Faith in Action

Why *Discipleship can’t wait

Do you know that the Greek verb for “make disciples,” matheteusate, is used only once in the New Testament? What makes the concept important, however, is the strategic place it appears in the final chapter of Matthew (28:19). This apostle shows a greater emphasis on issues of discipleship (10:24, 16:24, 20:21, and 28:18) than any other New Testament writer.

In Matthew 28:18–20, popularly known as “The Great Commission,” Jesus promises His presence as His followers engage in the practices of discipleship.

Today, we know His presence through the power of the Holy Spirit. But what do those practices involve? Baptism (v. 19) refers to an event that marks one’s initial faith and conversion; the triune name (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) suggests that conversion has multiple aspects; Teaching (v. 20) refers to an ongoing process of growth; the phrase “whatever I commanded you” suggests a lifetime of learning that involves behavior as well as knowledge and feelings. Both initiation and continuation are essential to disciple–making. It involves our heart, our head, and our hands.

First and foremost

Disciple–making is the foremost task we have as Christians. Sadly, in the distraction of trying to settle other matters first, we sometimes neglect it, personally and corporately. But, when Jesus returns, He’s not going to ask about our personal wealth (Luke 18:22), our annual events (Amos 5:21), our property (Mark 13:1), our programs (Isaiah 58:3), or our social status (Psalm 84:10). He gave us a simple task to “go, and make disciples.” We can be assured He’ll ask about that (Matthew 28:19).

Discipleship flourishes among small groups that gather for Christian formation. As people’s lives change, their communities also change.

Books such as Building a Church of Small Groups by Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson (Zondervan, 2001) and Small Groups with Purpose by Steve Gladen (Baker, 2011) can help us build and sustain a healthy small group ministry in our corps. Such groups promote formation and engagement in every area of the Christian lifestyle—such as worship, evangelism, learning, and service.

Start small

When I was a young adult at the Schenectady, N.Y., Corps, I got my first taste of Christian formation in an informal Bible study group. We met in different homes, including my first scrappy apartment, and took turns leading. May God have mercy on those people whom I led at the time!

Our core group of 7 or 8 peers was consistent. They loved Jesus and wanted to follow Him with their lives. God performed miracles of transformation within that group. I pray every Salvationist will have such an experience.

Since then, I’ve moved to different places and been in several groups.  Each group has been unique, somewhat messy, and divinely formative. Through it all, positive accountability has helped to keep each person focused on what is most important, to raise godly families, to exercise integrity in our work, to maintain purity, and to seek God. These groups have played a direct role in my personal formation.

The godly examples we provide for each other, the discoveries we make together, and the miracles that happen as we pray and act together in the wider world, demonstrate the power of the living God.

The Eastern Territory’s Mission and Culture Department is excited to be presenting the Small Group Laboratory at the LEAD Summit 2017. These events will be held Saturday, July 29, through Saturday, August 5, at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, in conjunction with the Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings. Soldiers will be equipped, encouraged, and inspired to serve in local corps. If you are interested in attending, go to SAconnects.org/LEAD2017.

*Noun; Our effort to follow Christ and support each other’s progress along the pathway to holiness, from first faith to eternity.

by Isaiah Allen

Isaiah Allen, father of six children and husband of one wife, contends for the development of soldiers in the Salvation Army’s USA Eastern Territory. He teaches New Testament Greek and is writing his PhD thesis on Pauline literature.

What Can I Do?

PRAY FOR DISCIPLESHIP in your life and in your corps, for personal and corporate courage to surpass prior levels, and that your group will embody all aspects of discipleship.
DREAM OF THE DIFFERENCE discipleship can make in your life, in your corps, and in your world.
AGREE TO GATHER REGULARLY with a small group from your corps and strive together
in discipleship.
VISIT SAconnects.org/LEAD2017 to sign up for the LEAD Summit.

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