What comes to mind when you think of the word disciple? The Greek means ‘pupil’, ‘student’ or ‘apprentice’, someone who is learning. When we think of being a ‘learner’ perhaps a cold shiver runs up our spine as we think back to a day when a child is sitting at a desk listening whilst the teacher at the front feeds information to them. They try to copy down and understand what the teacher has said to them, and that’s how they learn.
Obviously modern-day teaching methods see learning as far more diverse than this. The learner is not simply a sponge absorbing facts that they can memorise. Indeed, much learning takes place not at a desk but outside the classroom, for example through a discussion with another year group or a task in the playground. Learning comes by doing, making mistakes, having a go, seeing things done and doing likewise.
Reflecting on modern day Christian discipleship, Reggie McNeal says, “We must change our ideas of what it means to develop a disciple, shifting the emphasis from studying Jesus and all things spiritual in an environment protected from the world, to following Jesus into the world to join him in his redemptive mission.”
When we think of discipleship taking place perhaps if we are honest, we think of something similar to the classroom setting with a preacher in church on a Sunday morning saying something which we feel challenged by. But the reality is that when we arrive home to a busy life, we forget what we have been taught, and it has little impact on how we then live. Discipleship seen like this can sadly be restricted to a certain time and place.
Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go into all the world and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus had spent the whole book of Matthew training them not simply by using sermon series (although he had been doing that in sermons like the Beatitudes), but by taking them on an adventure ‘into the world’ where they would meet all sorts of people in need of care, find themselves constantly out of their comfort zone relying on God’s power and even dealing with resistance.
C.S Lewis said that, “The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.”
Do you view your life as that of a missionary? That God is teaching you during the week how to draw other people to himself through that conversation at work, through the kindness you show to your neighbours, through the way you bring up your family?
For those of us who are not drifting through life but are called to go on an adventure with Jesus, there are some simple questions we can ask ourselves, and discuss in our House Groups, that will help us sharpen our thinking and encourage our everyday lives to be about following Jesus into the world. They are:
- God, who are you sending us to? Overwhelmed by the needs of the world, it is good to focus on where God has put you and your House/Small Group. This could be geographically, where you work or in terms of what interests you have. Who is God naturally connecting you with to make disciples of? Does your group run an Alpha course because friends have questions that need to be discussed? One huge connection for many is work. How can we disciple each other and help those in our workplace?
- God, where are you already at work? As a church, we are connected to over 50 parents, aged predominantly 20-40, through toddler groups and CK’s work. Would parents benefit from a House Group running a parenting course that isn’t an additional thing but is part of their ‘discipleship life’ together, where along with others in the wider community they ‘work out’ what being a parent means.
- What is ‘good news’ to this group of people? When we have identified a group that the Lord has called us to serve we need to reflect specifically what is so ‘good’ about the gospel for their own situation? Perhaps knowing that there is hope in a busy life that seems to be out of control; that there is true love for someone who is struggling with loneliness; that God comes to bring peace for someone who is struggling with stress.
As we begin a new year together as a church, let it be our joy to follow Jesus whatever he has in store for us. Let there be joy in the journey!