In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”
Even before COVID-19 the Australian church and the Western Church more broadly had been in decline for decades. So, as we now look to build our pathway out of isolation, perhaps it is time to look at how we operate together as the church; how we are being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world; and how we are taking up God’s mission to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).
Biblically speaking discipleship is not so much a program, but a culture. The ultimate goal of a discipleship is multiplying faithful followers of Christ to the ends of the earth and to the end of time. Jesus envisioned that the world would be won to to him through the witnessing, teaching and example of His followers. That is His plan! Disciples encouraging and maturing each other, refining our lives until every area of our life simply oozes the love and light of Christ, and bringing others into relationship with Him by intentionally loving those around us in Jesus name. Programs are sometimes valuable parts of a disciple making culture, but in and of themselves can not fulfil the mission to create disciples who in turn make disciples. Discipleship is intentionally relational: the people of God, encouraging each other with the word of God, for the ministry of God, to the glory of God! This was the method given by Jesus, this was the method embraced by the early church, this is the method which will transform the world - one life at a time.
How does it work? Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Paul writes 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”, and Philippians 4:9 “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” In other words real discipleship happens in the ordinary ebb and flow of life; it must be part of our daily life, not just something we do on Sunday. Practically, on a personal level this investing in our relationship with Christ every day, being willing to look to others for guidance and encouragement in our Christian walk, and then intentionally looking to guide and encourage others as they grow in relationship with Jesus. On a church level disciple-making must sit as the core mission of the church; in disciple-making churches, all members live discipleship personally, talk about it regularly, and go out of their way to make it an everyday reality. Yes they have programs, but they also have pathways, connection/life groups, prayer groups and small group Bible studies. They focus on relational mission and discipleship because they know that this results in Christ-followers who in turn produce Christ-followers. This is what we see take place in the early Church, and this is the mission to which we are called.
We have been commanded to go and make disciples and to bear fruit: This is the mission of God in the hands of ordinary people … are you ready to answer His call?
Grace & Peace
It seems the whole world has gone “online”!
This social isolation has transformed how we do anything and everything. There are things we never imagined doing online, yet here we are: from church to coffee catch ups, choir practice to playdates, even doctors visits and dinner parties; it seems there is nothing which we can not do remotely. Suddenly, it seems we have found that random people in video form have become fixtures of our everyday life, keeping us fit, keeping us laughing, keeping us thinking.
Like so many churches across the globe, we have taken to streaming services and ramped up social media presence as a way keeping us connected as a community, and keeping our hearts and minds focussed on God. So, in many ways it is business as usual (with an online twist). Yet there are still so many who are outside our church community who are isolated, lost and lonely; so the question arises: can we make disciples in isolation?
Our calling as disciples is to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus does not qualify this with “just so long as you can get out and about”, so I read this as saying go and make disciples in any context, and at any time. Disciple making is not simply one on one contact imparting knowledge and wisdom; true disciple making should be considered more as life on life sharing of self, a building of God-honouring relationships in order to transform lives with the love and truth of the gospel, and to help them learn how to live this out in their everyday. The early disciples not only heard the teaching, but they saw an example of how what they had heard could be lived out in their context, and it transformed the world! So how can we share a Jesus infused life in our current contexts? Is it possible to do this in isolation? What examples can we draw on? We need look no further than the Bible! The Apostle Paul managed a disciple making relationship with Timothy from the isolation of a first century prison! Paul used what the confines of his context allowed (letters and messengers) to encourage, build up, correct and caution young believers. Paul chose to be a disciple maker despite his circumstances; by sharing life on life he built an enduring relationship, and we are still beneficiaries of his work today. His example shows us that true disciple-making is about relationship - and not even social isolation can stop that!
So, will you choose to be a disciple maker in isolation? Will choose to encourage others to build their life on the rock of Jesus Christ by sharing your life with them? Will you be an example of a Jesus exalting life from the confines of your home? It’s as easy as picking up a pen, picking up the phone, sending an email, or getting on line; let’s all get on board with true disciple making and transform the world one life at a time!
