More thoughts from Nashville—
Discipleship is all about before and after…what you have in folks BEFORE discipleship and what they are AFTER a year.
Think about it this way. If you’re an operator of a fitness club and you want people to join your club, what change do you want to see in them? You want them to move from overweight to a good weight. You want them to move from unhealthy to healthy. You want them to move from feeling badly about their physical fitness to feeling good about their bodies. And, along the way, you’d hope that they build some healthy habits and some healthy relationships. You can picture the BEFORE and AFTER pictures in your advertising.
Now, in order for this change to happen, you, as a Fitness Club Operator, need to offer certain things. First, you need to have the space and the variety of equipment for them. You might have personal trainers who can work with them individually and special classes where they can work out with people who all want to play basketball or do step aerobics or yoga or power lifting. You may want to consider your hours to make the fitness club available to the most people at the most time. Perhaps you provide the necessary entertainment to keep them coming — the TVs, the snack bar, the social settings to connect with people. You probably need to think about childcare. You probably need to think about all the ways they can have healthy habits at home so they can take home what it is that they’ve learned…and indeed, become. All of these things will help move them from the BEFORE image that you put above and the AFTER image that you hope for them.
Well, how does this relate to discipleship in the church?
We have a BEFORE and AFTER as well. We believe that there are persons who are looking for a sense of belonging in the world, who are hungering for a relationship with Jesus and others. We believe that, while there is a spirality without the church, that the church can be in the business of instilling a spiritual life in persons. We hope that people learn something in the church and are called upon to service in new and exciting ways. We have a BEFORE and AFTER, where our AFTER is “a fully-committed disciple of Jesus” — not without problems and not without sin, etc.
So, in order to move folks from BEFORE to AFTER, we need to provide certain things. We need to have worship services that move them towards discipleship, that relate to their lives and can provide teaching moments. We need to be thinking about how we welcome persons in and provide discipleship opportunities and rituals for children and youth. We need to have the “small groups” for those who want to be in service to others and mission in the world. We need to be growing persons who then become equippers of others. That is the maturity of faith. That is where persons have discovered what it is that God wants them to be in the world….discovering their call.
As I look at our church in Girdwood, I realize that we are really not…really not…moving persons from a BEFORE to any planned for AFTER. I guess we just hope that persons learn discipleship by osmosis or that something just kind of collects on their feet as they come to worship with us.
More needs to be done.
A plan needs to be made.
Disciples are needed for the Kingdom.
And it has to start with us.
(And I think I should go to the gym tonight.)