September 10, 2015

Discipleship Matters

What is discipleship? What does it mean to be a disciple in today’s world?

Jesus is pretty clear that this is important. We call it the Great Commission, the passage of scripture where Jesus commands (yes, commands) that we “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” (Matthew 28:19-20). And to be able to go and make disciples, we have to be one ourselves.

But what does that mean? Is discipleship a buzzword without substance? A fine thing to say and a hard thing to do?

I suspect each of us has our own version of a definition for discipleship but we should also have a common understanding. Essentially discipleship is about living for Jesus, seeking to grow in a deeper relationship with the living Christ, and to do that in community, talking about our faith with others, witnessing by word and deed what it means to live as a Jesus follower. It means that we are committed to not only being there in the beginning as someone embraces Christianity but also walking with the person as he or she grows in the faith, teaching and learning along with him or her.

It’s a tall order. When we define our lives of faith, we might start with calling ourselves Christians. How long (if ever) would we call ourselves disciples? Yet Christ wants this for us. Wants us to jump with both feet into a life of learning and growing. 

As we grapple with this awesome obligation, we may need some tools to help us define and understand discipleship both personally and as a community. RenewalWorks, a ministry of Forward Movement (where I work), is seeking to shine a light on discipleship. Building on research from thousands of individuals and churches, RenewalWorks has been able to pinpoint specific spiritual practices that can help us live into our call as disciples. For instance, engagement with scripture is one of the most important activities folks can do if they want to grow in faith. 

As part of its commitment to discipleship and to providing tools and a deeper understanding of the concept, RenewalWorks is hosting a conference called (pointedly), “Discipleship Matters.” The conference features two well-known faith leaders (and disciples!): Carol Anderson, retired rector of All Saints’, Beverly Hills, and Dwight Zscheile, priest, professor of congregational mission and leadership, and author of two seminal books, The Agile Church: Spirit-Led Innovation in an Uncertain Age and People of the Way: Renewing Episcopal Identity

The conference is a great way to explore discipleship—for those who already are deeply engaged and for those just starting. (Learn more about and register for the conference here). But even if you can’t attend the conference, commit to being a disciple of Christ. It really matters. 

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