Grace & Peace,
Easter 2020 in Australia was radically different to what we are used to. Instead of full churches, fun with family and friends and parades and celebrations; we gathered together through technology, remained isolated from others, and watched in disbelief at the tragic loss of life across the globe. For many in our communities, this Easter was marked by fear, anxiety, loneliness and hopelessness. But when we look at Easter 2020 through the eyes of faith, what we truly see was an undistracted Easter; a day where the anxieties of our world simply highlighted the power and beauty of what Christ accomplished for us through His death and resurrection; it captured beautifully the tension between fear and hope.
As Disciples of Jesus, we know that because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are people of hope, not of hopelessness. As Christians we know that God’s grace can transform the most hopeless situations to the greatest of victories; the greatest isolation into incredible community; and the deepest sadness into unspeakable joy. Because we are a people of hope, even in situations where things have fallen (or are falling) apart and all seems lost, we can get up, put one foot in front of the other, and let God make something beautiful out of it. We know with certainty that God IS working all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. And what is this purpose? To live our lives on purpose. To be intentional about how we live in all things - to bring honour and glory to His name. Jesus said:
Let’s move forward living the Easter life everyday; let’s share our hope, our joy and our peace with a lost, hurting and desperate world.
In His strength and through His grace.
As we approach Easter in a radically different environment:
Our world in recent weeks has changed dramatically. Our country and our community is just emerging from a summer of scorching heat, devastating bushfires and uncontrollable flood. And now, with the added uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, for many it is almost unimaginable to find new life amidst the ashes and hope amidst the turmoil. BUT GOD!
While we may be struggling with the pace of change right now, as Christians it is important that we recognise that some things remain constant. The message of the gospel is one of the things never changes, regardless of the turbulence around us.
Redemption. Resurrection. Eternal life. Our new normal means that we will be gathering online this Easter; however Easter is not cancelled! The Church building may be closed but this simply enables God to deploying His people in new and exciting ways, taking the message of Easter into neighbourhoods, driveways, letterboxes and online forums: we are taking the message out, rather than expecting a lost and broken world to come in.
The message of Easter is even more relevant in times of darkness, difficulty and change, as it reminds us that in our darkest days, hope rises amidst heartache. The reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest message ever given to humanity. It’s the ultimate ‘signal of hope’. So as we approach Easter this year lets pray for our neighbours, our friends and our enemies alike; lets remember to give thanks to God for His great love for all humankind, and for His great victory through the cross. And let’s be prepared to be deployed as ambassadors of Christ, sharing his message of Hope, Forgiveness and Redemption with lost and broken world.
Standing firm in His Grip & Grace.
There is no doubt that our society is experiencing unprecedented uncertainty. The rapid rise of COVID-19 has seen people purchasing household items and food at alarming rates, leaving store shelves empty of basic goods and rationing of potentially life saving medicines. In the land of mateship and a fair go we have witnessed widespread selfishness and opportunistic profiteering which has left many of us bewildered and breathless, and so soon after the generosity displayed during the bush fire crisis just a few short weeks ago. The media is updating us around the clock of developments across the globe, and our Government is rapidly tightening border control, internal movement and access to public gatherings. Right now, the cultural response contains a lot of fear and political wrangling - we need to be wary of both. Fear doesn’t stay at fear, it quickly turns into anxiety, stress, selfishness, and even anger; and none of these glorify God. So how should we as disciples of Jesus respond in this rapidly changing environment?
Firstly to quote a member of QLD Health “We can not pour from an empty bucket”; self care is important! Be fed with the word of God daily, follow all guidelines for health and hygiene, get plenty of rest and remember to wash your hands (Christians believe in both the power of prayer and soap!)
Then you can:
And we can do the same today!
Let’s work to His praise and Glory in all times and in all places.
On our theme of ‘making disciples’
Jesus taught his disciples to live in view not of today or tomorrow, but eternity. We try to help others follow Jesus; we do deliberate spiritual good; we pray for gospel influence; we proclaim God’s words, and we do all this for the sake of the Last Day. Yes, we may see some fruit now. But the goal is always to present people mature in Christ then.
