The Gospel and Discipleship

As pastors, we want to lead people into a transformed life of discipleship and mission. But often people aren’t quite as interested or excited about discipleship and mission as we hope they would be.

As I’ve pastored churches as well as coached and consulted with all kinds of churches, I’ve noticed there is something built in to almost every church I’ve ever encountered that sabotages their best disciple-making intentions.

Fly, my pretties!

I remember wondering about this when I first got into all this stuff. My theology was being profoundly reshaped along missional lines. I saw a vision for Christian discipleship that was bigger than just people being nice until heaven.

I was so excited about it that I figured all I needed to do was tell people about it and they’d be excited, too!

All I had to do was announce the possibility of being on mission with God, and people would shout for joy and wholeheartedly dive into it. I thought that all people really needed was permission to live missionally, and it would become an unstoppable hurricane of love.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead I found I had unleashed a profoundly stoppable puff of wishful thinking.

I was so eager to see all this wonderful stuff happen that I spent some time trying to convince people that it was indeed a good idea. I argued and cajoled and sermonized and encouraged and urrrrrrrged and inspired. All for naught.

Formation required

Something was missing. I began realizing that missional people don’t fall from trees. They are not called forth ex nihilo. They must be formed into the image of Christ before they’d be able to live on mission.

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But why hadn’t they been formed? These were people who attended church services regularly, led small groups, taught Sunday school… these people worked in the nursery, even! Why wasn’t all this activity and service resulting in spiritual formation in the likeness of Christ?

Enrolling in Jesus school

They hadn’t been formed because they had never fully intended to follow Jesus as his disciple, learning from him how to be like him. Faithful churchgoers can be some of the meanest people you’ll ever meet! Why?

Because events and practices (even good ones), in and of themselves, don’t magically make us like Jesus.

We must intend to become like Jesus, and engage in practices that form us in that direction in ways that form us in that direction.

So why don’t people want to become disciples of Jesus? Why don’t they intend to follow him in every area of their lives?

And here we are honing in on that one thing that seems to be built into most churches that sabotages our best intentions for discipleship and mission. This is the hidden reason many pastors can’t make disciples.

What’s in your good news?

That one stumped me for awhile, until I heard Dallas Willard ask this question:

“Does the gospel I preach naturally lead to people becoming disciples of Jesus?”

Putting it another way: Is becoming a disciple of Jesus the natural way to say ‘Yes’ to the gospel I preach?

The forgiveness gospel

Here’s a quick test: One popular version of the gospel states that your sins can be forgiven and you can go to heaven when you die.

How do we say Yes to this gospel? By signing the contract and believing the right things about Jesus. You certainly don’t need to become a disciple to say Yes to this gospel.

People who say Yes to this gospel hardly ever become disciples of Jesus because we can’t fathom why we would need Jesus for anything other than his blood. We are essentially “Vampire Christians” as Willard called them.

The do-good gospel

Let’s test another gospel: Another popular version of the good news goes like this: “We can do something about injustice.”

How do we say Yes to this gospel? We sign petitions and march in the demonstrations and volunteer at the food bank and advocate for the homeless.

Now, these are all great things to do. There’s nothing wrong with them (just like there’s nothing wrong with forgiveness). But we don’t need to become disciples of Jesus to do these things.

Again, discipleship feels like an “extra” thing. An add-on to the “main thing” for people who are into that kind of thing.

Under the logic of these kinds of gospels, why would anyone in their right mind become a disciple of Jesus? What use would it be? It certainly doesn’t help them say Yes to the good news they heard and believed.

Our only strategies are to “should” on people or just redefine discipleship to mean what people are already doing. Neither strategy helps us really understand why we can’t make disciples.

Recovering the gospel of the kingdom

So here it is. Here’s why we can’t make disciples. Here’s the factor built in to almost every church that sabotages discipleship before it even starts…

We aren’t preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

Instead we preach gospels that aren’t necessarily WRONG, but because they’re TRUNCATED they don’t naturally lead people to become disciples.

Here’s the truth to wrestle with: there is a DIRECT link between the gospel you preach and whether or not people become disciples of Jesus in your church.

What’s happening in so many of our churches is that because we preach a truncated gospel, we are inadvertently directing people AWAY from becoming disciples of Jesus.

So what kind of gospel results in discipleship? The gospel Jesus preached. The gospel the New Testament writers preached. The gospel the early church preached. The gospel of the kingdom of God.

Here’s how it sounds: “A new life in God’s kingdom is available to you right now. This very moment you can reach out and experience a with-God life, no matter your circumstances.”

