Engaging in Mission: Practical Ideas for Summertime

By Cailey Morgan

As Canada Day approaches each year, I get the urge to remind us all about the opportunities we have in warm-weather-months to take Jesus’ words about loving our neighbours literally and seriously. And as we do, we will find out what fun it actually is to engage in mission on a very small and relational level (I would venture even “mustard seed” small!)

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artofneighboring.com recommends starting small: get to know the names of your literal neighbors.

Although our shared ministry priority of “Engaging in Mission” can mean big things like multiplying churches, those big things only happen as a culmination of a whole bunch of these tiny things coming together.

So, whether you already spend your mornings on your front porch like Heartland Regional Minister Mark Doerksen does, or don’t tend to show your face in your neighbourhood other than through the window of your car, here are a few simple musings and practical ways we can engage in mission in our own homes or on our own streets.

And speaking of Brad, check out Lance Ford and Brad Brisco’s Next Door as it is in Heaven. Leave a comment on the blog or shoot me a note if you’re willing to write a short review of the book for this blog. The first person to respond will get a free copy of the book sent to you!

What else are you doing this summer to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to your contexts? What are you reading? Share your ideas and resources with us by commenting here or shooting me an email: cmorgan@cbwc.ca.

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Ministry Priority 3: Engaging in Mission

By Shannon Youell

Over the past couple weeks we’ve been sharing our excitement over CBWC’s new ministry priorities that came out of an intentional season of discernment by our churches, Board and Staff. There are so many good things we could be doing as a family of churches in support of each other and in pursuit of God’s mission on earth, so we asked God to show us how we should focus our time, energy and resources in the coming years, and He responded by clarifying goals we already had and renewing passions for deeply rooted values of joining God at work around us.

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Engaging in Mission
Along with Cultivating Leadership and Investing in Relationship, Engaging in Mission will also be a priority for us as a body of churches in the coming years. We as CBWC see this as “Growing our CBWC family through fresh expressions and intentional implementation of the gospel.” And while it may be third on our list of ministry priorities, Engaging in Mission is absolutely core to our identity as God’s kids.

We are missionaries! Every one of us. Jesus invites us to join Him in the family business of making disciples of all peoples. We’ve written here often about engaging in the places and spaces we occupy in our everyday lives, building relationships, sharing life and stories and faith with those around us. When we gather in our churches we pray that we may be witnesses to our family, friends and co-workers. This is missionary work.

The good news is that God’s Kingdom of justice-making, oppression breaking, reconciliatory, restoration of humans-to-God and humans-to-one-another Shalom is among us.  The Kingdom is unfolding and Jesus is the King who—rather than reigning from a palace representing the power regimes of humans—chooses to be placed upon the cross, revealing God’s sacrifice for this restoration.

Moving Forward Practically
So how do we intentionally implement this gospel? How do we foster God’s love of the world among ourselves—the love that compels us to join Him on His mission to witness to the Father’s goodness wherever God has placed us? Here’s some of what we’re doing and planning towards:

