I’ve just come back from another 36 hour residential on my diocesan training course. One of the themes we discussed was the whole issue of discipleship and how it is key to the healthy growth of the church. Of course if people are going to grow as disciples, then they need to know what discipleship is and why it is so important. Rather indirectly my thoughts led to the following series of doodles which my wife turned into something rather more pleasing to the eye. Spend some time to work through them, and let me have your feedback.
Here is your average person – let’s call him Mr Stickman. Mr Stickman like so many of us has a busy and full life. He spends his time juggling his commitments of family, work, friends, internet, hobbies and sport. And there isn’t a lot of space left over for any other commitments.
However at some point Mr Stickman gets interested in Jesus. Maybe he starts to spend some time reading the Bible. Maybe he tries to come to church on Sunday. But do you see the problem? He now has one more commitment to fit into his already full and busy life. Sooner or later something may well have to give.
The result is, that even if he has made some initial commitment of faith, he soon finds that all the other areas of his life start to press in. He finds perhaps, that he spends less time reading his Bible, or can only come to church less frequently. Gradually his faith gets squeezed out by the cares and worries of this life.
I’d like to say this is just a cartoon, but sadly it reflects a situation I have seen countless times in my ministry: people who were initially keen or made some real commitment simply fading away. Now I accept Jesus warns us in the parable of the sower that some seeds of the gospel will fail to thrive or be choked. But I also believe there is far, far more that we can do to help people’s faith to grow and flourish even under pressure.
What we want to aim for is a situation where instead of being squeezed, Mr Stickman’s faith starts to exert a pressure and influence on the other areas of his life. How do we make this happen?
The short answer is discipleship. Paul writes in Colossians 2:6:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Our aim must be to help Mr Stickman see his faith is not just another commitment to be juggled in his busy, stressful life, but a relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ that needs to grow and develop. To use the language of Paul, we want to give Mr S every opportunity to be rooted and built up in the faith.
This aim ties in with our Mission Action Plan where our life as a church is rooted in “being with Jesus” both on an individual and personal level. So we need to give Mr S the tools to be able to spend time with Jesus day by day, encourage him to join a small group, and help him find his place in the body of Christ. And we need to help Mr S see how to apply his faith to the real concerns and pressures he faces day by day, and live for Christ, supported and encouraged by the church.
And this is the ultimate aim, that in the end Jesus becomes Lord over every area of our lives, and that through us others begin to make the same decision to become disciples of Christ.