This is the good news that INCLUDES forgiveness and justice, but so much more! It sounded audacious back then and it sounds audacious today.

Saying Yes by becoming a disciple

But if it’s true… if a new life in God’s kingdom is truly available, how do we say Yes to it?

This is more than signing a contract for afterlife insurance. This is an entirely new kind of life you need to learn how to live. It’s a life that will feel counterintuitive to everything you “know.”

To say Yes to that kind of gospel, you need to trust someone who knows how to live in God’s kingdom. In other words, you become a disciple of Jesus.

Living abundantly in God’s kingdom is what Jesus is “good at.” So listen to him, and trust him. Put his teaching into practice. As you do that, you’ll find that a new kind of life begins to work in you, and transformation begins…

Discipleship flows easily and naturally from the gospel of the kingdom, because the way we enter life in God’s kingdom now is by trusting Jesus.

Trusting him not just for forgiveness. Not just to let us into heaven when we die.

No, we trust him for everything: our daily needs, abiding joy and peace, and power to do the things he said were good and right and true and beautiful, to join with him in his activity in the world.

This leads to formation in character and competence in the likeness of Christ.

Which leads to everyday mission in the name of Christ.

Which leads to more disciples, because we participate in the mission of God by proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, which leads to… people becoming disciples!

 

Visit the original article to connect with the Gravity Leadership community.

What IS discipleship, really? Part 2

By Ben Hardman, gravityleadership.com

Last week, we covered that discipleship isn’t programs, and that discipleship starts and ends with people. In part 2 today, Ben unpacks 3 key ingredients for discipleship.

3 key ingredients for discipleship

We like Willard’s definition of a disciple: someone who is intentionally with Jesus to learn from Jesus how to be like Jesus in every aspect of his/her life.

But this never happens individualistically. It’s always in the context of community, and so our plan for discipleship must involve 3 key ingredients.

1. A person who invests

Jesus chose twelve people and poured into them for three years. He walked with them, journeyed with them and really knew them. It was a long process of investment into relationship. Up close, not from a distance.

When we over-identify discipleship with “programs,” it actually becomes a barrier to real relationships, because we think that “running the program” will do the job.

Great disciple-makers don’t simply lead a program or facilitate a curriculum, they participate in our lives. They teach us to live as Jesus lived in the context of what’s actually happening in our lives right now.

Discipleship requires that someone decides to invest their life into another.

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2. A participant who follows

The other side of this coin is that discipleship requires that someone decides to receive the investment. Someone decides to follow, to learn, to grow. To look toward a living example (not a perfect example) of what it looks like to live out faithfulness to Jesus.

This discipling relationship should never become coercive or controlling, because Jesus taught us that we are “not to be like that” (Matt 20:26). Instead, it becomes a relationship of mutuality and vulnerability.

Because we participate in one another’s lives, we see each other at our best and our worst. We become spiritual friends on a journey of discipleship together, but it starts when someone decides to follow.

3. A path that is discerned

The final ingredient needed is a path toward Christlikeness that is discerned (not pre-programmed ahead of time).

Rather than simply giving a list of goals to accomplish, hoping the result will be some kind of growth toward Christlikness, good disciple-makers help their disciples discern what God is doing in their lives. Then they can lead them in repenting and believing in those areas.

It’s not enough to just “read your Bible more, love your kids more, be a better spouse and try harder.” Discipleship has to involve actively discerning where God is working right now, and where he is leading so we can align our lives with his rule and reign.

People and programs

“Go and make disciples” was Jesus’ commission to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. This means we must have a relentless focus on people and whether or not they actually are becoming disciples (which also means learning to do everything he commanded!).

Yes, programs are necessary to organize our discipleship efforts, but I recognize that if I’m not careful about where I put my focus, my heart will often go the easy way of simply creating programs, because they seem more manageable. I build policies, parameters, and outcomes, and I’m done!

Actual people are messier. They disappoint you. You disappoint them. They can hurt you and walk away from you. And you’ll hurt them. But discipleship demands that we work with actual people, investing in them along a pathway of discipleship that we discern together. Even if it feels risky. Even if we get hurt.

What about you?

  • Where does your mind go when you hear Willard’s questions about discipleship?
  • Have you overemphasized the “programmatic” element of discipleship?
  • What would it look like for you to begin this week investing in a person, participating in their life and discerning a path of discipleship with them?

This article by Ben Hardman was reposted with permission from Gravity Leadership’s blog: gravityleadership.com/blog

Justice: Encompassing Love

By Shannon Youell

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.

