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Messy Discipleship (Issue 24)

The title on my Word document read “Alcohol in Gulu District: Health Impacts.” An army of Google tabs linked me to recent journal articles. A small ginger cat purred on my lap. A mug of steaming spicy tea sat patiently beside me. As someone who loves the calm methodical nature of research, I should have been at peace. Writing this report was a necessary part of our group’s fight for new laws regulating alcohol.

But I was deeply uneasy. It’d been weeks since I’d been out on my bike on the dusty paths, meeting with members of our community group in their homes. There’d been a few meetings in town with council officials, but I’d gone by myself. It was easier to go alone than to bring along someone inexperienced that might turn up late or say something unpredictable. In that moment, I felt a long way from those early meetings in our small church hall when we discussed Bible passages alongside community problems.

What was missing? What was I forgetting? Was I simply trying to get a new law passed in the most efficient way possible?

I prayed.

In that moment, I felt God remind me why I’m here and what our group is really for. Our group started from our little church, St Catherine’s, but now it’s a melting pot for anyone in the surrounding community who wants to strategise for social change. Our hope was that through the group, believers would discover new ways to be followers of Jesus by caring about the people Jesus cares about. We prayed that others would discover that their drive for social justice came from God and that they would come to know Jesus, the ultimate social radical and source of true transformation! But in my tea-fuelled fervour to do a good job on our Alcohol report for our District Council, I’d lost sight of a key ingredient: discipleship.

It’s been two months since my discipleship-revelation moment. Since then we’ve made some changes. Last Saturday we held the second of our new monthly group Bible study. We examined the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who defied the king’s new law by refusing to worship his statue so were tossed in a furnace. The story launched us into a discussion about following God’s way rather than bowing to human demands. Some people talked about defying their family’s insistence on trips to the witch doctors when they get sick. And we talked about what happens if powerful people start to resist our efforts to have alcohol regulated in our district.

I’ve also resolved to avoid doing meetings by myself. Last week there was a meeting with councillors from the district council. I took a motorbike into town with Betty for her first meeting with an official. The trip gave us a chance to talk about her faith, why she joined the group and the challenges she was facing. We prepped for the meeting… and she ended up doing most of the talking! The icing on the cake: the councillor promised his support.

As productive and safe as I might feel behind my computer with my cat and spice tea, I was being nudged towards the messier, less predictable world of discipleship. Discipleship may be messy, but it’s how God is building his Kingdom on earth.

Tessa and her husband Nick are NZCMS Mission Partners in Uganda. Tessa heads up a Community Organising group that tackles various social issues in the broader community. For more from the Laings visit ugandapanda.com

 

For discussion

In what ways are you tempted to choose efficiency over discipleship?

Are there ways you can invite others into your Kingdom efforts?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.