Discipleship is a buzzword often used in church, but what does it really mean?
For Christians, it is about growing and learning fully what it means to be Christ-like: modelling and living a life as followers of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is actually modelled after the Jewish tradition of rabbis teaching and raising up students. Students would commit their lives to learn everything their rabbi knew, they lived with him, studied his actions and responses and eventually began to live just like him.
Just the same, we are invited to commit our lives to learn everything about Jesus and as much as possible, live like Him.
For the Church, this should be a cyclical process – meaning once we are discipled, we are to disciple others, and so on.
One of the most important characteristics of being a disciple is to develop an intimate relationship with God through Christ rather than just learning about Him. Discipleship equips the Christian with God’s Word, prayer, doctrine, worship, encouragement, and service.
Another important facet of discipleship is about building a relationship with others. We learn from each other’s stories and journeys — the highs and lows. Throughout history, the use of stories has played a significant part in knowing ourselves and those around us. This is also true when we look at our parishes.
How likely are we to feel connected without knowing the people we worship with? Do you feel connected and valued when you arrive as worship starts and are the first one out the door? It is unlikely that a strong connection will be built with just a passing nod while walking up to receive the Eucharist or a quick handshake during The Peace.
Discipleship training takes commitment, vision and understanding the Scriptures. In reading the words of Jesus, we see that discipleship is not just an option for believers.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This is the mission and purpose of the Church. We are to equip and grow disciples who in turn go out to equip and disciple others.
You’ll notice, hopefully, that as a diocese we will be placing an emphasis on discipleship over the course of this next season. One of the highlights that came out of our study of Surprise the World last year, was the need to focus on intentional discipleship in our parishes and diocese.
The global Anglican Communion has launched an initiative until 2026 to encourage dioceses and parishes across the globe to be intentional about discipling those connected to us.
As leaders in the Church, it is our responsibility to ensure that people have the opportunity to know and live what they profess to believe.
In 2019, we will be offering some discipleship days to begin this process — to lay a foundation. You are encouraged to attend any that are of interest. These days are not only about teaching, but about building a relationship with those across the diocese.
In June, a diocesan gathering will be held to encourage all members of our diocese in their life and ministry. Michael Frost, author of Surprise the World, will be our keynote speaker with Bishop David Edwards and other great deep dives and workshops.
Retreats and parish resources will be made available as well throughout the year.
“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:17). Now as much as any time in history, we are in need of good news and hope. What better opportunity for us as believers, as a community, as a fellowship in the diocese to be equipped and prepared to offer good news and share our hope with those around us.