  • Developing resources for congregational renewal, including re-planting. Are you revisiting your vision and mission statements? Are you asking the hard questions of what Jesus calls us to as missionaries in our own context and then evaluating if you are engaging in ways that help to foster missional work around you? We gather and share ideas for engaging our congregations in this conversation. This includes Sam Breakey’s work in Church Health Assessments, which helps a church down a path of self-discovery towards a place of “where-to-from-here.”
  • The call to discipleship is the formation of who we are as followers of Jesus.  We are gathering and developing tools to help our churches reimagine discipleship that makes disciples who make disciples—the mandate the early church ran with! Watch for upcoming learning events on discipleship, or check out some of our articles here.
  • Speaking of articles, our blog is one of our best resources for sparking conversation in your churches! Though it’s named the Church Planting Blog, we post many different perspectives, ideas and thought-provoking articles on discipleship, vision, and missional thinking. The purpose of this blog is to get us thinking, hopefully enough that we ask good questions of ourselves and our churches when it comes to engaging in church life from a missional perspective. We’ve gathered and shared—and will share again the stories and ideas of others who have stepped into the “missionary in our neighbourhoods” conversation. These practitioners help us to understand how to engage those who will likely never just wake up one Sunday and say to themselves, “I think I’ll go to a church today.” Our society is increasingly unchurched, so, like the missionaries we send overseas, we must also relearn how to be a missional people, which causes me to consider that perhaps God is in the shift all along to inspire us to reengage in local missionary work.
  • Providing resources for church planters and for churches looking to multiply. The reality is that churches plant churches and we help them!  There are many expressions of church planting but the mandate is always the same:  to multiply those who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and join in the mission of God!
    • Multiplication:  churches that make disciples who can make disciples grow into new expressions of church in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities. The healthiest thing a flourishing church can do is send teams of leaders/lay leaders well-equipped and trained to reproduce the good work of the mother church.
    • CBWC comes alongside to help you be your most successful selves in this endeavour, including the current development of a Canadian Baptist training/coaching program for teams, not just for planters.
  • Encouraging active participation in the national Canadian Baptist Church Planting initiatives. This is where we tie it all together.  Canadian Baptists are working on a national initiative for sharing even more resources, coaches, mentors and trainers to walk with planters and teams.  This Training Center will be fundamental in creating a dynamic church planting culture to support teams in developing healthy projects, and is developed by Canadians for our Canadian landscape. This is the basic training that includes Assessment, Coaching and Discernment in an culture of teamwork. It does not promote any one model but rather every team comes to discover together what their church plant should be and what they are capable of planting, what makes sense for them and the people they want to serve. Daughter, sister, missional, fresh expression, satellite, attractional, house: all models are open to consideration.

When you think of our CBWC family, what  examples of fresh expressions of the gospel come to mind? Do you have ideas for what God’s good news could look like in your community or a new community in Western Canada?

Ministry Priority 2: Investing in Relationship

By Shannon Youell and Cailey Morgan

Investing in Relationship is our CBWC second ministry priority: a shared mandate to foster intentional connections between churches towards shared mission in their context. CBWC staff invest in relationship by providing opportunities for shared meals, times of learning, inter-church communication and storytelling, churches are able to forge new connections in the network and hear from each other. It is always such a joy in these settings when we witness people discovering people within the CBWC family who have some experience in areas we are trying to minister and serve in and ideas to share. IMG_4026.JPG

It is within a supportive and integrated atmosphere of invested people, connected together that  makes church planting a real possibility. Church Planting does not happen in a vacuum, it always comes from investment in relationships. The best resource we can give each other is…each other!

Pioneer church planting or multiplication is no longer reliant on the charisma and resilience of a person or single team; rather, the vision can be birthed from within a congregation or a group of churches who can share the vision with our larger family, who then commit what they have to offer—prayer, time, money, people, facilities, leadership, gear, mentoring, curriculum….take a look around and you’d be surprised what you have to offer.  As we do this work together, as we invest, we are investing in lifelong relationships with one another in places where we once were strangers.

We, as the Canadian Baptists, are a network rich in diversity, giftings and skills. Having one another as resources of encouragement and abilities, wisdom and friendship, fosters flourishing for us all.

As the early Church demonstrated, churches connecting with churches and sharing Kingdom work has always been the way the gospel was extended beyond any one congregation. Without one another and the relationships established with the apostles and with Jerusalem, and with each new community of faith, it is unlikely that the message of the good news of the Kingdom of God would have gone very far, or survived very long.  Our Father, who is community, created community here on earth.  He calls a people to be a blessing to every nation; to bear witness to His faithfulness to all He has created; to build communities of faith who live faithfully wherever they are planted.  So, it is of no surprise that relationships are crucial in the ethos of the kingdom and the work of its citizens!

You can read more about this ministry focus here on our website.

