Written by Rick Brown
At Bishop Andrew’s urging and with our clergy and vestry leadership’s blessing, a new discussion is beginning at All Saints’ about how we do “discipleship”. Jesus tells us at the end of Matthew’s gospel to “Go and make disciples of all nations” and to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”. He makes it sound so easy! Just go and do it. He does promise to be with us “always, to the very end of the age”, which is reassuring, but that still leaves things somewhat undefined, don’t you think?
These examples from Scripture show us how we might follow Jesus’ command to make disciples. In Acts 2:42 we read that the early believers lived out a way of discipleship as “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. In Hebrews 10:23-25 we hear the call to hold fast to the hope we profess so that “we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together…but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Both of these passages show how important it is for us to be together to receive encouragement, instruction, but also the challenge to bring “love and good deeds” to those around us.
At All Saints’, we have for many years had the habit of “meeting together” for encouragement and instruction through our Sunday morning worship, child and adult spiritual formation during and after worship, and our mid-week Homegroups. And let’s not forget the various parties we have throughout the year! Yet the question I’m asking is, how often does our current way of “doing discipleship” spur us on towards love and good deeds to those outside the All Saints’ community? Are we good at making each other feel good, but lacking in risk-taking to “go and make disciples of all nations”? It may be easy to focus on the “all nations” part of Jesus’ command and think that that’s for the Fred and Carol Schaffer’s of the world, but not us. But what about our neighbor, our coworker, or anyone else we come in contact with? Is Jesus also referring to them? I think we all know the answer.
In the end, being a disciple is someone who is constantly growing into the reality of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection which was the ultimate display of his love for us. A disciple lives this growing life in reliance on God’s Holy Spirit who encourages, instructs, and spurs us on to love and good deeds. So when we do these same things when we gather, we are “keeping in step with the Spirit” as Paul says in Gal 5.25. This is good! Where this gets risky is when we put our growing life out there for all to see. Are we the same “disciple” on Monday—Saturday as we are on Sunday? If not, how can we help each become more consistent, honest and loving every day and in every circumstance? The world around us is hungry to know God’s love and Jesus has given us himself through his Spirit, his body and blood and through his church (that’s you and me!).
This is where I think we should start as we consider the question of how we “do discipleship”. First, it’s lived in community. Second, it’s taking risks trusting the Spirit to lead us out and our fellow believers to have our back. Third, it’s having a vision for seeing God’s kingdom grow and flourish in us and through us. What do we have to lose? Our pride, our position, our power? Good! That is the way of the cross as mother Susie preached last week. We are on an adventure that Jesus has called us on. The good news is he has promised to be with us always and tells us that nothing can separate us from his love. My hope is, as we grow into understanding this better together, that it may also release us to go and make disciples.