BUV Flourishing Churches Devotions
Part 1: Congregational Life – Discipleship
by Rev Graeme Semple – Regional Pastor, West
All of us want to be part of a flourishing church, to be part of a healthy, growing, developing and thriving community that impacts the community and the world around us with the good news of Jesus Christ. As with anything that you want to see flourish it comes about as a result of intentionally providing a context that enables growth and nurture. For the church this means providing a Kingdom culture that is: – friendly, pleasant, supportive, welcoming and nurturing. This requires regular inspection and review to be maintained. It doesn’t just happen! Jesus demonstrated and modelled this in His life and the calling of individuals to a life of discipleship.
Jesus invited people to “follow Him” with the intention of investing into their lives. This investment was to reproduce the very nature and character of Himself (Rom.8:29). Jesus created and developed such a Kingdom culture and atmosphere around Himself that people from all walks of life were willing to surrender and give up their old life to embrace the new life which He offered: eternal life! (Jn. 3:15)
The concept of discipleship is therefore an intentional, lifelong, ongoing process of following Jesus, observing Jesus, listening to Jesus, learning from Jesus and living like Jesus. This is what Jesus developed when He called people to follow Him, so much so, that after the resurrection He said to them, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21). Matthew records similar words when He recalls the Great Commission in Matt 28:19 which JB Phillips translates as: “You, then, are to go and make disciples of all nations…” Eugene Peterson in The Message paraphrases it, “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…” The literal understanding of what Jesus commands His disciples is therefore: as you live your life, make disciples and live in such a way that the world will see and know who Jesus is, be drawn to Him and become fellow followers of Him. This is not optional, it is a command.
Since the birth of the Church, we can see evidence of congregational life in various forms and expressions that have flourished. In each and every expression there are some key elements that reflect the true nature of discipleship that makes them flourish. They have established Kingdom values and culture that understands that discipleship is both individual and cooperative which will result in creating flourishing churches.
These key elements of discipleship as reflected in Acts 2:42 are:
1. The Apostles teaching which is all about Jesus and understanding who He is, what He has done and continues to do. It is understanding Him in light of the Scriptures. It is understanding Him in light of our need and how He can transform our lives. Flourishing churches devote and invest themselves in the teaching of Scripture both individually and cooperatively.
2. The Fellowship – the word koinonia indicates that the people share a friendship to form a community (1 Jn. 1:3); they share their possessions and finances to meet needs (2 Cor.8:4); they share a partnership in the gospel to reach a needy world (Phil.1:5); they share a fellowship in the Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14); they share a partnership in the grace of God (Phil.1:7); they share in a fellowship and partnership in the life and work of Jesus Christ (1Cor.1:9). Flourishing churches invest themselves in the fullness of true fellowship.
3. The Breaking of Bread – this is the symbol Jesus gave His disciples that they would always remember Him and what He did (1 Cor. 11:23ff). Flourishing churches regularly gather around the Lord’s Table, The Eucharist, and Communion to constantly remind themselves of who Jesus is and what He has done. It’s all about Him. Flourishing churches break bread together and always remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
4. Prayer – The many aspects of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, intercession, fasting, and all other elements of a life of prayer. Prayer is the powerhouse of the church, it is the place of dependence on God. It is the place of victory over the enemy. Flourishing churches are praying churches.
The outworking of these elements of discipleship within congregational life will assist in producing flourishing churches. Let us together invest our lives and churches in true intentional discipleship.
Questions for consideration and discussion
1. How have you understood the concept of discipleship?
2. Which of the key elements of discipleship do you and your church need to be more intentional in and why?
3. What does it look like for you and your church, when the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 1:9 that “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship and partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord?”
4. Jesus commissioned the disciples by saying “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” Jesus therefore modelled a flourishing life and community that He empowered His disciples to carry on. In what ways can you and your church continue to live out this model?
Rev Graeme Semple
BUV Regional Pastor