CBWC’s New Ministry Priorities

By Cailey Morgan

At the CBWC Online Assembly last week, Executive Minister Rob Ogilvie shared about our journey through 77 Days of Prayer and how that process led us to establish three ministry priorities as we look ahead to the coming years. These three tenets—Cultivating Leadership, Investing in Relationship, and Engaging in Mission—are not new ideas to the CBWC, but are meant to help us streamline our focus and give a clarified framework for discerning how to best steward our shared resources.

All three of these priorities strike a chord for us here at CBWC Church Planting, so Shannon and I wanted to share a bit over the coming articles about what they mean to us.

Cultivating Leadership, the first of the ministry tenets, will help us as a family of churches focus on fostering current and future generations of Canadian Baptists as leaders. This has long been a core priority of CBWC, expressed in various ways.

Recently, Shannon and I had the privilege of participating in Potential Impact, CBWC’s spiritual formation retreat for young leaders. Along with ourselves, Tammy Klassen, Sue Hunter, Larry Schram, Dennis Stone and others across the denomination poured loads of work hours into preparation for discipling this small group of young adults with big potential, in response to the CBWC’s commitment to raising up the next generation of leaders.

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For me, spending three days worshipping with, praying for, listening to and teaching these 17-24-year-olds was one of the most rewarding and deeply spiritual experiences I’ve had in a while. God is speaking and is at work in our young people, and we need to celebrate! One of these young leaders shared that she not only is heading to college in the fall to train for future pastoral ministry, but is opting to use her servant heart in the present as well by spending her summer as a local missionary serving kids at camp.

Encouraging and investing in the young people, aka, potential leaders, in your church is discipleship.  We’ve been talking about discipleship that equips, develops, experiments with and launches disciples who make disciples, which is the early church method of church growth, cultivating leaders and church planting.

In what ways could you encourage the young people in your congregation to see themselves not only as the leaders of tomorrow but the church of today?

 

 

Intentional Discipleship Pathways

By Shannon Youell

“Discipleship is becoming proficient in the essentials in order to live into God’s in-breaking Kingdom. Your average Christian has not been discipled in the basics of following Jesus, living on mission, dwelling in community, being present in their neighborhood, and sharing the holistic Gospel. We often relegate the basics to children, yet the basics are the foundational moorings we need to recover for being human in the way of Jesus.”  Dan White Jr., V3 Church Planting Movement

Increasingly churches and faith organizations are rethinking their methods and purposes of discipleship. Most churches would certainly consider themselves as making disciples, but the indicator of discipleship needs to be measured with fruit-bearing.  What kind of disciples are we making?  Are these disciples able to: follow Jesus, live on mission, dwell in community, be present in their neighbourhoods and share the holistic
Gospel of the Kingdom of God?

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In my several decades of participating in faith, church and ministry, I frequently land back on the discipleship conversation, especially when I realize that the barriers to engaging and participating in the whole work of the kingdom is hindered only by our own lack of understanding and often ignorance of what that means and how we actually do it.  Thus we need to be asking ourselves, as Dallas Willard suggested, Do we have a plan and is that plan working? We then begin the hard work of shaping pathways to follow Jesus’ example of making disciples who can then join God on mission in their neighbourhoods and make disciples.

Read the rest of 5 Steps for Creating a Discipleship Pathway” and let us know what discipleship questions you are wrestling with in your own context?

What discipleship “pathways” do you and your church engage in?  Are they bearing the fruit you hoped for?  If the answer is yes, share it with us so we can share it with others! Or what journey have you begun that is reshaping, exciting and engaging you as a community of believers on a discipleship journey together?

If you’ve never had an intentional relational pathway to make disciples, then talk to us.  We’d love to encourage you and suggest some good resources to get you started.  In my own home church, we started by stopping.  Seriously.  And now we are on a journey together in which we are equally excited about how God is working in us and around us and frustrated at how slow we are to relearn what being a disciple looks like in our everyday worlds.

