By a partner working in Asia.
In South Asia, relationship and community are central to discipleship. So often I’ve seen that this is what really grows people in their faith. Take the example of Shan.
Shan is a new believer. Hungry to find a worldview that was consistent with the reality he experienced, Shan made the costly decision to become a Christian, the only one in his family. He lived in a Christian hostel, where discipleship for him became a daily learning journey. Without the hostel Shan would have been dependent on occasional Sunday worship and any gatherings he was invited to. In the hostel he was exposed to, participated in and embraced daily rhythms of Christian life: praying before meals, worship and devotion times, learning to express himself to God in his own language. Shan was surrounded by a community intent on living out Christian values, with leadership praying for him by name. The hostel modelled a Christ-like life of outreach and service to others, and he joined teams that visited villages, singing, praying and sharing messages. Shan, like many other hostel students, found routines and patterns which he’s carried beyond his student years into his young adult life.
Shan has matured in his faith, but is hungry to continue growing. He doesn’t always feel fully accepted by the Christian community and doesn’t feel free to ask many of the questions which he has. He thrives on informal mentoring relationships where there’s a freedom to come and talk openly. Acceptance, a safe environment, genuine listening, mutual sharing of the joys and struggles of following Jesus, digging into the Bible… all of these have been critical parts of his discipleship journey.
Shan stands strong in his new faith, despite facing opposition from his family. He’s spontaneous and has made some unexpected life choices, but has also learnt that when he makes mistakes he has community who care for him, who will forgive him and encourage him to keep finding God in all he does.
Shan is a young leader in both church and community and his example is encouraging other young people to follow in his footsteps. He’s avoided the trap of becoming narrowly inward looking and continues to make efforts to reach out to his family
and the wider community with God’s love.
Investing in discipleship is costly. Hours are spent in prayer, listening and waiting. People sometimes let you down, and the outcomes are not guaranteed. But through nurture, scaffolded support, relationships and intentional community, people such as Shan emerge as confident disciples. They may still be learning, growing, making mistakes and moving on, but praise God that they are on the journey of discipleship. And praise God for all those who have invested in their lives!
Who had a role in your Christian formation? What made them influential?
What can you and your group do to encourage discipleship in relationship and community?
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