He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.

This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.  I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

Isaiah 42:1-7

A friend of mine, a recent immigrant from Iran, was telling me recently that the Muslims do not call Allah “god” in the sense that we often do, where we use it as a name.  He said that Allah is more than a name, but is a descriptor of what Allah is:  Love. In his telling, this Love is enveloping, surrounding, all encompassing.  Interestingly, Wikipedia says that the name Allah is used both by Muslims and Arab Christians. The name is the essence of Love – Love is God’s essence.

I asked my friend’s daughter why their family had converted to Christianity when they moved to Canada. She said that in reading the teachings of Jesus she saw God’s love.

“Here is my servant,” God says to the Israelites in reference to Messiah. He will not break the bruised reed nor snuff out the smoldering wick, but rather He establishes justice on earth.

This love, this incarnational love, in the shape of Jesus, looks upon us humans as bruised reeds, beautiful-but-broken sons of the good, good Father. He still has hope for us. He takes our hand and invites us to join Him as the vessels through which His righteousness and justice is delivered.

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I am moved by the imagery of God holding my hand.  Of his all-encompassing love holding onto me in the midst of the darkness so that I join him in shining a light into the snuffed-out places in humanity’s struggles and sorrow.  As noted two weeks ago on this blog,  “often the righteousness of God in the OT refers to the faithfulness with which God acts. This faithfulness is in full accordance with his commitments to his people and with his status as divine King—to whom the powerless may look for protection, the oppressed for redress and the needy for help.”  Verse 3 in Isaiah 42 says just that, “In faithfulness, he will bring forth justice…”

This is also our expression of faithfulness to the goodness of God—that we “become the expressions of his light in the world.” We incarnate the love that is beyond descriptors, larger than any one word can hold; this love crosses languages and cultures and yes, even the misguided religiosity of others and ourselves. God incarnated translates that Love into humanity in the Messiah, Jesus.  Jesus, incarnated in us, is meant to do the same.

God holding our hand takes us somewhere. He leads, we walk alongside. He reveals, we step in and act. “I will take your hand,” He says, “to make you to be a covenant for all peoples and to make you to be a light.” God leads us to participate in His mission; God leads us by the hand to be the incarnational presence “to whom the powerless may look for protection, the oppressed for redress and the needy for help.”

It is his mission to the world He so loves and it is ours as those fully encompassed in His love.

My Gospel Questionnaire, Part 1: How Jesus Put it

By Shannon Youell

One of the things I like to do is ask Christians “what is the gospel?” I don’t do it because I enjoy watching people squirm, but rather because these reactions show how those of us who are followers of Jesus have a hard time articulating the very thing we are commanded to proclaim.

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So, I’ve been doing a survey. For about ten years now. It goes something like this:

“What is the gospel? What is the good news that Jesus ushered in?” 

I’ve asked it of long-time Christians and new believers alike. More often than not, the answers range from explaining that the gospels are the first four books of the New Testament; or the gospel is the Creed; or the Gospel is summarized in four spiritual laws. Certainly we find aspects of the good news in all of those answers.

But there’s a follow up to question one:

Is our articulation of this gospel—this good news announced by angels, proclaimed by Jesus as the news of the kingdom now near us, among us, with us; of the fulfillment of prophecies that spoke of good news—actually heard as good news? 

It’s the question everyone should be wrestling with—because we should be able to talk about good news that, when shared with others, actually sounds like good news to them. To do so requires us to first look back at the historical Jesus and what He meant and what His hearers understood as “good news.”

When Jesus stepped out of His ordinary life into the spotlight, He said these things:

Repent.
The kingdom of God has come near.
Come follow me.

The story continues by telling us that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria….” (Matthew 4:23, 24a).

The people who heard Jesus make these statements had an embedded understanding of what was being said to them because Jesus used concepts that meant something to them. The context, of course is their story, the story of Israel from the beginning and including their current occupied state.

The term gospel or good news had a known meaning. It was used as a heralding that a new king had battled an oppressive king. This new king would change everything about their lives. He had saved them from the results of that oppression and promised them peace and justice, both in the immediacy of the near future and into the future beyond.

When Jesus told those who heard Him that “the kingdom of God was near,” this was what they understood it would look like. The term “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God,” had an embedded understanding that comes both out of the story of God and his people, Israel and their understanding of the royal pronouncement of Good News represented.

