The Discipleship River

We conclude our week long focus on biblical counseling and the church with Pastor Jeff Bartz sharing the illustration of the “Discipleship River” and how biblical counseling fits in at Grace Baptist.

The Discipleship River

 by Pastor Jeff Bartz

Here’s how Biblical Counseling serves the purpose of Grace Baptist Church.

I was first introduced to the Discipleship River at Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, Indiana. 

This river represents our church’s regular, weekly DISCIPLESHIP activities like worship services, LifeChange hour, children and youth ministries, etc.  Our goal is to get as many as possible into the center of this river where the current is strongest, where we are each growing the way God wants us to grow.

The center of that river is not about just coming to church!  It’s about being IN CHRIST not just IN CHURCH.  Jesus said, “Abide in me for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

Are you in Christ or just in church?  That’s where we want to be, abiding in Him – that’s the center of the river. 

How do we get people into the river, all paddling in the same direction?  That’s the challenge, isn’t it?  Getting people to get in the boat and traveling with us is EVANGELISM. 

This is often where biblical counseling begins is with evangelism.  Generally, evangelism is a discipleship process, whereby a believer is sharing their faith with a non-believer and over the course of time, their interest piques and they begin learning more until they come to the point where they trust Jesus as their Savior. 

Now, what happens when someone is not in the center of the river?  What happens if they get hung up in the weeds, hit a log jam or a hidden rock, get lost, spring a leak, or even capsize?  What if someone in their boat decides they don’t want to paddle anymore?  In other words, What happens when someone is not abiding in Christ, walking in the Spirit and growing the way they should be? 

That’s where Biblical Counseling fits into the ministry of Grace.

Biblical counseling is focused discipleship.  It’s a wide place in the river, a safe harbor, where people can come to get their canoe fixed, reorient themselves with the map, redistribute their equipment to keep them going, or hone their canoeing skills in a more concentrated way.

While spending some time here, the goal is to get them on their way as quickly as possible back to the center of the river, fellowshipping with God’s people, serving the Lord, Abiding in Christ and walking in the Spirit.

And here’s where our analogy may break down… because I don’t know what you think of when you think of canoeing down a river.  TheDiscipleshipRiveris not theLazyRiveratDarienLakewhere you just passively float around in the comforts of a tube and you reach your destination by coasting, without having done anything.

If you’ve ever experienced a hard core canoe trip you get this – discipleship is hard work and can be gut wrenchingly painful.  Jesus didn’t call us to comfort and convenience, because neither of those ever produced godly character. 

I wonder if what God sees when he looks upon the church inAmericais something resembling an amusement park.  A mass of humanity is just coasting down the lazy river when we ought to be in the middle of the discipleship river paddling for all we’re worth because the river is full of drowning people!

Christianity is not theLazyRiverand neither isGraceBaptistChurch!  It’s about discipleship, participating in Jesus’s mission to save people’s souls, redeeming and changing their lives.  You and I can have a part in that and that’s why Biblical Counseling is a part of Grace Baptist Church.



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