 

 

 

Discipleship and The Fruit of Perseverance

By Shannon Youell

“If you make churches, you will rarely get disciples; but if you make disciples you will always get churches.”

We’ve written about this several times. And we’ll likely write about it again. Jesus commissioned His disciples to make disciples and those disciples would then commission their disciples to make disciples.   

But it is hard work! And it’s work one must be invested in for years. For life! In our cultural milieu of result-oriented goals favouring immediate returns and strategically minimizing risk, is it any wonder that discipleship has taken a firm back seat? Often the returns are years in the making and require persistent perseverance. Discipleship as modeled by Jesus is risky business that includes minimal returns, slow growth inclines, sudden declines and sellouts along the way.

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Yet, the fruit, oh, the fruit of perseverance!  The fruit of investing deeply and walking intimately with others as we learn and grow and lean in, is so worth the labour, the frustration and the wait. 

Dhati Lewis, Lead Pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, writes about the “guardrails” the Apostle Paul offers to Timothy in regard to continuing on in making disciples.  He talks about these guardrails to remind us that the work is laborious and long, but is the work we are called to. The guardrails keep us from going off the road in our quest to grow and develop our churches faster and bigger.  When we lose sight of our commission of making disciples, we find we have church, but few disciples to engage in the work of the kingdom. 

Read Lewis’ article posted here.

Now ask the honest and the hard questions.  If what we are labouring in isn’t making disciples who make disciples, what indeed are we making?  How is that working for us as believers? For our neighbourhoods?  For the world God so loves and desires to draw back to His kingdom Shalom, where humans flourish in body, mind, and spirit? 

 

Excuses for Discipleship

By Cailey Morgan

Last time, I wrote about the how being citizens of God’s Kingdom means growing in our understanding of our heavenly Father’s economy of abundance and how exclusion from the Canada summer grants program provides an opportunity to disciple our folk in this Kingdom way.  

Another opportunity that this shift in summer grant funding provides is the excuse to stop and reflect on why we do the summer day camps or other outreach programs that these government grants often pay for, and how, with whom, and what we do this summer now that Canada’s taxpayers aren’t footing bill for our the interns’ wages. And this leads me to the second aspect of Jesus’ life on earth that we need to pay attention to: Jesus used every moment as an opportunity for discipleship and leadership development.  

 

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Sometimes, Jesus had planned times of teaching where He would cast the vision of God’s Kingdom to His closest followers. Other times, a woman would interrupt by touching His robe, or children would run up, or the Pharisees would come looking for trouble. In all these situations, Jesus took the opportunity as a teaching moment: a chance for discipleship of the crowd and for leadership development of His core team. 

So for us, I’m asking a simple “why” question: Why do we do day camps? Why do we do programs? 

This isn’t a rhetorical question. What’s your answer?  

Day camps are obviously a great way to show hospitality to kids in our neighbourhood. But we need to ask the bigger questions of what the long-term purpose is? I’ve personally been guilty of helping run camps in order to feel like I’m busy doing “God’s work” and to check off my “evangelism” box on my to do list. There is so much more potential.  

Let’s think seriously about what excuses we can come up with to disciple our people into the next level of growth in their love of God, each other and neighbour this summer. Maybe day camps aren’t the right connection point for those in your neighbourhood who don’t know Christ yet–and the lack of internship funding this summer will help force your congregation’s hand towards a different plough.  If so, that’s awesome. But before you throw summer day camps out the window, I want you to consider the revelation I had on the other side of the world a few weeks ago.

I was in Albania in preparation for a summer youth leadership development program in which teens from the Canadian and Albanian congregations of our church will be learning about and practicing Christian leadership. Between church leadership meetings, visits to the elementary school we hope to engage throughout the summer, and scoping out accomodations for the summer team, I sat down with the neighbourhood pastor of our Sauk village congregation to talk about the potential of running some day camps for neighbourhood kids as part of the LTD program.  

