discipleship

Haerenga Update

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At the start of this year we announced that the Haerenga Mission Internship wouldn’t be running in 2015. At first we were quite disappointed by this, but we quickly realised that God had given us an amazing opportunity to review our internship and consider its future. After many discussions, interviews and surveys we realised that we had been trying to do two things with Haerenga: offer a gap year that focused on missional discipleship, and offer a purposeful mission internship.

As it turns out, it’s hard to offer both of these in one package. That’s why we’re launching two pathways, one focused on grass-roots missional discipleship and one focused on cross-cultural mission equipping. We’re still working out the details for the discipleship pathway, but this revised Haerenga Mission Internship will be for those a little further down the missional journey who want to seriously explore cross-cultural mission in a supportive environment. Much like an apprenticeship, interns are placed under the care of experienced missionaries and ‘learn the trade’ through a hands on, guided experience typically lasting 3 – 6 months. Interns will be equipped to live missionally within their callings, whether that’s pursuing a vocation back in NZ or a life of overseas mission.

If you know anyone who might be interested, please contact Jon (jon@nzcms.org.nz)

Messy Discipleship (Issue 24)

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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.

Words Becoming Flesh (Issue 24)

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By Bishop Justin Duckworth. 

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood” (John 1:14).

At the heart of the Christian message is the incarnation: that God took on flesh and blood and became one of us in Jesus. It’s easy to forget the implications of the incarnation for mission. Caught in a modernist framework we’re often obsessed with the need to use words to proclaim the Good News. Instead of sending his Son, God could have txt bombed us all or tweeted the Good News or even put up a Facebook page where we could ‘like’ God and his Kingdom. Instead the Word became flesh.

It’s only as the Word becomes a lived reality that people can engage it. We live in a word-saturated reality, an information overload where an avalanche of data is instantly available to us at the click of a button.

It’s therefore not surprising to me that many no longer bother listening to the Church. People are over listening. Full stop. We don’t need more words. We need lived realities.

Re-learning the Incarnation

In my own life the challenge is to learn once again what the incarnation is all about: living out the Good News. My call as a follower of Jesus is to incarnate the Good News in my own life and in the groups I’m part of.

Society may be over words, but a lived reality that offers hope is compelling. It’s hard to ignore a lived reality that dwells among us. It’s hard to ignore a lived reality of hope when it moves into the neighbourhood.

An Anabaptist friend once summed up what it means to be a people who live out the incarnation:

Alternative. We’re called to live a different way of life, one that offers hope to the deepest needs of our culture and society. Attractive. Those wanting an alternative way of life should find our lives appealing and contagious. Articulate. When people observe the hope at the centre of our lifestyles, we can explain what (and who!) it’s all about.

I’ve always found this useful, though the challenge is to actually live a life that’s alternative and attractive. For many of us there’s often very little discernible difference between our lives and the lives of our neighbours. The only visible difference is we go to a church service on a Sunday morning as opposed to a café for brunch.

This gap is why we, as followers of Jesus, need to seriously reengage with discipleship. Discipleship is the lived reality of following Jesus in the contexts we find ourselves in. Discipleship is not the accumulation of correct propositional truths but a life transformed by knowing God and his Kingdom agenda for our world.

But what is it?

“Discipleship” has become one of those fuzzy Christian words that have come to mean everything and therefore nothing. Being frustrated with this early on as Bishop, I gathered a diverse group of people in the diocese to discuss what discipleship is.

I asked them to first define what they would look for in a mature follower of Jesus. I then asked them to describe what they’ve observed about people who became this mature. In other words, we asked what it took for people to become mature disciples. Drawing on the wealth of experience in the room we came up with a few key DNA strands that we thought helped people mature:

Intentional. People had to proactively choose to allow their lives to be formed. Long term. People seemed to need to be involved for years to mature. Community. Maturity happens in small group of between 3-12 people. Missional. These groups are outwardly focussed, existing for the sake of others. Leadership & mentoring. Somebody helps to facilitate the journey. Liminal. This is the uncomfortable transition from one way of being and seeing the world to another, like the moment a trapeze artist has let go of the bar and is hanging in thin air, awaiting the next bar to swing their way. It is scary and outside people’s comfort zones. Worship & prayer. The group regularly worships and prays together. Whole of Life. These groups share life outside of formal gatherings – it’s the informal that forms. Holy Spirit led. These groups are open and expect God to direct and be involved.

