Today’s post was written by Shane Shaddix, a friend of mine from Imago Dei Church and PhD student at SEBTS. Shane recently started blogging at Practicing Discipleship, so you should do yourself a favor and follow his blog.
Healthy things reproduce. This is one of those statements that is so obvious that it doesn’t even really need to be said (a la, “It is what it is…”).We know intuitively that, if everything is working properly, a living thing at some point should look to reproduce itself. And, whenever some living thing fails to reproduce, something is not happening that should be happening. Something’s off.
Young, Married, Childless
Let me give you one anecdote from personal experience that will hopefully make this clear. My wife and I have been married for over three years now. We love being married, and we love where the Lord has us in life. But, at this point, we do not have any children.
Now one of the more interesting aspects of childless married life is the types of responses it brings out from family and friends. They try to hide it, but you can tell. They’re wondering.
They usually either (a) cautiously ask when we are going to start having kids, or (b) disingenuously ask if we know how that whole procreation process works. Needless to say, I prefer (a) over (b) every time.
Still, these questions betray the assumption that a young married couple who have been married for a few years will start producing offspring. It’s not wrong. It just makes sense. Healthy things reproduce.
Healthy Christians…read their Bibles?
I think it’s fair to apply this same logic to the Christian life. The Scriptures refer to Christians as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), as those who have passed from death–a state of unhealthiness, if ever there was one–to life (John 5:24; Rom. 6:13), and as those who have been born again (John 3:3ff). We are spiritual beings with new life given to us through Christ by the Holy Spirit, and we are called to maturity (Col. 1:28; Heb. 5:14).
So it seems logical that we would expect spiritually healthy Christians to reproduce their spiritual life in others (i.e., making more and deeper disciples). And, we should expect healthy, thriving churches to produce more and more churches. And yet, so many Christians and churches have redefined health and spiritual vitality, reducing it to a checklist of Bible-reading, moral-keeping, knowledge-accumulating tasks. But if we step back and ask the “reproduction” question, we are left with a scary conclusion. While there may be pockets of health here and there, many of us and our churches are showing few signs of health. We are living, yes; but we are not reproducing. And this is a tragedy. It means we aren’t that healthy after all.
Jesus warned his disciples,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 ESV).
He expected his followers to produce fruit. And, in his command to his disciples, he showed that one of these essential fruits was reproducing their life of following Jesus into others (Matt. 28:18-20). On what authority, then, should we redefine health and vitality in our own lives? Should we not expect reproduction? Can we settle for less?
A non-reproducing Christian ought to be a misnomer. It shouldn’t be a thing. It doesn’t work. It should draw the same strange look as a fat jockey. He may cross the finish line, but it’s not gonna be pretty. The same is the case with a non-disciple-making Christian.
Where is your man?
The founder of The Navigators, Dawson Trotman, wrote a little pamphlet in 1955 entitled “Born to Reproduce.” It’s well worth your time. In that pamphlet he asks this haunting series of questions:
“Men, where is your man? Women, where is your woman? Where is your girl? Where is the one whom you led to Christ and who is now going on with Him?”
His question from almost 60 years ago still indicts many of us, as it should, for it is the pointed application of the Lord’s command to go and make disciples of all nations.The question is not whether you are making disciples. The question is, “Where are they?”
So, are you spiritually living? Are you spiritually healthy? Then go make disciples, since healthy things reproduce.
 To be clear, I’m not pitting reproduction against holiness, Bible-reading, etc. as marks of maturity. These are likewise essential to Christian maturity. We can not abstract holiness and obedience from the Christian life any more than we can abstract reproduction from it, which is what I’m trying to argue here.