My initial bent was that the Albanian congregation is perfectly capable of running day camps–why should we wait until the Canadian youth arrive to do this ministry? Every time we visit from Canada we help run camps, and it can seem like just a program to keep the Canadian team busy and feel like we’ve accomplished something. But as the conversation continued, we were both struck with a deeper vision: the discipleship pathway. 

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Why Day Camps? Because they’re a chance to disciple young people and leaders at every level.

Every person in the world is on a discipleship journey. Some are running the path as fast and hard as they can. Others do not recognize that God is at work in their lives and are wandering in other directions. Summer day camps are an excuse for discipleship all along the spectrum. At one end is the wide-open door of invitation for kids who’ve never known the love and peace of Christ to draw near to Him through these camps. Super important.  

At the other end is the church leadership, who are building into young leaders and working hard to pass the baton and share the keys whenever possible.

Eexcuses for discipleship–camps not for the sake of camps but for the twofold sake of evangelism and a chance to develop leaders out of our wiling and energetic young people. We’re taking the leadership development angle of camps very seriously this summer, using the excuse to have youth and adults train in leadership skills and practice those skills in our neighbourhoods.

I share this example of camp leadership because the levels of discipleship are easily defined and you can see a clear path of growth into leadership over time. But this path is true for discipling anyone–adults, church leaders, we’re all on a path of growth and all need to be simultaneously being discipled by someone further along in the journey and discipling those newer on the path. Any excuse for people being together can be an excuse for discipleship.

What excuses for discipleship are taking place in your congregation? 

Discipleship and God’s Economy of Abundance

By Cailey Morgan

Many of our churches have been wrestling with how to respond to the new required attestation on the Canada Summer Jobs application. For those of us who followed in solidarity with the CCCC this year in handing in adapted grant applications, the response has been clear from the government: no funding. For my church, this means the loss of wage provision for about 6 student positions–interns that would usually staff our summer day camp programs around the Lower Mainland and serve as the core energy behind for our summer outreach.

I could ask, “why, God, are You letting this happen when there is so much good that comes from having that money?” There are endless comments I could make about government’s choices, or our rights as Canadians, or even whether this issue solidifies the belief that the Canadian church is in exile. However, because we’re in the midst of a series on discipleship, I would rather adjust my focus a little.

In the next few articles, we will look at attributes that Christ exhibited while on earth. We will discuss how we can grow into Christlikeness, and what it means to use cultural opportunities to come alongside all those in our congregations and walk with them in a Jesus-formed response to what seems to be an unfair flexing of worldly power.

Attribute 1: Jesus Trusted God’s Economy of Abundance. As in every area of life, Jesus exemplified a Kingdom-of-God perspective in the area of resources and finances.

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For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. ” Including this goofy-looking fellow.

When we live as citizens of the world we can see, we get wrapped up in the economy of scarcity: what’s here is what’s here, so I better make sure I get my slice of the pie. If we operate in this economy, the whole summer grants scenario is a troubling hit to our church’s ministry goals and should send us scrambling to fight for what’s ours.

Jesus, on the other hand, reminded us about the realm that is bigger than what we can see: our Father owns everything. Jesus told us to never worry about our life, food, clothes, because our Father in heaven knows what we need and loves to take care of us. If God cares about dressing remote hillsides with flowers, how much more will He generously clothe His Body and His Bride?

Kingdom-of-God Economics
Part of the reason the church in North America languishes in irrelevance is because we all too often ask “what’s in it for us?” This is scarcity mentality in its purest form…

A church that tries to keep its life will lose it, and a church that loses its life will keep it. By contrast a church shaped by the way of Jesus gives freely without expectation of return. It is generous to the point of danger. As a result that church opens itself up to the secret joy and power of being least and last. Jesus overcame the world through being its servant. That’s how the church will overcome it too (Jared Siebert, New Leaf Network Blog).

