Discipleship Takes This to Be Done Well

 Drummer

Two years ago, I embarked on an experience that has been defining for how I view discipleship. Coming into the summer of 2013, I remember having a bunch of ideas and concepts about what discipleship was, and those months helped begin to piece them together. That was the summer I did the Entrust Intern Program. (Shameless plug, I know.) But I walked away with a lot to chew on about discipleship, and a new understanding of and appreciation for community. In the time since the internship, I finished college and started a new era of life. In the process, God has continued to reveal to me the importance of seeking out community, and the close connection between discipleship and community.

If we define discipleship as simply pointing people to the gospel and to draw near to God for spiritual growth, then discipleship can happen within a community of 2 or more.  A description of the first church’s community can be found in Acts 4:32-33 (NASB):

       And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.

And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.

It sounds impossible. Yet this description reveals three themes about community that are major parts of discipleship in Christ: unity, support, and mission.

Unity

“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul…”

Unity seems to be an obvious product of community. It also seems unlikely to be connected to discipleship. However, unity in and of itself is not what makes discipleship and community so connected. It’s the process of bringing about and maintaining unity. Unity does not just fall into place. It takes time to unite the heart and soul. The crazy part of unity is that it’s supernatural. Yes, it’s something that we work at and are intentional about, but it is only possible because God sets it.

Bringing unity within community isn’t the only process of discipleship. Maintaining unity is almost entirely a discipleship process. The truth of the matter is: maintaining unity hurts. Sometimes individuals are no longer “one in heart and soul” with the group for one reason or another. I have seen this happen in every strong community that I have been part of, and it does not have to be a sin issue that starts the disunity. Every situation is different. Sometimes an individual conversation is all that is necessary to discuss the issue; sometimes, a group conversation is required for everyone to discuss. Discipleship happens in these situations where the whole group is, hopefully, pointed to Christ. Each individual learns more about themselves and where they need to grow while also learning what’s best for the community of believers, even as they carry individual crosses after Jesus.

Support

“and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them…”

They shared everything they had without holding back.  However, material wealth is not the only thing that we tend to claim ownership of . Most people agree that time seems to be a person’s most valuable asset. It is definitely an indicator of values. But members within these discipleship communities support each other. They not only provide for each other tangibly with dinners, presents, etc., but they also give each other their time even doing things that are not as interesting to the individual. They go out of their way when a member of the community is in need. They go out of their way to do life together with the community.

Mission

and with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”

Mission is the ultimate goal of all discipleship. Discipleship-focused communities push each individual to preach the gospel and disciple others. The target audience of the gospel message is: everyone, believers and non-believers (Rom. 1:16). The mission of this community and each member of this community is to communicate the gospel. The missional mindset of the community will encourage individuals to go out, evangelize, and disciple non-members whether they join the group or not.

During the internship, we read Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together. The quote below has stuck with me through many months of meditation:

“[Community] means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only because of Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity.”

 Zach 

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