This past Saturday at our Purpose Statement Retreat I was asked to write a blog about my understanding of a disciple. Let me start by sharing two paragraphs from the P.I.F. that I shared with the Pastor Nominating Committee of Chain of Lakes when I interviewed with them last November.
“I have a dream of following God to start a new church that makes and cultivates disciples of Jesus Christ who impact the world. The congregation’s ministries will come from the church’s desire to make disciples and cultivate discipleship. The church will have set up a discipleship process that is simple and known by each person in the congregation.
The core of the congregation will always be the love that God gave to the world in Jesus Christ and that God continues to share today by the Holy Spirit. The congregation’s theology will weave together personal faith and social witness so tightly that an outsider won’t detect if the community is liberal or conservative. Members of the church will aspire to grow and be known by three passions. They will be:
• Passionate about loving God with their mind—always wanting to grow in the intellectual dimensions of faith
• Passionate in loving God with their heart—always wanting to grow and participate in the spiritual disciplines of faith
• Passionate in loving God with their feet—always wanting to serve and bless their neighbor and the wider community
This desire to love God in these three particular ways will present a holistic style of ministry that will be widely appealing and will make a significant impact in the world and in the main-line church. By participating in the church individuals will move towards being the people who God desires for them to be.”
One of the biggest debates we had at our Retreat this past Saturday was the use of the word, “disciple.” Some of our folks found it intimidating—“you mean I am supposed to be a disciple? I can’t do that—being a disciple is only for Christians on steroids.”
I’m not looking to put people on steroids on our church—just to reclaim the biblical teaching on making and being disciples.
I understand the hesitancy for the word, “disciple.” I remember hearing Leonard Sweet speak at a Presbyterian Redevelopment Conference many years ago. He said clearly (and in a tone of voice that only he can share) that the purpose of the church is to make disciples. Even though I was an ordained pastor at the time my immediate thought was “I have to be a disciple? I don’t know if I can do that.” But then I remembered the clear teachings of Scripture about the priority of making and being a disciple.
I understand that being a disciple might seem impossible to some. But just because something is a challenge doesn’t mean we don’t have a call to pursue it. Think how powerful it would be if we could help people—in particular people who are strangers to God—realize that they can be disciples of Jesus. Think how powerful it would be if we helped people be passionate about knowing God with their mind, loving God with their heart, and serving God with their feet. If we were successful in that, we would have impact!