So when the Jewish people heard John the Baptist and Jesus speak the phrases “good news” and “the kingdom of God has come near,” their ears immediately perked up. Here is something they’ve been waiting for, looking for. It had deep meaning to them even if many of them became disappointed and then many more disillusioned, that it wasn’t a power exchange that led to some kind of political domination.

They also recognized and understood that good news is only good news if there is a king.  They were anticipating God’s movement of anointing a new king to His kingdom who would be the deliverer of salvation for all peoples. Thus those who heard this pronouncement looked towards the one in whom the pronouncement was focused. Without the anointed king, there could be no kingdom, so the good news was the victorious king.

Thus, Peter’s epiphany–that Jesus Himself is the Messiah, the saving King who will come to usher in God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven–became those first followers’ battle cry.  It is because Jesus is that King, that Lord, that salvation from the oppressiveness of fallen humanity has broken into reality.

It is because Jesus is Lord that the sick are saved from sickness because mercy and justice are now upon them; that the “sinners” (literally “outsiders”) can be welcomed into the kingdom; that enemies can imagine what it looks like to love one another; that forgiveness can dominate and shape our thinking and actions towards one another; that we can now be in the presence of God who never stops looking for His lost children and be restored to relationship with Him and with community.

This was the rich, deep, joyful good news that pierced the hearts and souls of those who both heard and received it. It tangibly touched the aspects of their lives that were most separated from community relationships and from relationship with God their creator. It was so big that everyone with humbled hearts and willingness to rethink what they thought they already understood about God and themselves, could find a place of entry made possible by Jesus the King, Jesus their Lord. Good news indeed!

Tune in next week as we discuss what this good news means in our world today.

The Gospel According To…

By Shannon Youell

In the first blog of Killing Missional Culture, Todd Engstrom revealed the first revelation their leadership had in how they approached shifting the culture of their church to a more missional ethos. He wrote about assuming the gospel from the position that many Christians today fumble awkwardly around when asked to define the gospel. We’ve written about the importance of not assuming that our language is understood and interpreted in the same way–even among the folk in a single congregation.

I have asked groups on many occasions to define the gospel for me. The responses generally range from the gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross and when we believe in him we get to live with him forever after we die (an accurate but partial definition), to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (again the gospel is found in those books but are not the gospel themselves).

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But here was our problem: We spent so much time thinking about where we wanted to go that we forgot where our people were.

Often in our zeal and passion to follow Jesus onto the mission field, we forget where we currently sit.  This is where the hard work begins.  Going somewhere without our people is not a good demonstration of the gospel!

In Part two, “Casting Vision Without Practice,” Todd explains this pitfall further.  Congregations are the people who gather, therefore we must disciple our congregations carefully, gracefully and lovingly towards any kind of culture shift by helping them shape their lives around Jesus and God’s mission, not by leaving them in the dust!

Failures in Disguise

By Shannon Youell

The North American church is filled with passionate Jesus-following people. These people desire to join God at work in revealing the Kingdom among us through the message of Jesus our Savior AND our Lord–to realize the redemptive, restoration of community relationships: God to human and humans to humans.

Because we are humans, our best attempts can fail. And sometimes, our successes are failures in disguise when it comes to reproducible practices of disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

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We all love the success stories because we want to be one, but the reality is that because mission is contextual and cultural, methodologies are only replicable in like contexts and cultures.  Often, though, it is the stories of those who tried and failed that help us the most when it comes to our own missional work in our own communities.

For the next three weeks we will be re-posting a series aptly titled Killing Missional Culture. 

In reading this blog we were impressed with the honesty and insight that these leaders demonstrate. Each post is applicable to our ongoing discussions about creating a discipleship culture both within our existing congregations and our new expressions of gathered community.

3 Ways We Killed a Missional Culture 

  1. First, We Assumed the Gospel
  2. Second, We Cast Vision without Practices
  3. Third, We Didn’t Love Consumers

Read the introduction here so you have the context. Then, check out the first way they killed a missional culture here.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Is Our Plan Working?

By Shannon Youell

Dallas Willard said that “every church should be able to answer two questions: First, what is our plan for making disciples? Second, does our plan work?”

Is what we are currently doing shaping disciples who live out the gospel in such way that others are drawn to them and are discipled by them? When I say “gospel” I am referring to everything Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God present on earth, and what that looks like in our everyday living…and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life into it.

Our last post left us thinking about these two questions. Willard’s second question, “does our plan work?” assumes we understand what “working” implies. Our ingrained understanding is that in teaching people to read their Bible, pray, tithe, engage in good works both in the church community and the greater community around them, that we are making disciples. I believe the church has mostly done a very good job of doing these things. But have we made disciples?

