it’s the relationships

My friend Steve gave me Jesus Driven Ministry by Ajith Fernando for my ordination last month, and I’ve been reading it in bits and pieces. Today I was looking at the chapter on “Launching Disciples into Ministry” as I’m working on understanding what Jesus was trying to say to us when He commanded us to “make disciples”.

Fernando talks for a couple of chapters about spending unscheduled daily time with the people you are leading, getting to know them, understanding them and helping them understand you. This is, of course, the model that Jesus used with His followers.

He writes,

I want to close this discussion by saying that the type of commitment to people advocated in the last two chapters is not an outmoded and impractical relic of the past that is incompatible with today’s fast paced life. The ideal organizational culture for an institution in society is governed by the need to achieve a mission. And success in achieving this mission is determined by meeting certain measurable goals. Such thinking can help a church or organization to get out of a rut and to grow. But we must never forget that, at its heart, Christan organizational culture is relational and not project-driven. Loving each other by dying for each other is basic to Christian organizational life. Many in our generation have lost this concept, and the church has paid a huge price because of that loss.

And I keep reading these days that the mission of the Church is found not in anything new, but in the almost last words of Jesus on earth: go and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:18-20) So often we have made that be about missions, and it is. But really, it is about teaching people how to be Christ followers, people who have decided that the way to live life is according to what Jesus said.

Of course, this is a pretty messy process. It involves time, patience, conversation. It involves transparency and forgiveness. It involves life together.

But being the church rather than going to church, and being Christ followers rather than any other kind of follower, is the point.

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5 responses to “it’s the relationships

  1. Jon, this fits so beautifully with what my sunday school class (Life Together!) was talking about when last we met. Do you mind if I copy and take it in to read to them?

  2. At the beginning of your post, I thought about homeschooling. I think this discipleship model is at work in many families who teach their children at home. For some, that is the goal and reason for choosing the method, if if that could not be articulated at the outset.

    I can’t tell you how many things I’ve read/heard lately that come back to the simple thought you expand: it’s the relationship.

  3. Jon – there is so much talk about discipleship these days I’m afraid it will just turn into a fad. But as you said, this is rooted in history. It’s what God has asked us to do.

    As I reorient my life and ministry around discipleship I’m finding a new set of pitfalls. For example, ‘teaching people to obey all [Christ] has commanded [us]’ can easily become a legalistic list of commands to be obeyed.

    But as I encounter these obsticles in my life and ministry they offer new opportunities for growth and understanding.

    The idea of ‘unscheduled time’ with people is something that is so necessary but lacking in my own life. One nice thing about Cyprus is that the pace of life and cultural dynamics allow for casual interaction more easily than in America, I think.

  4. Anna – absolutely, since classes are a key place–or can be–where relationship is developed.

    Amy and Rick – there is always a scary place between fad and movement of the Holy Spirit. The measure ultimately will be whether we take the very hard step of making changes in our own lives and calling for change in the lives of those we are working with.

    Rick – I agree completely wiht that legalistic concern. I’m aware that by teaching to obey what Jesus said, it does mean that we need to shed some of the things that we have taught that He DIDN’T say (tobe completely petty, We are concerned about attire in church, he wasn’t). However, as disciplers, we have to constantly seek His heart and think like and talk like and love like shepherds rather than proctors or managers.

    AND, your concept of walking to Church reflects a level of interaction that America is designed to avoid.

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