LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–At an ever-increasing rate, modern churches are turning their attention to church growth at the expense of strong church foundations — a trend that believers must reverse by teaching their congregations the essence of biblical discipleship, according to a new book by a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor.
In “Discipled Warriors” (Kregel Publications), Charles Lawless explains that building strong church foundations and combating Satan’s attacks require a dual emphasis on biblical discipleship and biblical spiritual warfare.
“…[B]elievers who are adequately taught and trained know how to stand against the enemy by claiming the promises of God,” Lawless, the seminary’s associate professor of evangelism and church growth, writes.
“They know how to extinguish Satan’s darts through faith. They have learned how to pray effectively. They find guidance and strength in their devotions. They feel confident to share their faith at every opportunity. They are discipled warriors.”
The book is particularly relevant for churches today because many churches are focusing on organizational issues at the expense of discipleship — a strategy that plays directly into Satan’s hands, Lawless said in an interview.
“Few people are addressing the spiritual issues that affect church growth,” he said. “We’ve written much about contextual and institutional issues related to church growth, but the church is a spiritual entity. We can’t legitimately talk about church growth without addressing factors such as spiritual warfare.”
Lawless opens Discipled Warriors by voicing three concerns in particular about current models of a “healthy church.”
First, he notes that such emphasis has been placed upon church structure that “too little attention has been given to the theological foundation required for any healthy church.”
Second, Lawless insists that an increased focus on prayer is essential for healthy churches — so essential in fact, that prayer should be considered a main purpose of the church.
Third, he worries that many churches view discipleship as a segmented purpose of the church rather than as an overarching process.
“In some churches disciple-making is a narrow training program with little focus or intention,” Lawless said. “Believers study randomly chosen, short-term courses, and those who complete the courses are ‘discipled.'”
In response to these concerns, Lawless draws upon Ephesians 6 and issues a call to intensified discipleship in churches — to teach believers how to model every aspect of their lives after Christ. Such discipleship will effectively undermine Satan’s attacks on the church, Lawless said.
“Discipled Warriors” additionally explains that a healthy church will fulfill six biblical purposes: worship, evangelism, equipping believers for the Christian life, edifying one another through service and ministry, encountering God through prayer and fellowship. Along with each purpose Lawless offers practical suggestions for building a biblical church.
Yet he warns that for each purpose of the church, Satan has strategies of his own that attempt to thwart God’s purposes.
To combat the devil’s attacks, Lawless argues that Christians must focus on obedient living and not yield to the temptation to seek a magical formula to defeat Satan.
“Here’s my concern,” he writes. “Many people are enamored of the power and excitement of spiritual warfare, but leaders aren’t often calling them first to holiness and obedient living. They are trying to be warriors without first being discipled.
“Healthy churches, on the other hand, strive to grow discipled warriors. They build a theological foundation, fulfill the purposes of the church, and guide members to flesh out their faith in their personal walk, in their homes, in the church, and in their workplaces.”
Ultimately, Lawless concludes that because spiritual warfare is a reality, churches must lead believers to put on the armor of God.
“We fight warfare most effectively when we not only reach people for Christ, but we also train and equip them as disciples,” he said.