To say that the church is failing in the area of discipleship is an understatement. Surveys have shown time and time again that people who call themselves Christians do not even understand basic Christian truths. There appears to be a disconnect between what is taught about what is actually understood and applied. This goes back to the difference between education and discipleship.
Most good, fundamental Christian churches have an emphasis on education. There is a theologically deep sermon and everyone is invited back at midweek for a theologically deep Bible study. Personal application is assumed because everyone has been taught theologically deep Biblical truths. The problem is that even if some are applying the truths, others are either unwilling or unable.
Jesus taught to the masses, so there certainly isn’t anything wrong with teaching a group of people something theologically deep. What we need to remember is that not everyone understood or applied what Jesus taught either. In John 6 He taught and fed the 5,000. By the end of the chapter, many of those same people who had heard Jesus speak had deserted Him.
Where Jesus made the greatest impact was in discipleship. He chose twelve men and invested His life into them. It was those men who became the leaders of the early church, not the ones who simply heard Jesus’ teaching.
If the church wants to make an impact that will survive more than a generation, it must take the concept of discipleship seriously. Sermons and Bible studies play an important role in building the church but they are one tool in a broad array that we have been given. We must use everything that God has given us to edify the next generation of believers. This means one on one discipling as well as teaching and preaching.