Today I continue my 2013 Discipleship Interview Series with Micah Fries, LifeWay’s Director of Ministry Development. Micah has been a part of our team for just over two months. Prior to coming to LifeWay, he was the pastor at Frederick Boulevard in St. Joseph, MO. Micah recently facilitated a conversation on The Exchange with me and Ed Stetzer about our new book Transformational Groups. The book is scheduled to be released later this fall.
Micah will be hanging around the blog today. So if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.
Discipleship is such a broad term, often a junk-drawer term that has been used to describe many things. How do you define it?
I would ultimately define discipleship as being shaped into the image of Jesus. I get that from Romans 8:29 when Paul points out: For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. This passage seems to define discipleship as the God-ordained process of shaping every believer into the image and character of Jesus.
How do you articulate the holy tension in God’s role in transformation and the believer’s role?
Since I am convinced there is no original thought out there, I am going to shamelessly steal a quote from Dallas Willard who says, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but it is opposed to earning.” The idea behind this quote is that effort, in and of itself, is not bad. The problem for us is when we begin to assume that our effort is acquiring, for us, what we need. There are two remedies to that. First, recognize our radical dependence on God. Everything comes from him. Second, recognize that our effort is in response to His grace, not the cause of his grace. Ultimately, then, I see transformation as God’s work, that he does in us, as we diligently respond to His grace with faithful and persistent grace-fueled effort.
Who has been influential to you in forming your view of discipleship?
I think it is fair to say that there are a few voices out there that have really shaped my view of discipleship. Probably at the top of the list is my mom and dad, who modeled Christlike behavior in our home, and who went to great lengths, sacrificing significantly, to intentionally disciple me, my brother, and my sister. Behind them I would say that Rick Warren, N.T. Wright, and Tim Keller have shaped my theology and practice as much as anyone out there.
What has changed, for good and bad, in the practice or methods of discipleship in recent years?
I think one of the biggest struggles in the Evangelical church is the false dichotomy that we have erected between evangelism and discipleship. We have created a system that tells people that following Jesus can occur without ever actually following Jesus. I think the greatest text to reinforce this may be a text we often associate with evangelism and missions, namely Mathew 28. Jesus reminds us to go, not to make converts, but to make disciples. We’ve got to allow those two theological realities to be married again in our practice as believers.
Is there such thing as “fully-discipled” in this lifetime?
No. This does not excuse us from chasing it, but we need to recognize that it won’t happen in this life. The desire for it, though, should be among our chief drivers to compel us to chase after it.