When Jesus walked on earth, He proved again and again that the Kingdom of God operates in economy of abundance by showing God’s power to provide beyond the human imagination. Remember how He had Peter pull a coin out of a fish’s mouth to pay the temple tax? Or what about turning bathwater into expensive wine for a wedding feast? Or multiplying a single schoolboy’s lunch into a seafood smorgasbord for 5000 families (with a takeaway container of leftovers for each of the apostles, might I add)?

How’s that for mind-boggling math? Abundance beyond human capacity to imagine or produce: that’s Kingdom of God economics.

The Nitty-Gritty
OK. That sounds great, but how do we actually lean into a lifestyle of K-o-G abundance and draw our people into this kind of trust in God?

Ready for this?

Talk about money.

Use the summer grant finances issue as an excuse to have this scarcity/abundance conversation in your discipleship relationships and your small groups. Teach about trust and generosity in Sunday school for all ages and from the pulpit.

Tell toddlers the stories of God’s provision for His people throughout history. Create Spend, Save, and Give jars with kids and teach them how to steward their allowance money.

Ask teens if they can see God’s huge generosity in creation. Ask the seniors in your church for testimonies of God’s faithfulness throughout the shifting sands of economic ups and downs. Talk with every family in your church about tithing, and see how–like training wheels for trusting God with our wallets–the act of tithing can get families rolling in a Kingdom of God direction.

Take this money conversation seriously and have this conversation frequently. Discipleship is about learning to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength. And as we know, where our wallet is, there our heart is also.

In the past weeks I have been brought to tears by people around me who understand this Kingdom-of-God perspective: students offering to work for free this summer, believing that God and the community can help them find other ways to cover their tuition this fall; families asking how much money we need to raise to pay intern wages; adults offering weeks of their summer to help staff the camps; and the apostles and prophets among us asking the big question of what new thing God may be calling us to in this time when we’re a bit shaken up and confused. These disciples are growing in their trust of God and each other because they’ve been willing to get past the falsities that “my money is my money” and finances are a taboo subject.

Each time we humble ourselves and give over control of our resources to the Lord and the community, we are welcoming the Holy Spirit to come and do the heart-shaping. Which, really, is the true definition of discipleship, is it not?

Next time, I’m going to talk about Jesus’ way of discipleship “along the way,” and how we can see this lack of summer grant funding as an opportunity to re-envision summer outreach as an opportunity to disciple a whole new generation of leaders.

 

PS: The CBWC is engaged in the nationwide discussion about the Summer Grant Attestation issue, so watch for communications from our Administration Offices as to how you can add your church’s voice to the conversation. But a caveat here: the Church doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to our reactions around changing government policy. The media spotlight is turned on us to see how we will react, which I think is God giving us an opportunity to respond in humility and to cast a vision for the Kingdom-of-God economy for not only our own people but actually the whole country.

Am I a Disciple? Part 2

By Shannon Youell

“We must be disciples who make disciples.”

This statement caused me to ask myself some hard questions as I pondered Am I a disciple? In reflecting on this question I asked myself these six questions to help me discover areas on which I need to allow Jesus to work in me. We looked at the first three last week. These are in no way exhaustive, but merely the first six upon which to begin your own reflecting. The first three were around things that challenged my character and the next three my competencies as a ambassador of Christ.

4: Am I a Person who Loves Others?

Jesus tells us this in John 15:12-13 (MSG):

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.

Jesus also commands us to love our enemies. And love those who we consider unclean, sinners, outcasts. Jesus loves. He loves without boundaries or judgment. He loves because He is love.  If I love Jesus, and am His disciple, He commands that I love like Him. Yet, I am often appalled at how often I have to remind myself of that.  This, too, is the journey of a disciple. We are constantly being called back to that place of repentance at our shortage of love, care and our selective indifference for others.  How can we truly love our enemies if we are also praying for their demise! This is a hard teaching indeed!

5:  Am I a Servant?

I mentioned that my first disciplers did not lord it over those they were discipling–that they understood we were on a journey together and had much to teach one another. Often, in pastoral ministry, folk tell me they are a discipler and that I should assign them a disciple. Or a position. At our church, our response to those that move into places of teaching, leadership, pastoring, is that in these roles we actually lose “status.”  We become servants to those whom we are in community with.

