Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

We are all priests

No, I'm not suggesting you all sign up for holy orders – but we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chosen race (1 Peter 2:9). In Israel the royal and priestly functions were separate. But in Christ they are combined, he is King of Kings (Revelation 19:16) and he is also our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). Every single one of us is a servant of Christ and should be fully active – it's part of being a disciple.

Find out what everyone's leadership gifts are. We all have them, there are no exceptions. We all have the role and duty and joy of encouraging and equipping others for service. We must build one another up in love. It's part of discipleship, part of becoming like the Master.

Discuss – I can guarantee that everyone in your group has taken the lead in some way, great or small. Can you identify some of these leading abilities? It might be initiating something, reminding the group to listen to what the Spirit is saying, spreading a good idea to another group, getting people to care for one another and cooperate or explaining something.

(Extract from JDMC, Two - Becoming disciples)

Monday, February 29, 2016

Be committed

It's useful to agree some standards to help us in our lives together as disciples; this guide doesn't give you any rules to follow so you will need to work out your own. Every group is different, but getting into some sort of discipleship rhythm is useful. Our aim is already clear (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1) but the details need working out.

Litter needs clearing up
Litter needs clearing up
Try hard to discover what really matters most to you. You'll need to talk about it, and pray together, and you'll need patience because it may come gradually. You're looking for the group's sense of purpose, something that really grips you, a shared passion. Once you understand why your group exists you can begin to work out some of the details together. You'll be searching for objectives that are both exciting and challenging. As soon as you recognise these group purposes start working towards them.

Choose one or two activities for each of them. Some examples might help. Suppose you really care about the state of your local area, you might organise or join a weekly walk to clear litter or adopt a piece of waste ground and turn it into a beautiful flower bed. Or perhaps you're passionate about homeless people in your town. If so, find practical ways to regularly bring them food or give them shelter. Maybe the group feels driven to dig deep into the Bible: in that case work through a study course together, find and watch a relevant DVD or online video together each week, or share something significant that you've learned or found challenging. One or two could do this every time you meet, different people each time so that everyone is active in sharing.

If enough people in a group are actively growing as disciples it will become the norm. Talk about what you are doing, demonstrate it, give plenty of examples, tell stories of successful outcomes, and encourage others to share too. Try to get more groups of people engaged, tell them about your activities, invite them to come and see for themselves, suggest they try working through this guide with their own group, help them get started.

Discuss – Spend a little time right now talking about the group's passions and purpose. Consider options for practical ideas like the examples above, and decide how you could work on these together. If it's difficult to make progress give yourselves more time and come back to it in a few weeks or months. Oh, and pray about it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Really mean business

We can begin by setting ourselves the highest standard for discipleship – the standard Jesus himself set us. This includes loving the Father with all our heart, mind and strength; denying ourselves; lifting our own heavy cross; and following Jesus and loving those around us in active and meaningful ways (Luke 10:25-28, Matthew 16:24-25, James 2:14-17).

Living and travelling together
Living and travelling together
It will help us if we talk about these commitments daily, read what the Bible has to say about them, and pray and work together to sharpen our focus. Read the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), especially the gospels, with a view to what we must do (not just what we must think). Regular patterns of prayer, together and alone, are essential (Philippians 4:6). Don't forget worship (Hebrews 12:28, Romans 12:1) another key part of becoming a disciple. And worship includes serving one another and the wider community, offering everything back to the Father.

So we need to become kinder, more generous and more patient. We must think about justice, and giving and using our spiritual gifts. And we will need to meet around Jesus and encourage one another. We are responsible for the way we use our time, our skills and our money. These resources are not just for our own pleasure; the way we live speaks volumes about what we value – and the world is watching and listening.

We need to care about our neighbours and about the environment. How can we release more time for friends and family? Are there ways we can represent the Almighty's deep concern for justice? How can we better care for our surroundings? Try to become an ace recycler, or help keep the locality clean and tidy. Save fuel by turning down the heater or the air conditioner; drive less and walk or cycle short distances instead.

Jesus' disciples lived and travelled together, ate and talked and listened and learned together. Community is an essential part of being a disciple, for us as for them. He calls us to love one another as he loves us (Ephesians 4:32, Galatians 5:22-23).

Discuss – Pick one or two of the ideas in this section (or ideas of your own) and consider together how you could use them regularly to focus more on living as disciples of Jesus.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A more effective way

Leaving footprints
Leaving footprints
If we are going to become disciples, who will disciple us? Sometimes it's been thought that we need to follow others who have set us a good example. But if we follow another person there is always a risk of following some bad habits in amongst the good. This must be so; we know that nobody is perfect.

To do better than this we must follow a leader and guide who is perfect (Matthew 4:18- 22, 5:43-48, John 10:30) , and that's a tall order indeed for any human being – except one.

Discuss – Who could you turn to as the One example to follow? Yes, the answer is obvious, of course. But what does this mean in practice? Talk together about anything you might try to help you become better disciples of Jesus.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Becoming disciples

Becoming disciples is important because it's the main way believers grow to be more like Jesus. It's not a process with a beginning and an end; it's ongoing throughout our lives. And we're not automatically disciples simply because we have believed. Not all of the crowds who listened to Jesus or were healed by him were disciples. Only those who followed him and were greatly changed could claim to be disciples. (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 10:38)

An apprentice thatcher
An apprentice thatcher
The English word 'disciple' is rather old-fashioned these days, but it has more or less the same meaning as 'apprentice'. In particular it's all about learning to do the things that the expert is already doing, and Jesus is the expert here. Apprentices don't just learn from books; this is a hands-on experience. At first, things will often go wrong, but apprentices get better and better by repeatedly doing something under supervision. Expect that to happen to you as Jesus' apprentice.

Because this change is hard and takes time, Jesus put most of his effort into three years of living closely with a small band of men and women who were prepared to do much more than simply be amazed. They were utterly transformed in those three years. The fact that Jesus worked this way reveals how important making disciples was and is. He put everything he had into those few, and when he returned to the Father they were the ones he continued to work with to reach the nations and build his church. (John 17:6-23)

Jesus needs men and women who will become conformed to his image. They are his disciples.

The challenges for us include rejecting false gods such as consumerism, becoming more and more like Jesus, and understanding that we most effectively change by doing, not merely by thinking. Imagine an apprentice plumber who had studied all the books on plumbing but had never bent a pipe or soldered a joint.

Discuss – 'We most effectively change by doing, not merely by thinking.' Is this true in your experience? List some examples. Think about the skills involved in sport, work, music, art. Are there any areas of life in which regular practice doesn't help?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Put the gospels first

Measure everything you do against what Jesus taught. And to get to grips with that teaching, read and think about the parables and topics like prayer, money and the kingdom; go through the Sermon on the Mount thoroughly. (Matthew 5:1-7:29) Do your best to absorb these truths into your daily life and expect to be deeply affected by them.

A New Testament papyrus
A New Testament papyrus
Reading the gospels on a steady cycle is one idea, aim to read some verses every day. If possible read the same passages as other people you know so you can talk about what you read and share insights. Get as many people as possible to join in. Study one of the gospels in depth from time to time. Studying a gospel can be done together or it might be made the topic for a teaching series.

When you read other parts of the New Testament, read them with the life, words, actions and nature of Jesus as the framework. Let Jesus be the source of light that makes the entire New Testament clear to you. And when you read the Old Testament books, look for Jesus there as well. Interpret everything with Jesus' teachings and actions in mind.

Discuss – Talk together about practical ways you might spend more time in the gospels. They focus on Jesus and they'll help you do the same. What could you do individually? Even better, what could you do together?
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