Discipleship Deep, Rich, & Rooted: Building

Hear

Listen to, and reflect on, Scriptures that address our beliefs and worship:

Connect

Take an imaginary journey, mentally putting on different identities. The constant through all of your imaginings will be that you are singing, hearing, or humming the words to "Jesus Loves Me." Finish the song each time. Ready? Go.

As a serious college student, you are walking back to your dorm after studying at the library until it closed. The way is well lit, but you are alone. You know you are pretty safe, and the emergency call boxes are within a safe distance, but still ..."Jesus loves me, this I know..."

On your 85th birthday, you are holding your great-grandchild. He is falling asleep in your arms as you teach him the song that is so important to you: "Jesus loves me, this I know..."

You have just buried your mother, who has lost her battle with breast cancer, or your father, who died from a sudden heart attack. "Jesus loves me, this I know..."

"Gone fishin'" with Grandpa. While you spend endless amounts of time waiting for the bobber to jiggle, he is quietly humming a tune you recognize. "Jesus loves me, this I know..."

Your fervent prayers have been answered--you have just landed that job! A song just pops into your head: "Jesus loves me, this I know..."

The world doesn't make sense anymore. Earthquakes, tsunamis, cut-throat politicians, yet another war zone, children dying from starvation...or gunshot wounds. "Jesus loves me, this I know..."

"Mommy! There's this new song that we just learned in Sunday school. The teacher said it was very simple, but if you learned it really well, it would carry you all through your whole life. It goes like this: Jesus loves me, this I know..."

God's love is something that we experience and share on many different levels and in many contexts. As we mature in faith, God's love for us is showered on us, or sometimes seemingly withheld from us, or even perhaps forced on us by life circumstances. As all this happens to us, we seek to digest the meaning of that unconditional love in new life situations. Even, or perhaps especially, when God's love seems absent, we strive for explanations, and often reach deeper insights about its continual presence.

This is the essence of building up our selves and each other as disciples of Jesus. We experience the love of God as children, and seek to find meaning in our lives through that lens of love by adding to our knowledge and experience. Through weakness and strength, near to God and sometimes further away, first as children and then as ever-growing children of faith, we nurture and fortify our faith through the community of faith. We are the fruit, and we become fruitful--with the very same seed of God's love. Jesus does, in fact, love us--and we are compelled to reciprocate with a love and devotion that becomes deeper and richer, with new understandings, at every stage of our lives.

A young professional woman who is now a new elder, spoke of an experience she once had at one of the big mega-chain stores. She was running an errand before work, and happened to run into our congregation's pastoral candidate. He was returning home with his family after spending a fulfilling weekend with our congregation. He had stopped for some essentials for the road trip. After a friendly conversation, each went on their own shopping errands, and as she approached the card section, she heard the tiny notes of "Jesus Loves Me" emanating from the musical card section. She was overcome with a joy of spirit that she could only identify as prophetic. It was such a surprise to her, in the middle of her Monday mayhem, to meet her "probably next pastor" and then to hear the simple strains of our Christian foundational belief. She was stopped short with emotion. That moment took her deeper into her faith, and built another stone into the pavement of her Christian-journey road.

Karl Barth, when asked what the essential piece of the Christian faith was, is reported to have responded with the words to "Jesus Loves Me." That is the foundation. What we, as his disciples, build from there is the work of the Spirit and how well we listen and attend to it.

Believe

Jesus' expectation for all of us is that the road of Christian living will always be paved and maintained with the principles of Christian discipleship. The choices we make, the people and things we surround ourselves with, and the spiritually defining actions we take are all essential to that pavement and maintenance. This is key to authentic Christian living, and it has been key to reverent living since from Old Testament times, as shown in the Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Love and, as a consequence, live—with your heart, your soul and, as you build upon that life, your mind. In doing all this, you will teach it to your children.

What are those things that we can model for all of God's children? We can model the building blocks of the faith. We can share the hope of God's kingdom on earth, of peace, of things turned on their end, of the poor no longer being hungry. We can share resources, talents, tolerances, knowledge, experiences—all toward modeling that which we have received from God and have been commanded to share. These building blocks include all areas of mission outside of our doorways and our borders, Christian education for all ages, and advocating for social justice in our communities and throughout the world.

Leaders/consistories

  • Do our ministries reflect the Great Commission, making disciples and teaching them?
  • How are we teaching members of our congregations to be authentic disciples, engaging them in building up each other, and engaging others to be a part of God's household?
  • Does our congregation look like a gathering of disciples on a journey? Does our congregation embody the kingdom of God as here and present in our lives, as well as a certainty for eternity?
  • Do ministries address the issues of social justice as the gospel calls us to do?
  • Do ministries serve both outside our doorway and beyond our borders?
  • Are our programs producing followers of Jesus who are equipped and prepared to share the gospel and bring new followers?
  • Think in the context of fruitfulness. Is our congregation a healthy, growing, building environment? Are new ideas encouraged? Are new Christians purposefully mentored? Are programs specifically planned to enable believers to find their fullness in Christ?

Live Out

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 tells us Jesus' final charge to his disciples. Two directives stand out: "go and make disciples" and "teach them to obey." We are first to be named, and then expected, commanded, to live out the title. Becoming a disciple of Christ does not stop with the title. It begins a lifelong quest to build and enhance that relationship with Christ.

"Growing Disciples" in Section 2 of the Learning for Life notebook includes a six-session Bible Study on Luke and Acts. This in-depth study of discipleship from a New Testament perspective is based on Jesus' interaction with his first disciples. The goal is to discover how our own relationship with Jesus can grow in depth and practice as we follow him.

Share

Triads are an approach to discipleship that will deepen people's faith as they are honest, real, and accountable to each other. A triad is a group of three people who meet weekly for Bible study, prayer, and spiritual transformation.

The RCA provides triad training for churches through webinars, regional events, and trainers. Triad training explores ways to form triads that will grow disciples in a congregation. Through teaching, stories, practice, and implementation tools, the training shows how to create an environment in which the Holy Spirit can work to bring transformation in the lives of disciples who are poised to grow inwardly and share their faith outwardly. 

Resources

Church-Based Community Resource Guide
In this downloadable guide, members of the RCA shared their personal and congregational experiences about making critical differences in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. This guide is an effort to help congregational leaders and everyone who passionately desires to see their communities transformed through the power of Jesus Christ find and connect with one another.

Mission Trips That Matter: Embodied Faith for the Sake of the World, by Don C. Richter. Upper Room Books.
Perhaps you're so busy preparing to do mission that you've overlooked preparing to be mission. "Seeing the larger story helps mission team members connect their travel experience to their ongoing life of faith," writes Richter. "Instead of viewing their lives as a series of random, disconnected episodes, Christians are challenged to view their activities in relation to God's activity. Guiding folks into this way of thinking about life is at the heart of leading mission trips that matter."

Unbinding Your Church (Pastor's and Leaders' Guide to the Real Life Evangelism Series) series, by Martha Grace Reese. Chalice Press.
This series is focused on understanding both why we need to do evangelism and how to actually do it, and involves the whole church in the process. The first book, Unbinding the Gospel, takes church leaders through an 8-week study to better understand what the Bible has to say about evangelism. Unbinding Your Heart is a 6-week study that involves all the members in 40 days of prayer, study, and faith sharing, encouraging a vision and growing heart for evangelism. Unbinding Your Church serves as a support manual for the previous two studies, providing comprehensive instructional and organizational aids, coordinated resources for children and youth and worship, full music plans, and seven sermons. Unbinding Your Soul prepares church members to invite friends outside the church to a four-week small group experience of substantial spiritual discussion, prayer, and community.