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In my own life and ministry, I need to continually weigh my attitudes in the places where I serve by asking myself if I am taking a posture of status or a posture of servanthood.  Am I doing this to satisfy a need in my own self, or to truly love and journey with others as they discover their identity in Christ and in following Him?

As soon as I find myself feeling superior, wiser, holier, I have moved from a position of serving to a position of status.  Jesus was pretty blunt with the religious leaders of his day about this!

This is a hard one as sometimes it is difficult to self-determine when I’m “lording” and when I’m serving. It drives me back to question #3: Am I Accountable and demands that I, too am in a place of concurrently being a disciple and making disciples.

6: Am I a Sent-One who Goes?

Being a disciple also means I am willing to submit to His sending of me beyond my safe parameters and comfort zone, and being courageous to share stories of where God’s story intersects my story.

My secret of learning to be bolder? I, like most of us, am terrified, even when I can sense the Spirit strongly prompting me, to introduce Jesus into a conversation even when the door is so wide open it has fallen off its hinges! So to tackle that fear I took the challenge to just ask people if I may pray with them when they have shared something sad, or difficult, or something they struggle with. You might be amazed how quickly one can find out if the grocery cashier is having a good day or a bad day and why! It stuns me still.

And so I’ve tried to muster up courage and ask if I can quickly pray with them. I like the terminology of praying with rather than for as it invites them into the prayer. Most of the time they say yes! It is a very terrifying thing to do, and yet there is nothing more joyous than that 30-second prayer while picking up the grocery bags.

Being a disciple is always being attentive to that awareness that God is already at work all around me and I just need to join him.

Being a disciple means following close. Being a sort-of-follower, or most-of-the-time follower, will leave us confused as to where it is we are going because we will have lost sight of Him and walked our own path.  Jesus is our foremost priority. Everything else fits into that.

As I said earlier, this is by no means an exhaustive or even fully articulated list. What questions do you find yourself asking in regards to the overarching question of “Am I A Disciple?” Let us know as we learn and disciple one another! God created humanity as a community, placed us in community and Jesus taught us that we live, work, play, pray and disciple in community.

 

Am I a Disciple?

By Shannon Youell

“Seriously, me, a brand new believer with next to no church exposure, a discipler!”

Two weeks ago, I made this comment in our blog article “The Discipler’s Journey.” It seemed somehow wrong to me as a new believer that my teachers and mentors would say we disciple one another. I didn’t know anything! I had no understanding of how to read the Bible as narrative; what hermeneutics was; why it was important to always, always understand the context in which a particular verse was in; no clue as to whether I was pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, does-it-really-matter-trib, or will I be one of the surprised “left-behinders” (which gives you a bit of a clue in which decade I became a Christian)!

But then last week, Cailey, who works with me in Church Planting, read me something that caught my attention: “We must be disciples who make disciples.”

Fake it Til you Make it?

Years ago while in a doctor’s waiting room, I picked up a business magazine and was reading an article on the art of schmoozing. The author suggested that the way to get people’s attention in various fields is to have some sense of the ‘cultural’ language of the crowd: learn everything you can in a few hours about architecture for example. Not that you’d know how to draw, plan or design the Coliseum, but just enough language to sound like you do.

This idea of being a disciple who is able to make disciples made me think of that article. Often we use the correct language of how to make disciples without ever really being one ourselves.

So then I have to ask myself: Am I a disciple?

jon-tyson-520825-unsplash.jpgHere are some postures I believe I need to take to journey as a disciple of Jesus.

1: Am I a Learner?

“The illiterate of the 21st century are not those who can’t read and write but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn” (Alvin Toffler).

The Greek word translated “disciple” is mathetes and means “a committed learner.”

