Discipleship Deep, Rich, & Rooted: Being
Listen to, and reflect on, Scriptures that address our beliefs and worship:
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9
- 1 Samuel 3:1-10
- Psalm 103
- John 15:1-11, 17:6-26
- Acts 2:42-47
- Romans 12:1-2
- 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
- 2 Corinthians 4:13-13-18
- Ephesians 2:1-22, 4:1-3, 17-5:1
Lately, a lot of progress has been made in the field of DNA research. Scientists can tell you about your heritage, your propensity for specific diseases, whether or not you're a good genetic match for your mate, why we are attracted to the opposite sex, even the most likely reason for the death of the young King Tutankhamen. DNA is all about unlocking and understanding the invisible parts of our being human. But even with all of the amazing knowledge, there's still something missing: Jesus Christ.
To know Jesus is to have his very being within you. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ's presence permeates every fiber of our being and our very lives, day in and day out. As such, our lives become a daily act of worshiping our risen Lord. Worship is not something reserved for one hour every Sunday morning, but becomes a way of life, it defines who we are. Every task, every word, every act is carried out as disciples of Jesus Christ. At church, at home, on the road or in the supermarket, we are called to live out our faith as Christian disciples, sharing Christ's love with the world.
Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing, the Scripture passage says. But through Christ Jesus, we become all that God has intended for us to be. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we grow, enriched by Scripture, fellowship and prayer, to follow wherever Christ leads; toward our own unique service to God, be it in an office, at the gym, in a hospital, school, or taxi cab. We simply cannot leave our Christianity at home when we venture out into our lives, whatever they may look like.
Being Christian is who we are, not just a part of who we are. Being Christian is in our DNA, it permeates everything we say and do, everywhere we go. It is the first definable thing about us as human beings. After our Christian identity, we are then female or male, light skinned or dark, young or old. We are inseparable from our identity with Christ.
And each of us receives our own unique and particular call. God leads and we follow. God shows the way and we humbly serve each and every day of our lives. We cannot help but serve as Christ served, it's in our DNA.
- Where is God calling us as a congregation, to go? What is our mission as a congregation? Are we responding? How might we move forward in our response to God's call?
- Do we, as the church, provide opportunities for people of all ages to discover their gifts and talents? To use their gifts and talents for ministry?
- How can we best empower our members to see the ministry of their own lives?
- How might we empower those who see God's call for their personal ministry? What resources and education can we provide?
- Are we educating, empowering, and equipping people of all ages for lifelong ministry?
- Where are we succeeding in helping people tangibly and holistically live out their faith daily? Where is there room for growth?
- As a congregation, are we practicing and provided with opportunities for a balanced life of spiritual disciplines? What might be lacking? What can be done to change that?
- To the world outside our doors, are we as a congregation perceived as Christ-like in word and deed? How do we know?
Leaders and Consistories
- Are we practicing a holistic approach to discipleship? Are we modeling lives of ministry to those we lead?
- In what ways are we instrumental in helping those we lead understand their lives in Christ as holistic?
- Do we help our members understand that their lives are ministry?
- In what ways are we providing opportunities for growth and discernment of gifts?
- Are we ministering to the needs outside our doors? To those not already involved in ministry?
- How are we succeeding in being Christ-like in word and deed? Where might we need to grow?
- Where is Christ calling this church?
- Are we engaged personally as leaders, and corporately as a group, in the practice of spiritual disciplines? Where might we be unbalanced in our practice?
As human beings there are many facets to our lives that together give a complete picture of our humanity and our Christianity. A holistic approach to discipleship includes the body, mind, and spirit, as this is how we are designed by God; we are physical, emotional, cerebral, spiritual, and communal. A complimentary approach to discipleship should include both interpersonal and individual study and disciplines.
Each Christian life serves as its own unique ministry and every human being is uniquely shaped by God. Not all approaches to discipleship are helpful to all people. It is best for each person to have an understanding of her or his God-given gifts and disposition in order to find the right balance for herself or himself. But rest assured, God has a call and a purpose for each of our lives.
A good place to start is by participating in a process of discovery. The LifeKeys program, by Jane Kise, David Stark, and Sandra Krebs Hirsh, as well as Looking at Type and Spirituality, by Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jane Kise (Center for Applications of Psychological Type, Inc., 1997), are helpful resources that can be used by groups or on an individual basis. Discovering your gifts, talents, and personality type will help to unlock the mystery of who God has made you to be and help in sending you off toward your own call to ministry in Jesus Christ.
While the choices for enrichment are endless, a basic understanding of spiritual disciplines is helpful in understanding our unique connection to God through Jesus Christ. Experiment with the disciplines, try something creative, and think outside the box. You may be surprised at how God speaks to you where you least expect it.
Here are some ideas to try.
Pictures and Solitude
Find a picture that inspires you. It can be something found in nature, a great work of art, or any picture that works for you. Take paper and pen.
- Examine the picture closely. Look for what you initially did not see.
- What appears to you? What is missing?
- Write a story associated with the picture.