Interestingly enough there wasn’t much conflict in the group discussion. People basically came up with the same things, despite the group being theologically diverse and a mixture of ordained and lay. Then we realised we had just described Jesus and his disciples. Maybe Jesus was on to something!

I realise in my own life I can often get so obsessed with God’s Kingdom that I miss how he actually went about building this Kingdom. The vehicle, the method, the engine room of the Kingdom is journeying long-term with a group of misfits on Kingdom adventures.

Can I encourage us to strive to daily live out the reality we profess, and in doing so continue to see the Word become flesh and blood and move into our neighbourhoods.

 

For discussion

Why do you think there tends to be little discernible difference between the lives of Christians and our neighbours?

What is one thing you and your group can do to make your faith more of a lived reality?

 

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.

Growth by Discipleship (Issue 24)

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By Rich Robinson & Simon Ford (from 3DM ministries Europe). 

If you visit Berlin today you’ll find one place where the wall still stands. Written on it is this quote: “Many small people doing many small things in many small places can change the face of the world.” Long before the wall came down, a reformation was rumbling around in the hearts of the people, forcing them to do small things in many small places, over and over again.

There is a similar restlessness in the people of God today. They sense there’s a drift and they long to be connected to a faith that understands itself as part of something movemental. Something of the Kingdom.

So what does this Kingdom movement look like? Jesus made it simple: “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).

This is the calling Jesus has given us: to be disciples who follow him and make disciples of others, helping them to follow him. In this way, one-by-one we can transform the world around us. That’s what a Kingdom movement looks like. It’s a discipleship movement.

The ministry we’re part of, 3DM, has spent the past 20 years making disciples across Europe. We’re now equipping churches and organisations around the world (including in New Zealand) to make disciples, empower leaders and catalyse these kinds of movements. Over the years we’ve done this, we’ve made a key observation: Making disciples always grows the church. Always. However, just growing the church doesn’t always produce disciples.

When churches realise that attendance is dropping, the typical response is to develop programmes and hold evangelistic events in hopes of curbing the trend. Our default mode seems to be attempting to (re)grow the church through events. However, is it possible that in all of this we’ve actually neglected the call of Jesus to make disciples?

Bigger Churches or a Discipleship Movement?

What we’ve seen in key centres in Europe, where we’ve focused on making disciples rather than just growing churches, is a culture emerge that’s creating an unstoppable, multiplying movement. It’s no longer about a church building or gathering. Rather, discipleship leads to a shift in the way that people think and live on a day-to-day community level, which leads to the discipling of others, which leads to multiplication.

Is our focus as leaders on having a bigger church? Or is it to be and make disciples who look to Jesus and, as a result, see the places where they spend their day-to-day lives transformed? In Europe we’ve seen lives transformed as a culture of discipleship has been established. In Sheffield, England for example, where 3DM originated, church members have gathered in mid-sized communities in the different neighbourhoods and networks that they live in. The result? Many people across Sheffield are encountering God’s love for the first time – drug addicts, Chinese students, single parents, office workers – all seeing their lives and situations transformed by Jesus through this pattern of community based missional discipleship.

In order to see this kind of shift take place, we need to start with ourselves. Are we spending most of our time focussed on the machinery and mechanics of church growth, and perhaps missing the real people and processes involved in real discipleship? Are we following the person and pattern of Jesus in our everyday lives? Are we helping others to do this too? We need to recapture the way of Jesus and once again become familiar with how he lived and led, so that we can empower those around us to do the same.

