Degradation (from Latin: degradatio, literally — reduction), regression — the process of deterioration of characteristics of an object with time; moving back; gradual decline; decline in quality; breakdown of matter due to the impact of external forces in conformity with the laws of nature and time.* Degradation can be used in the following ways:
- Biodegradation – The processes by which organic substances are broken down by living organisms
- Chemical decomposition – The degradation of chemical compounds
- Corruption – Philosophical conceptual degradation
- Degradation – Telecommunications, the loss of quality of an electronic signal
- Elegant degradation – In engineering, the gradual failing of a machine
- Environmental degradation – In ecology, damage to the ecosystem and loss of biodiversity
- Computing – the corruption or degradation of a file, program, image, etc.
Each of the above can be applied, by way of analogy, to discipleship. I’ll draw some analogies and invite you to add others in the comment section. But first a simple definition of discipleship:
“Ever moving closer to Christ & His Gospel while serving, teaching, encouraging, facilitating, and empowering others do the same.”
Do you like that definition? Again, use the comment section below to suggest any changes. Regardless of how we define discipleship, it must always have at least two components. Being and Doing. We “be”come a disciple when we begin to follow. Inward discipleship is the obeying of all that Christ commanded. When we Make Disciples by doing – going, gospelizing, teaching others to obey all that Christ commanded and by baptizing, we are disciples and help others to do the same.
Discipleship, personal or external, is about following. One can not follow a stationary object. Discipleship always requires message and movement.
Now, let’s get back to degradation:
- Is it possible for discipleship, both personal and external to degrade?
- Can we be broken down by other “living organisms?”
- Can the chemistry or elements of discipleship decompose?
- Can the message (the gospel) of discipleship become corrupt?
- Can the quality of the signal degrade?
- Can the machine of discipleship simply give out?
- Can damaging our ecclesiastical ecosystem destroy the church’s biodiversity?
The implied answer in each of these cases is, of course, yes. How does it occur in each of the above examples? Again, I’ll leave that to you to comment on below. While some deny that 2 Timothy 2:2 is about discipleship, the principle contained therein applies here.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Here we have the passing on of the medium and message for four generations. The medium is Christ and the message, His Gospel. This leaves little, if any wiggle room for degradation. If Christ lives in us personally and in community, then the church shouldn’t be biodegradable. Further, when we discuss the natural order of things, specifically with regard to entropy, we understand that nature tends from order to disorder in isolated systems. Degradation is natural. The church however, shouldn’t be an isolated system. It’s not natural, it’s Supernatural. Degradation is Counter-Kingdom. It is in God that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) God works all things to the order of His will (Romans 8:28,28,30) (Ephesians 1:11) (Isaiah 25:1) etc.
I find it fascinating, that in digital technology, a file or program can degrade or become corrupt. If it’s hacked, that’s easy enough to understand. But if you make a perfect copy of something and a perfect copy of the copy, then how do electronic copies degrade? Likewise, if we’re making disciples who make disciples, then shouldn’t the process always be “upgrading” instead of degrading?