A meditation on the journey of discipleship
What is a Christian disciple?
It’s a term we often use,
but rarely think about carefully. Like an arrow fired from a distance
at a very slightly inaccurate angle, the word disciple somehow seems to
have strayed further and further away from its target as the centuries
have gone by. What do you think of when you consider the word
‘disciple’? Is it a term you would apply to yourself?
Student, or apprentice?
Our English word ‘disciple’ means ‘a person who learns’, and
we often understand discipleship as a process of learning – learning
which involves study. So for us, to grow in discipleship often means to
grow in knowledge and understanding, particularly of the Bible. But
when we read the Bible, we don’t actually see Jesus’s disciples engaged
in study; we see them being trained to do the things that Jesus did.
They were more like apprentices than like disciples. Are you learning
to do the things that Jesus did?
– George MacDonald
Knowing, or becoming?
When we decide to follow Jesus, we are given the Holy Spirit
as our guide and teacher. Through the presence of the Spirit in our
lives, we are enabled to grow and change. We become more and more like
Jesus himself, and we gradually acquire the inner beauty of a person
being made clean from the inside out. Meditate on this thought:
Alone, or together?
We are used to thinking about life in individual terms, and this
colours our attitude to faith too. But in the New Testament we see
something rather different. Jesus did not recruit individuals, he
recruited a group – a group who would, for three years, do everything
together. He taught them to love one another, to minister alongside one
another, to depend on one another. When he left them, he sent the Holy
Spirit to be with them instead, and the Holy Spirit equipped them to
minister not as individuals but as connected branches of a single vine,
as different parts of a single body.
What about you – do you belong to a community which can pray, learn and minister together?
The plural of disciple is church
The word ‘disciple’ is used throughout the Gospels and the Book of Acts
– but never in the Epistles. Why is this? Partly to make it absolutely
clear that discipleship is first and foremost about following Jesus.
But there’s another reason too. Peter, James and John have a new word
to talk about discipleship – it’s the word ‘church’. Church is a group
word – it refers to a group of people who have been called to follow
Jesus together. Just as we talk about individual houses making up a
village, so we talk about individual disciples making up a church. The
plural of disciple is not disciples – it’s church. This meaning is
buried in our language; the English word church means ‘of the Lord’.
Would you describe your church as a group of disciples committed to following Jesus?
A lifelong journey
To be a disciple of Jesus was to travel, and so it has always been. Before the word ‘Christian’ was invented, the disciples of Jesus were known as followers of ‘The Way’. Christian discipleship is not about knowing things, believing things, attending things, or belonging to things – it’s about setting out on a shared journey, a journey which will change who we are and the way we live our lives, a journey which begins here but will carry us ultimately into another world. Discipleship is a journey in which we learn gradually to move into the space made available to us by Jesus.
It’s not meant to be easy...
What is the cost of discipleship for you?
Praying for grace
Reflect on the things you have been praying about as you have considered your own journey of discipleship – apprenticeship, becoming, community, journey, cost. What is the key element for which you need to ask for God’s grace?
All photos © ReSource
At ReSource we are coming increasingly to believe that discipleship is the key issue for our times. We publish and support a discipleship course for Africa called Rooted in Jesus, and our understanding of what it means to be a disciple has been transformed by the experiences and example of our brothers and sisters there. We have developed a similar, three-part course for use in this country, The God Who Is There. The first book, Beyond Ourselves, focusses on finding God and beginning our journey; the second, The New Community, helps us grow together as a community focussed on Jesus; and the third, Shining Like Stars, looks at how we conduct our daily lives in the context in which we have been placed. For more information visit our Rooted in Jesus and Publications pages.
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found out through trial and error! When God's children pray; people get
healed, coincidences occur with statistical impossibility, lives are
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