What does a mature disciple of Christ look like? Over the past decade Lifeway Research has delved into this with thousands of pastors and church leaders. Culling through the data, we discovered that strong discipleship ministries and practices could be put in eight categories. We call these eight categories the signposts along the discipleship pathway. One sign of growing disciples is that they live unashamed about their walk with Christ.
Live Unashamed. Everyone has a favorite something. It might be the college football team you cheer for or a favorite restaurant. You might have a passion for a hobby or activity like golf or running a marathon, or you have a television show that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Whatever your favorite thing is, you talk about. You find ways to discover if other people feel the same way you do. You wear team colors or gather around at lunchtime to discuss the latest development on a show.
We are unashamed about those things for which we have a passion.
Christians have even more reason to put something on display for the world to see. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). As believers mature in their walk with Christ, they grow increasingly unashamed for others to know about their faith. They are unabashed in letting the gospel and its transformative power be on display in their lives.
Lifeway’s research into discipleship ministries and practices found that maturing believers felt it was not just appropriate but necessary for others to know them as Christians. When you are being changed by Christ, you want others to know about it. Not surprisingly, as we develop in this attribute of an unashamed lifestyle, it only fuels and strengthens our growth in the other discipleship attributes. For example, living unashamed makes it easier to also exercise faith, share Christ, and serve others. Even more so, we live out these qualities with intentionality. We want people to know why we can exercise faith and why we serve. All our actions flow out of our unashamed love for Christ and His gospel.
Living unashamed lives includes transparency. Maturing believers are OK with others seeing their weak spots. It’s not that they’re proud of those weak areas, but neither do they pretend to be perfect Christians. In fact, they are quite willing to let other believers speak into their lives and help them along the path of growing in Christ. Maturing believers are unashamed about their pursuit of maturity to the level that they invite help in the process.
I began this article with a reference to the unashamed approach people have toward their favorite teams or interest. But being unashamed of our walk with Christ differs from the unashamed—boisterous, proud and obnoxious—behavior many fans display for their favorite team. (I’m sure I’m not referring to the behavior of the fans of your team.) The believer is neither arrogant about his faith nor derogatory of those who disagree. Instead, an unashamed believer lives by the principle in 1 Peter 3:15-16: “In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15-16, emphasis added).
Living for Christ is counter-cultural, and it is becoming increasingly more counter-cultural. Mature believers do not shout at the darkness, but unashamedly live and speak for Christ. In the process, they can pique the curiosity of unbelievers and galvanize the lives of other believers. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Ways the Church Can Foster Believers Who Live Unashamed.
- Model. The best way for any believer to understand what it means to live unashamed is to see it modeled for them. It’s easy to appear unashamed from the church pulpit, but let believers see how your faith is openly and naturally expressed in your day-to-day interactions with individuals. Let individuals church members participate with you in your various tasks, especially out in the community.
- Host ministry opportunities in the community. Provide opportunities for church members to serve in the community. Opportunities for Christians to serve together are also opportunities for them to practice living unashamed as a group. They can support and encourage each other. Those moments when they step outside their comfort zones for the name of Christ only embolden them to do it more.
We’d love to hear from you. What are some ways your church is helping believers live unashamed?
Lynn Pryor (@lynnpryor) is a team leader in Lifeway’s ongoing adult Bible study department. Read more from his blog at lynnhpryor.com.