When I arrived at Bethel Lutheran Church nearly five years ago, I saw a number of things that needed to be worked on, revised or tweaked. Our mission statement wasn’t one of them. “The mission of Bethel Lutheran Church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ in our church, neighborhood and world.” What a powerful statement of purpose that drives everything we do as a congregation! It falls perfectly in line with Jesus’ great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 and his departing words to them in Acts 1:8. Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to the idea of discipleship and I would love to share some of these concepts with you.
Giving or Receiving? Yes.
So, who is a disciple? Well, a disciple is someone who learns a discipline from another. If someone wants to learn carpentry, it is often best to become the disciple of a carpenter so you can learn the trade. Soon, you can be the carpenter who disciples another, and so on. This is pretty much how it is to be a disciple of Jesus. In faith, we learn and model the teachings of Jesus as they are brought to us by other disciples of Jesus. These new disciples then go and disciple others and the process continues. Hence, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go make disciples.”
But all this discipling and being discipled is a lot of hard work! So, what we need to do is… create a Super-Disciple! Yea! Someone who can do most of the discipling for us who is highly trained, eloquent and good looking! Someone we can all look up to and be proud to call our Super-Disciple… er, Pastor! You know I’m joking, right? I wish I could say I was joking all the way. Have we, the church, turned the Pastor into a “Super-Disciple?” Have we been taught to depend so much on the Pastor that we are basically paralyzed to act independently? You’ve heard yourself say these things: “What if I say the wrong words?” “What if they ask a hard question?” “I can’t do it like Pastor can. I’ll get him to do it instead.” I hate to disappoint you, but… I’m not a Super-Disciple. I’m a poor sinful forgiven creature just like you. I just also happen to be your Pastor.
The word “pastor” comes from the concept of shepherding. The shepherd cares for the flock and guides the flock, but he is not the flock. I can’t disciple people in your place. Only you can do that! What I can do is disciple you. One of my goals in life is to be a disciple who disciples disciples who disciple disciples. Say that three times fast! But it’s true! How much more effective is it for me to disciple you, and for you to be discipling each other so that you can also disciple those who don’t know Jesus yet. You can do it! My degree in theology doesn’t make me a “better” disciple than you. It just gives me the opportunity and honor to disciple different people like Vicar Fofana or Jordan Ray or whoever our next field worker is from Concordia University. Discipleship is the whole goal of GodSpeak and Future Church Now and our Liberian ministry. By God’s grace we’re doing our best to get everyone discipling each other and discipling those outside our congregation and your not-so-super Pastor is doing his very best to keep this rag-tag bunch of disciples headed in the right direction. I love it! We’re all making disciples for Jesus… together!