Discipling at its core is about initiating a relationship with another person in which you teach, correct, model, and love. It’s about uplifting, encouraging and seeking spiritual growth for that person.
In teaching we teach the words of Jesus (all of them), and all the words of the Bible (even if they make us uncomfortable). In the church we do this through expository preaching. We encourage people to attend Bible study, and we are we encourage people to good authors and books to encourage their faith. One on one and in small groups teaching occurs as people learn to have spiritually meaningful conversations with each other; It’s fine to talk about football or the kids’ school. But talk about Sunday’s sermon as well. Learn to ask each other what God has been teaching you about himself, or how you have seen God at work in the everyday this week.
This may seem a little awkward at first - but the eternal benefits are out of this world!
To His glory alone
On our theme of ‘making disciples’
As we have previously discussed our unique gifts and talents ensure that no two disciples look exactly the same, as such we can expect that disciple making will also look different based on our individual interests, strengths and abilities. However there are common habits/themes which can be found in the lives of most active disciple-makers and these fall into three broad categories of Head, Heart & Hands
Habits of the Head: (Knowing)
To His glory alone
On our theme of ‘making disciples’.
What does a Disciple maker do?
Jesus was a disciple maker - He made disciples who made disciples. Jesus spent time with his disciples; he trained them, and he showed them how to pray. He helped them learn to trust God, to serve, to meet needs, to cast out demons, to teach the Scriptures, and so much more. Jesus instruction to his disciples is to “make disciples … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). With this in mind I think there are four key things which every disciple maker needs to do:
This list are just a starting point; a full list of what a disciple maker does would be very very long indeed.
What else might you include?
To His glory alone
On our theme of ‘making disciples’.
Money and investment is always a hot button item in churches today; Christians along with our neighbours are rightly concerned with budget, providing for our families and retirement planning. We are encouraged throughout scripture to be good stewards of our God-given resources, and generous on our giving; however at the same time scripture is also quite clear that financial security and earthly investments are not the ultimate aim for the Christian.
As disciples of Jesus, we should follow him in all things including what we treasure and what we invest in; so what does Christ treasure?
Biblical discipleship at its heart concerned with the investment of time; time in the word of God individually, and time in the lives of others. Beyond first decisions investing in discipling others means meeting regularly with other (sometimes new) Christians and opening God’s word for dialogue, correction, encouragement, or prayer, and together seeking to apply the word of God to our lives.
By investing time in the word of God and investing time in discipling others you are investing in the kingdom of God. Even if you only have 10min a day to be able to read or listen to the world of God - do it. And if you can only find 30min a week to invest in someone’s life - do it!
The dividends are eternal: treasure in heaven!
To His glory alone
Our overarching theme at St Luke’s in 2020 is making disciples.
Matthew 28:19 has come to be known as The Great Commission - the mission of every believer, the mission of the church. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”
This is the assignment given to us by Jesus, however you will note that the punctuation is a comma, not a full stop. There is more! Jesus didn’t leave it at ‘make converts’ he went on to say in V20 “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
By doing so Jesus assures us of his continual presence as we obey his command and, just as importantly, he told us how to do fulfil his command. So, How are we to make disciples? By baptising them and teaching them to obey. So there are two parts to what Jesus is asking us to do:
1: Share our faith - evangelising/making converts
2: Intentionally help others to engage in, grow in and live out their faith. - teaching them to obey
As Christians - as disciples of Jesus this is our mission!
We don’t have to become street preachers; Jesus walked along with his disciples and taught them as He went. He shared the Good News at every opportunity, and then as people came to faith, he taught through everyday process - the familiar, such as water, wheat, and even fish to teach Kingdom lessons to those who followed Him. He gives each of us common things every day that are opportunities to teach those around us. Are we willing to take the opportunities He gives us, regardless of where we live, to advance the Kingdom and make disciple makers?
Why should we do it
To His glory alone
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!