- Where are you in the picture? Explain. Could you at times be someone else? Explain.
- How does the picture speak to you of God/Jesus Christ? How might God be speaking to you or what might God be telling you through this picture
"Be still and know that I am God" – Psalm 46:10
There are lots of ways to pray, many forms of prayer:
- Intercession and Request
- Praise and Worship
Lectio divina is an ancient form of contemplative meditation and prayer. It started as a spiritual practice thousands of years ago in Christian monasteries by those preparing for ministry as a means of connecting to and communing with God on a personal level.
Instruction from Thomas Keating on "The Method of Centering Prayer" is posted on www.contemplativeoutreach.org.
With paper and pen to record thoughts, reflection, and comments, read and reflect on John 17 (20 minutes). Ask:
- Where is God speaking to me?
- What is God telling me?
- What do I need to look at again?
- What lines stand out the most? Why might that be?
- How am I to grow from this?
Service to God and the Community
By looking outside of our own church doors, we find the needs of our community. The church was not founded in order to make a place for members to gather, but to be a place where gathered members are fed to go out into the community and serve. Jesus cared for the needs of others through feeding, healing, talking, walking and living his life for others. As Christ's followers, we are called to do likewise.
Take a close look at the needs of those outside your doors. Then respond accordingly. At one church in New Jersey, this need was for a safe and welcoming place for middle school youth in the hours after school let out for the day, but before parents had come home from work. This church started an afterschool ministry for the children and their parents that has become a true blessing in the lives of those it serves.
Another church sits in a community largely made up of unemployed professionals looking for work. By utilizing the gifts and talents of its members, the congregation reached out to the community by starting a networking group for the unemployed. Many people attend the monthly meetings, and many meaningful and rewarding relationships have resulted in new jobs for those who attend.
A professional woman with a stressful and important job at a high profile company understood the needs of her fellow coworkers for nurture and enrichment at the workplace. She started a weekly lunch-time Bible study group that feeds its members with the Word while providing its members not affiliated with a church the important, but often overlooked need for Christian community and accountability.
The Christian life is one of renewal, growth and outreach. While it is God who does the growing, and Jesus who does the saving, it is up to each one of us to seek out ways to nurture and enrich our walk with Christ Jesus.
If Christianity is a part of our very being, and Jesus Christ is the essence of that being, then we have no choice but to be like Christ. The very fiber of our being demands that we live lives based on the example of the life of Christ.
- Lived in community
- Practiced spiritual disciplines
- Prayed regularly for himself and others
- Looked to the needs of others
- Understood and accepted his humanity
- Trusted and relied on God
- Taught and spoke in public about who he knew God to be
- Was not ashamed of his role, did not apologize for turning people off
- Made some people angry
- Lived his life in continual ministry
- Surrounded himself with supportive people and friends
- Had time for all people--young and old, rich and poor, clean and unclean
- Served God by serving others
- Saved the world
With the one exception of redeeming the world, as Christian followers we look to Christ as our example of how to live. Redemption is Christ's work.
Find others to share your faith with. Join a group that holds its members accountable to holistic Christian being.
Share the story of you faith journey.
Share ideas and practices for personal ministry.
Share ideas for spiritual disciplines/reflections.
The Apprentice Series, by James Bryan Smith. InterVarsity Press.
This series is designed to guide readers in an apprenticeship with Jesus recognizing that we follow Jesus to become like Jesus. While each book in the series can be read by an individual they also include reflection questions throughout each chapter as well as a group guide appendix that offers discussion questions for each chapter. The series website includes a leader's guide. The first two books in the trilogy are available: The Good and Beautiful God and The Good and Beautiful Life. The Good and Beautiful Community will be available in September.
Companions on the Way. Reformed Church Press (available through Faith Alive Christian Resources).
The customizable process described in this book helps congregations (especially pastors and elders) intentionally evangelize and welcome new disciples to Christ and the church.
Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ (Expanded Edition), by Greg Ogden. InterVarsity Press.
Designed for groups of three (triads), this workbook aids them to study the Bible and encourage one another. It can also be used individually and in small groups.
Shaped by God: Twelve Essentials for Nurturing Faith in Children, Youth, and Adults, edited by Robert J. Keeley. Faith Alive Christian Resources.
Faith formation doesn't just happen--it's a Spirit-led lifelong process of shaping and reshaping. In this accessible anthology, twelve experts share their perspectives on faith formation at home, in worship, in education, in intergenerational contexts, in people with developmental disabilities, and more.
The Top Ten Questions about God: And How to Respond to Them, by Troy Nanninga and Kirsty DePree. Reformed Church Press (available on the RCA website and through Faith Alive Christian Resources).
This book provides biblical answers to some of the most-asked questions about the Christian faith. Useful for individuals, in mentoring experiences, triads, and small groups.
Your Journey to a Prayerful Life, by Barbara Schutt. Chalice Press.
This study encourages readers to explore what the Bible teaches about prayer and develops a closer relationship to God as a result. It contains specific ways to pray and suggested actions to accompany the lessons.