Discipleship - Is it Happening?
By Mary Keesic
One of the values of Living Hope Native Ministries is to develop local churches that disciple believers to learn and grow in faith and in their knowledge of Jesus. Why is discipleship important? In our busy world, is discipleship happening?
By definition, a disciple is a learner, a follower of Jesus. He is teachable and in training by instruction and exercise to grow into a mature believer. Jesus said in Matthew 29:19, “Go…and make disciples of all the nations”. With this imperative in mind, we may well wonder how one becomes a disciple of Jesus? How can we help others become disciples? Luke 14: 27 says, “Whoever does not …come after (follow) me cannot be my disciple.” And again in John 8:21, Jesus said, “If ye abide in (live in, obey) My Word, you are my disciples indeed.”
I believe that discipleship is happening now at New Hope Church in Thunder Bay! Let’s consider what is taking place on a typical Wednesday evening at the church. Tables have been set up in the dining room and chairs placed by 6:15 pm. Minutes later, the room fills with twenty to forty chattering men and women of all ages from the church and the local Teen Challenge ministry. Pizza has arrived, or at times a home cooked meal is served. After prayer, the men and women line up to fill their plates with delicious pizza, a healthy salad, and a dessert and coffee.
The conversation and sharing that occurs during the meal is key to fellowship and the development of trusting relationships. After supper, everyone helps to wash tables and re-stack chairs, sweep the floor, empty the garbage, and tidy the kitchen. Then the group meets in the auditorium to sing worship songs before viewing a Bible study on the screen. Topics vary, but they focus on learning the Bible and how to follow Jesus and become His disciple. A recent study was about the Ten Commandments. Our pastor has prepared a sheet of questions and verses related to the Bible study which guides the leaders of small groups that gather in opposite corners of the auditorium.
The sharing, scripture reading, laughter, and sometimes tears, are an indication that valuable teaching and discipleship is happening. Individual needs and concerns are expressed in the conversations. Prayer requests are made. The group leader then guides the group into prayer and intercession for each person and need. As we part, sometimes there are hugs and handshakes as we anticipate our gathering the next week.
I believe that this weekly gathering of believers is a true picture of discipleship which involves teaching of the Word and worship. There is instruction and discussion and prayer. Fellowship and food are also important components of discipleship. ‘Instruction (training, discipline) in righteousness’ is vital to become a mature Christian, who is ‘equipped for every good work’. II Timothy 3:16, 17
A quarterly publication presenting news and stories of Living Hope Native Ministries, a partnership dedicated to serving the First Nations of Ontario.
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That in every First Nations context the local church would reach its full potential--worshipping in full devotion, attracting the seekers, mobilizing believers, restoring families, changing communities, affecting the world.
by Mary and Jeff Kirkpatrick
It’s hard to say when it started, but discipleship has been a growing desire for our family. When our home church in Pennsylvania announced that the topic for their annual conference this year would be “Making Disciples Who Make Disciples,” we decided to extend a family visit so we could attend. It wasn’t just good teaching for us, it was professional development!
True disciples make disciples. We want to do more than just keep youth off the streets or start a Bible Study (as much as we are crazy Bible nerds and LOVE that). We want to follow Jesus and bring other people along to follow him too - to be people who also bring others on the lifetime journey of following Jesus. It’s about the life we live, not about more knowledge or the “sinner’s prayer” we prayed one time…or over and over again.
The conference speaker was Galen Burkholder from Global Disciples. Their organization makes disciples in difficult situations around the world, but they claim it’s a simple process. One of the questions in the Q&A session was “why is the church expanding in other countries and struggling in the west?” And Galen said, “Obedience.” Then he went on to explain and clarify. But…Jesus told us to make disciples, and they take that seriously. The Global Disciples organization doesn’t have a big curriculum. Half their training is “book learning” and half is practical application. The take-away session had five things to do.
- Pursue intimacy with Jesus
- Love others as Jesus loves them
- Pray persistently for people who don’t know Jesus
- Live generously as God’s stewards
- Rely on the Holy Spirit and the truth of God’s word
We have been talking about doing some sort of group for months, never nailing down exactly what we were supposed to do. Discussion after discussion left us without a decision. But by the end of January we had an answer. We want to do a weekly prayer and fellowship time at our house for young adults. We’ll talk about what God’s word teaches us about life and how to follow Jesus. We’ll encourage one another and pray for one another. We will all learn and grow with each other.
That’s our current goal. Our longer-term dream includes shared living spaces for discipleship. Jesus and the disciples lived in community for three years while they learned from him. That’s how Jesus did it. Since following Jesus is about how we live, not just what we believe, we need to live in community with other believers and learn to live like Jesus. Whether it would be a tiny house community, or an extra bedroom in our home, our discipleship dream looks like a shared living space with young adults to teach not just the Bible, but how to live like Jesus. Maybe they will have jobs, maybe they will be at university, maybe they will be mission interns.
A few years ago we had Mary’s sister live with us for a year right out of high school, and it made a big difference in her life. It also gave us more of a vision for how important it is to live in community with others. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. This dream is not for everyone; there are other ways of making disciples but it is our dream and we pray it can someday be reality.
For now, please pray with us that God would call people to our group, that we would call the right people, and they would come, follow Jesus. You too. Come, follow Jesus. Make disciples who make disciples.
Go, Make Disciples
By Andrew Lang
Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus has very explicit instructions for us here; he commands us to go, a call that isn’t tied to spiritual gifting or skills. This is a universal command for all of us who believe. We must all be active in spreading God’s word. It doesn’t mean we have to go far, but we do need to be an active agent in bringing the word of truth to those in the world. It also commands us to make disciples, NOT converts but disciples…Jesus doesn’t let us off easily here. We’re not called to convert people and baptize them and run away. We need to be committed to walking alongside those with whom we share the good news, so that we can train them up, teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us to do.
This seems like a big task, doesn’t it? The good news is that Jesus didn’t leave us with the Great Commission and return to heaven without empowering us with his Spirit. He continually convicts, guides, and nurtures us into the people Jesus wants us to become. As a ministry, LHNM is committed to walking alongside people in a discipling relationship. It will take longer and be less flashy than large campaigns with emotional altar calls that ask people to make commitments without weighing the cost. What we hope to see as a result of our ministry work is strong, faithful Indigenous believers who make more disciples within their local communities and circles of influence. I’m convinced that we are on the precipice of seeing big things from God in the lives of people around us.
Would you prayerfully consider how you might get more involved with us at LHNM? We have a need for staff and resources right now. If you’re reading this and the Spirit is stirring you, please don’t ignore it. Please seek God and ask him how he would like you to get more involved with us today. You’re not off the hook if you don’t feel called to get more involved with LHNM right now. I believe God is calling all of us to make disciples wherever we are, so I challenge you to stop and pray and ask God to open your eyes to the opportunities that he has prepared for you. I hope you will be encouraged to see God at work all around you as you trust and obey him more every day.
LaMar and Janice Weaver moved to Red Lake almost 25 years ago, and have been a valuable part of LHNM ever since. LaMar has given countless hours of his many talents to help produce LHNM’s quarterly newsletter Hopelines, the annual calendar, and other publications. Among other ministries, he also coordinated short-term teams, working with both the sending and hosting churches. We have been looking for someone to help with graphic design over the last few years and we’re pleased to say we’ve found someone to help with our publications and graphic design needs. LaMar won’t be working the layout of our publications anymore, but we are so grateful that LaMar has agreed to continue taking photos for LHNM publications along with being a valued and reliable resource for our staff and VBS teams. Thank you for your years of faithful partnership with LHNM, LaMar and Janice.