with others (with both God and humans).” (p. 17) That may not be a new idea to most. Clem continues: “A person who is spiritually dead, separated by sin from oneness with God, is a distorted image bearer, and though there may be ways in which God is seen, the image portrayed will be seriously impaired and distorted.” (p. 18) Still haven’t seen anything new? Keep reading!
“To see Jesus on the story of God means that we look at everything God has done, including every person God has put into his script, and we discover how all image God like Jesus did.” (p. 38) “Our value in God’s eyes is not determined by what we can do above and beyond his design for us but in the inherent nature of how we function in relationship to him, to others, and his creation. It is our relationships that truly bear the image of God.” (p. 60) “We started by saying everyone images God on mission to one degree of distortion or another. If this is true, then being on mission may not be about what help you can offer as much as about partnering with unbelieving image bearers already imaging (although distorted) the God they don’t know.” (p. 72).
I take that to mean that as I serve on committees in my community, interact with city leaders and officials, or join community service groups (that may or may not be connected to my church) that the members of all of these groups were created as image bearers of God (even if they don’t acknowledge it) and they are carrying out God’s mission even if their image-bearing is distorted. So when I join them in what God is already doing through them in my community, the labor of my efforts bear the image of God and so do my relationships with these fellow image-bearers! That was new to me.
From this starting point Clem explores several implications for the Christ-follower. Here are several chapter headings:
4. Identity distortions
6. Worship Distortions
8. Community Distortions
10. Mission Distortions
The final two chapters (11. The Plan & 12. Multiplication) are the nuts and bolts of establishing transformational discipleship relationships in your life and in your church. It’s an extremely helpful book. One that has challenged me to re-tool my worn and weary method of discipleship for something much more profound and foundational. I found this statement on pp. 65-66 to be extremely challenging for me personally: “…if someone is oriented toward imaging God, then the disciple-making process will be more transformational than an informational set of verses and lessons.” “…I don’t see how teaching people that they are image bearers of God and asking the question, “How will this action or attitude image or distort the God of the Bible?” could be more basic to the nature of living as followers of Jesus. This perspective has tone our baseline (1 John 2.6).”
Second Chair leaders: If you lead a men’s ministry or small group ministry I would encourage you to get your hands on a copy of Clem’s book and explore ways that you can implement these concepts in your ministry. If you do, let me know about your plans. It would be great to dialogue with you. If you are a small group leader this book could be helpful for you although the average small group may find the content and the assignment sections following each chapter to be deeper than most other small group materials. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing!)