In last week’s blog, I observed that the good and faithful folk at my home church were reluctant to engage in the 77 Days of Prayer because they felt they didn’t know how to pray, how to engage with the scriptures, and were uncomfortable being with folk they didn’t choose themselves to meet with! So have we made disciples as Jesus made disciples? We certainly have made good and faithful church folk.

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So is our plan working? Well, yes, if the above is what we planned to make – good and faithful service attendees. Perhaps now is exactly the time, then, to revisit our plans. Not because we shouldn’t be pastoring, leading, teaching, guiding people to discover life in Christ and the tangible ways it shapes how we choose to live our lives, but because Jesus encouraged this and then pushed us out a little further (or, depending on your particular context, a lot further).

From what I read in the Gospels, Jesus’ method of making disciples was less about corralling the sheep in a safe place, and more like inviting them out of the boat without floaties. He sent them into the leper colonies without vaccines; He sent them into the world purse-less and with no outward protection to face wolves disguised as sheep.

Jesus’ method of making disciples was life on life: take a risk, get out of your comfort zone, practice/make mistakes/learn something more/go try again until that demon listens, that mountain is thrown into the sea, that challenge is met and the Kingdom of God reveals itself right in front of our sometimes-unexpectant eyes!

When Jesus gave His disciples some of His final words while on this earth, He commanded them to make disciples devoted to and covenanted with God, and to teach those disciples to listen to and live by everything He had been teaching to the current batch of disciples. Those first disciples, upon doing that, likely told their disciples to do the same when they were ready to be sent out, since they would have been doing and saying what Jesus instructed them to do. And so on. Disciples make disciples who can make disciples.

This was what Jesus Himself called His followers to do. He commanded us to make disciples and stated He would build His church. In our current evangelical model, we usually build the church and bring those we’d like to be disciples to someone else to disciple.

So is our plan working?

Peace to This House

By Shannon Youell

Praying in our neighbourhoods is not some new postmodern formula for evangelisation. Though some see it as quite foreign, Jesus and His disciples did just that. One of my favorite verses–well actually a combination of two from John’s writings–is when Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father doing and spoke what He heard His Father speaking (John 12:49, 5:19 my paraphrase).

Jesus walked about His ordinary everyday praying and listening: listening and praying to know where God was at work in the world. Jesus was waiting to step in and reveal the Father to those around Him.

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When Jesus sent out others to share the Good News of the kingdom of God, He instructed them to go from place to place looking for where God was already at work: “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’. If a man of peace is there your peace will rest on him: if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6).

“A man of peace” indicates someone who God is already at work in, whether they are aware or unaware, someone who will listen to what the disciples have to share.This required the disciples to be attentive to where God was at work, which required them to be listening to the Father in a posture of prayer.

Luke 10 gives us much more to ponder and act upon, but as we are focusing on prayer in our neighborhoods, we leave the other instructions for another time. As we have been talking about how we engage with our neighbours, friends, co-workers, we must never lose sight of the fact that, as Cam Roxburgh states in Forge Canada’s new E-Book Volume 1, Loving God and Neighbour, “the missional conversation is about the nature and action of God in our midst, and not first about how we develop a strategy for reaching our neighbours.”

When we develop strategies without first praying and listening, we can have all the best intentions and plans in the world, but still be faced with indifference when the soil is still fallow. Prayer is our dual action of becoming more comfortable and confident that God still speaks to us today, and of preparing the hearts of ourselves and those we are praying for. As we pray for our neighbourhoods and other significant spaces, we invite the Spirit to shine light on the fields and reveal to us what He has already prepared. We are the workers. But without walking those streets, those halls, those trails and cubicle aisles, without praying as we walk, we are the unaware ones–unaware of where God is inviting us to stay awhile, eat and drink, hear stories of the lives of the people around us, and see how God is working.

From my experience, neighbourhood praying isn’t a single prayer. It is prayer that does not cease until God reveals his work both to us and to those we have been praying for. There is strategy for sure….strategy is praying consistently and listening intently. Listening to the Father always comes first for it is, after all, His work that we are joining.

I’ve mentioned before that I prayer walked our neighborhood for many years before something began to shift. Once the shift happened, I then asked God for a strategy. He gave me an uncomfortable one: to invite all the neighbors over for a “meet the neighbours” party. From that party we have been building deeper relationships with one another. These have become some of our people of peace, but it only happened because of prayer and listening.