Temple and Household: both-and not either-or

A huge part of this shift in culture is about recapturing community life together. If you read Acts 2, you’ll notice the disciples met together regularly, not only in the Temple, but also in houses with one another. The word for house here is oikos and refers to the household and ‘extended family’ way of life that would have been so familiar to the disciples. In this chapter you see how the disciples regularly ate together, shared the Apostles’ teaching, prayed together and shared all they had within this oikos environment – and the same concept is found throughout the New Testament. Through this they lived full and radical lives as disciples, and God added daily to their number those that were being saved!

Though we’ve retained the importance of meeting regularly in the large ‘Temple’ style gatherings on a Sunday, somewhere along the line our modern culture has told us that living out this day-to-day lifestyle of discipleship in the context of smaller, ‘household’ sized communities is less important. Yet, our experience is that this is the context where the most effective mission and discipleship takes place. These extended families on mission together are now the heartbeat of many thriving, passionate, missional churches across Europe and beyond.

Many people, in many places, doing many small things to change the world. That’s a discipleship movement.

For resources about the ideas mentioned in this article, visit 3dmpublishing.com. To connect with the 3DM team in New Zealand email admin@mc.org.nz.

 

For discussion

Why do you think our default mode seems to be creating and running more programmes?

What can you do to find a better balance between ‘Temple’ and ‘household’?

 

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.

Following Your Rabbi (Issue 24)

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In my early 20s I led a team to India. Early on we were invited to a Bible study by an elder of the church we were working with. Kumar was a wrinkly old man who never left the house without a bright smile, but he wasn’t particularly charismatic. Arriving at the meeting, I was shocked to discover there was basically no space left in his large living room. It was packed with young people eager to hear God’s Word.

Afterwards I asked how he managed to gather such a group. Being a wise old man, he answered with a story. His house was directly opposite the Bishop’s residence and church offices. Years earlier a church official had moved in. From his comfortable, second story window he could see young people streaming in and out of Kumar’s home virtually all the time. Puzzled, he visited and asked why people were visiting a regular church elder instead of him. Kumar’s response was both brilliant and blunt: “With you it’s all structure and hierarchy. But with me, they know my door is always open. You rely on your rank and status to attract people to yourself. I just seek to live out the Gospel.”

Discipleship in a nutshell

Jesus called twelve disciples to follow him. They weren’t there just to listen to his teachings (Matthew 5:1), to help him out (Matthew 10) or to act as his self-appointed bodyguards (Matthew 19:13). In Jewish culture, you followed a rabbi to become like him, to do the things he did and to live as he lived in every way. That’s what being a disciple meant, and that’s what it means today: being people who are becoming like Jesus.

What is discipleship at the end of the day? It’s following your master. It’s looking like Jesus. It’s being Jesus to the world. As Dallas Willard said, a “disciple is who Jesus would be if he were you” – with your personality, skills, family, knowledge, culture.

But Jesus didn’t just call us to be disciples but to make disciples (not just converts!), and I don’t think that’s a role reserved for the elite. We’re all called to be disciple-makers. While it’s easy to overcomplicate, the core of disciple-making is actually beautifully simple: we’re to demonstrate what following Jesus looks like (1 Corinthians 11:1). Disciple-making isn’t about having enough knowledge. It’s not about being up to date with the latest discipleship techniques or models. It’s not about being a skilled teacher or having a charismatic personality. It’s about whether you’re living a life worth imitating.

And it’s not just about me as an individual. Try following Jesus alone. It doesn’t work! It’s not supposed to. That’s why Jesus gave the charter for his people’s way of life to a community (Matthew 5-7). Learning to follow Jesus is something we’re supposed to learn in community, not as islands. Likewise, people can only imitate me within a community because it’s in community that the way I interact with others is on show. (Try teaching someone to love one another without any others around!) Individually I can only tell people how to live – in community I can not only demonstrate it, but welcome people to participate in it. But when someone joins your community will they see and learn how to follow Jesus, or will they just learn how to run a good church service?

What did Kumar do? He opened up his life so people could imitate him as he sought to imitate Christ. It’s easier to rely on rank, status or programmes… but these things don’t make disciples.

For Discussion

Jesus’ disciples were with him, learning to be like him. Is there space in your life for people to be ‘with you’ like the young people with Kumar?