When I was growing up, my dad’s goal was to make me a committed learner, a life-long learner. He was and I am. Committed learners recognize there is always something to learn, something to unlearn and something to relearn. Indeed when Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be ‘reborn’, he was not, as Nicodemus questioned, suggesting he climb back in! It was a euphemism suggesting that he needed to unlearn what he was so sure he knew and relearn it by the Spirit and the waters of dying to self and emerging as learners of Christ.

The first thing we need to ask ourselves is are we learners? Are we willing to have what we think challenged, deconstructed and reframed? Sadly, often we are not. Those followers that eventually abandoned Jesus along the way usually fled because He challenged something in their understanding of God and His Kingdom—they weren’t willing to allow their thinking to stand the test of deconstruction and reframing. And to their loss, because the journey with Jesus is an unending unfolding of revelation, truth and wisdom.

Being a learner also means being humble enough and gracious enough to believe that every person I encounter has something to teach me, regardless of their status or education or tenure in the faith. That’s what my first disciplers and mentors were open to….they could say we discipled one another because they were willing to not be teachers who lord it over people but servants who journey alongside in the everydayness of ordinary life.

 2: Am I a Follower?

It may seem nitpicky to ask this. Some Christians equate being a convert to Christianity with being a follower of Jesus. Although that is part of our response to Jesus’ call to come and follow Hm, and is our entry point for sure, they are not exactly equatable.

Jesus’ call to follow Him had nothing to do with following Him to a church service. Jesus’ call to follow Him meant following Him as Rabbi/Teacher in every area of life and giving Him access to every area of life. As well as being a person who is willing to unlearn what I feel sure I already know, and be teachable, I also need to be a person who actually follows Jesus–meaning I am continually submitting to Him as not just Saviour but also Lord of my life and I am increasingly representing Him in my attitudes, behaviors and actions.

I once heard a speaker on discipleship who said that being a disciple meant that we look more and more like Jesus while still being ourselves.

The lyric that is running through my brain right now is from the  musical Godspell:

Oh dear Lord three things I pray/to see you more clearly/to love you more dearly/to follow you more nearly/day by day 

The nearer I am to Jesus in my following, the more I will understand His Kingdom vision and my place in it .

 3. Am I Accountable?

The discipleship model we attribute to Jesus was the common means in the Jewish-Rabbinic tradition of training, preparing and shaping people to continue living life in the Jewish-faith-way. He was not doing anything radical when He called people to follow Him and be His disciples. He wasn’t doing anything new and improved by spending most of His time with them, living among them, eating and drinking with them. Discipleship was done life on life. This means the good, the bad and the ugly; not the me that I present to others.

Disciples recognize the journey of sanctification is just that: a lifelong journey. Discipleship means an ongoing tension between the person we want to be and the person we are. Character needs to be shaped and developed over time by people who care deeply for us. Most people tend to shy away from that type of character development. And in our world today, it is very easy to dismiss those we trust and have walked with when they lovingly confront our own character weaknesses.

Jesus worked with His own disciples to shape and develop their character. Because they knew He loved them, they were able to get beyond what felt like criticism and see themselves through the lens of others; they were accountable. And they allowed the Spirit to do the work necessary for them to begin to form character that produces fruitfulness.

When I ask myself, am I a disciple, I must also ask myself if I am willing to be open, truthful and vulnerable with the people discipling me? Am I willing to allow them to speak into my life in the hard things, the closely-held convictions and seeming-absolute things, the fears and assumptions and worldview things, the not-quite-sin-but-not-good-for-me habits and the “you’ve got potential for bigger things” things?

I love King David’s prayer in Psalm 139 as a heart prayer of a disciple:

Investigate my life, O God,  find out everything about me; 
Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; 
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— 
then guide me on the road to eternal life (Psalm 139:23-24, The Message). 

Discipleship, then is as much a matter of the heart as it is knowing the Scriptures, praying and participating in church gatherings. These three questions test my heart, my character, and my understanding. Next time we will look at three more positions that grow us in our competency as co-workers with Christ.