Revd Matthew Prior, Adult Discipleship Development Adviser
We live in a country where still over half of the population self-identify as Christian - a fact in which lies both comfort and challenge. For many, the Christian faith is still an influence, but the title ‘Christian’ won’t change us or change our world. It’s as Jesus becomes the active guide we follow that transformation comes.
I love the fact that when the risen Jesus told his first followers to make disciples of all nations, he took them back home, to Galilee, to where they’d started out with him. They had an adventure ahead, but what they learnt there, through a pattern of trial and error, grace and forgiveness, risk and reward, was the way to do it. If we’re going to make disciples today, we need to keep reading the Gospels, keep going back to Galilee in our mind’s eye. That’s where it begins.
"If we’re going to make disciples today, we need to keep reading the Gospels, keep going back to Galilee in our mind’s eye. That’s where it begins."
So, how do we make disciples of Jesus? There are no formulas here but I’ve found two shifts may be helpful.
Firstly, the shift from meetings to meeting God in everyday life, at the frontline. We can’t share our faith if we don’t know how to live it in the first place! Perhaps we need to ask of our churches: how much of what we say here revolves around commitment to attending things, and how much actually equips and sends people out to follow Jesus in their nearby homes and faraway workplaces, at the school gates, on holiday or online? That’s why we gather. If you’re a church leader, have you considered mapping the daily frontlines of your church when it’s scattered in the world from Monday to Saturday?
The second shift is from running programmes to releasing gifts. ‘Discipleship’ makes us think of courses and programmes and there are lots of excellent resources out there. But the best groups are not those that follow a programme but those that meet people at their point of need, connect them to others and release them into their God-given gifts. Take a look at the Connect Groups at St Mary’s, East Molesey for inspiration. And have you considered the potential of alternative groups such as triplets or 1-to-1 mentoring relationships to help people grow in their gifts? As a diocese, we also seek to resource individuals and groups in their spiritual growth through quiet days and training events.
"We won’t get it right all the time. Making disciples is, after all, an adventure of trial and error, grace and forgiveness, risk and reward."
We won’t get it right all the time. Making disciples is, after all, an adventure of trial and error, grace and forgiveness, risk and reward, just as it was in Galilee. But it all starts with a basic confidence that following Jesus transforms everything, because, after all, it’s what we’re all made for.
- For those who are interested in developing their discipleship through structured study, the diocesan Local Ministry Programme opens up about six modules during the academic year for anyone who is interested to join the group who are training for ministry. These include topics such as Biblical Studies, Mission and Evangelism, Church History and Christian Ethics.