In what ways can people see Jesus in the way you live? What would it look like if Jesus had your personality, skills, family, knowledge and culture?

 

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.

From the Editor (Issue 24)

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The Great Omission. That’s what Dallas Willard called today’s Church’s failure to make disciples. We produce Christians and church-goers, but not necessarily disciples. Yet as Dallas said, “The church is for discipleship, and discipleship is for the world” – mission flows out of discipleship.

In Jesus’ day, a disciple was a follower of a great teacher, a rabbi. But they weren’t just interested in learning some information or the rabbi’s interpretation of Scripture. They were there to learn his entire way of life, learning to imitate him in every way. They were his total-life apprentices. Disciples would follow their rabbi along dry, dusty roads, so close that they’d eventually get covered in the dust from his feet.

How might it look for us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus today? And how can we become a people who are so covered in the dust of our rabbi that others can follow in our footsteps? Can we learn to imitate Christ so well that, by imitating our lives, people are really imitating Christ himself?

We’re convinced that what’s needed to transform today’s Church into a world-changing missional force is simple: discipleship.

 

 

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.

Review: Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults

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Scot McKnight shares a friend’s review of a book on discipleship among young adults.

This review is by my colleague, Joel Willitts, who posted this earlier at his blog, Euangelion. Joel teaches Bible at North Park and works with young adult ministries at his church in Geneva IL.

Richard Dunn and Jana Sundene have written an important book about ministry among emerging adults: Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation(IVP, 2012).

The term Emerging Adulthood has been coined by sociologists (e.g. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett) and refers to that segment of young adults that largely mystifies most churches, the 19-35 year old crowd. I know of very few established churches that are effectively reaching and discipling adults in this life stage.

If you have a burden for the next generation of the church, this book will not only fire you up but also give you some practical wisdom for shepherding them. This is not a pragmatic ministry strategy book. No ministry models will be found in these pages. If anything, it’s a call for the church to come back, to return to the basics of pastoral ministry. It is a call in fact to relational discipleship – a striped down, decentralized, face to face, authentic living life with young adults approach. Through the ebbs and flows of life, one disciples emerging adults intentionally toward maturity in Christ. In Dunn and Sundene’s words, “[The book] is a call to vision and action”.

Emerging adulthood is now widely recognized as a “new and unique” phase of life. Jeffrey Arnett provided five distinguishing marks of emerging adulthood (Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties, p. 8):

1. It is the age of identity exploration. 2. It is the age of instability. 3. It is the most self-focused age of life. 4. It is the age of feeling in-between, in transition. 5. It is the age of possibilities, when hope flourished, when people have an unparalleled opportunity to transform their lives.

The content of the book was borne out of a question: What can we do in this generation to empower and equip emerging young adults to reach their God-designed potential for spiritual transformation?

Dunn and Sundene put forward to potential disicplemakers the central task of a disciplemaker of these young adults: to empower them to discover their adult identity and their present purpose in the midst of God’s larger story (40).

 

Emerging adults need spiritual caregivers who will prayerfully engage the disciple’s maturation, steering them away from navigating these life-shaping years primarily based on their own personal or experiential truth. To reach full maturity and maximize potential impact, the emerging adult needs to be challenged and supported as they are awakened to the way, the truth and the life offered by the Father, discovered by the Son and imparted through the Spirit . . . As disciplemakers of emerging adults, God has given us a stable “geographic center” based on the reality reflected in God’s Word and represented by his Son (41).

 The book is divided into three parts after an introduction. Part one addresses the art of disciplemaking. Among the notable elements of this first part is this quote:

 

Let’s face reality: There are no programmatic shortcuts to effective disciplemaking. There is no “easy button”. Disciplemaking is about relationships. Relationships are inefficient. Disciplemaking is about life change. Life change is messy. Disciplemaking is centered in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ allows no pretense. Disciplemaking is unpredictable. Unpredictability requires risk. Disciplemaking is unique to each person, each generation, each cultural context. Uniqueness eliminates the possibility of universally applied “paint by the numbers” disciplemaking relationships (58-59).

So, what is the essence of disciplemaking according to Dunn and Sundene? Two things: (1) a simple vision of what a mature disciple of Jesus looks like, and (2) an authentic understanding of relationships that will facilitate, encourage, challenge, support and lead young adults in this generation to become mature disciples of Jesus. A more concise and useful answer you’ll have a hard time finding.

 

No mechanical five-step strategies for life change, clever methodologies to mimic or ultra-cool programs to apply. Just inefficient, messy, unpretentious, unpredictable, risky relationships with no “paint by the numbers” answers on how to proceed. Just you, the young adults you are investing in and Jesus. Nothing more—but so much more than enough (59)

One expression of the vision of a mature disciple is with the three irrefutable essentials provided by Dunn and Sundene: Trust, Submission and Love. They discuss what these look like in the life of Jesus and in his disciples. They point out that these are things that must be true of the disciplemaker first.

But the next question, and perhaps the most crucial, is what is the core capacity a disciplemaker needs to foster these qualities in the lives of emerging adults?

The answer: The ability to build authentic, naturing discipling relationships. They state it so clearly:

 

A person’s unwavering trust in God’s wisdom, humble submission in embracing God’s heart, and love that pursues God and others with selfless generosity can all be rendered ineffective and unproductive by relational incompetence in the disciplemaking journey (74)

There is real advice here. Not models, but good advice. We must raise up adults who have an aptitude for developing discipleship relationships. The three skills of discernment, intentionality and reflection provide the foundational skill set of a disciplemaker. The first deals with attention, the second, with direction, and the third, with evaluation.

The second part of the book is dedicated to exploring five issues that are particularly complicated or confusing in the phase of emerging adulthood: (1) identity and purpose, (2) spirituality, (3) relationships, (4) sexuality, and (5) daily life. And the third part consists of three chapters focused on the disciplemaker.

Shaping The Journey of Emerging Adults will be an excellent resource for ministry teams in the present committed to a vital church in the mid-twenty-first century.

 

Re-blogged from www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed with permission.

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. He’s also a veteran blogger. Scot’s passion is to see the church embrace the mission of God in the 21st century. For more from Scot visit www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed

Footie, Food and Faith in Samoa

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Everywhere you go in Samoa you find young boys playing footie – in their front yards, backyards, streets, everywhere. The NZ Rugby Union announced last week that the All Blacks would play in Samoa next year. Woohoo!! Although the announcement was made while my wife Watiri and I were visiting Samoa, I doubt we contributed to the decision (but you never know!). And that wasn’t my greatest surprise.

Nor was was it the heat or the food – although we were lost for choice with the array of seafood and taro that was laid on the tables in the villages we visited. The strong sense of community and the hospitality of the Samoan people is evident everywhere. The way Samoans eat and live demonstrate their value of community. We were encouraged to see the commitment the people of Samoa have to family, tradition and respect for the elders. We also noticed that the connection between NZ and Samoa runs deep – most people we met had relatives in NZ.

What I was not prepared for was the Christian presence in Samoa. The number of churches we saw was staggering! Every village even has a number of churches. So the issue is not whether people go to church, but what kind of church. We sensed a deep hunger for God among the people. But we also noticed the challenge of discipleship despite the many churches and sects as well as the potential for Samoans to take their place in global mission.

On a sad note, one of our hosts lost 13 members of her family in the Tsunami that hit the Pacific Islands in September 2009. Her village was one of the ones tragically impacted by this event. It was very moving hearing stories of the devastation. However, we also heard extraordinary stories of God’s providence – like three surfers out in the ocean when the Tsunami hit who were carried by the Tsunami’s wave and landed in a Church without a scar! That was amazing! I thought in every story of brokenness is a story of redemption and God’s grace.

Already opportunities are opening up for NZCMS Encounter Teams to go to Samoa. If you know any Samoan young adults in New Zealand, please do let us know because we would love to find ways of enabling them to join this missional conversation as we equip them for God’s mission.

And encourage them to join our new initiative for young missional adults by sending them this link: nzcms.org.nz/hashtag

 

For discussion: What are the signs of God’s grace that you have experienced in your life in a time of brokenness?