From Members to Disciples

In the E-news, I commented on the phrase every member ministry community. It requires the investment of each and every person to ensure our community continues to be fit for the purpose God calls us to be.

The New Testament has a simple word that encompasses every aspect of being fit for purpose. The word is disciple. I increasingly draw a distinction between two terms often used interchangeably – member and disciple. 

Members are concerned with supporting the organization to which they belong:

  • Members see themselves as supporting the clergy and others to whom they look to perform ministry.
  • The demands of membership are intentionally kept low so as not to discourage people from joining, and to encourage people to remain.
  • Members notoriously vote with their pocket books and ultimately with their feet, when they don’t get what they want or feel their specific needs are not being met.

Disciples see themselves as active participants in the Church’s ministry and not just supporters of the organization:

  • Disciples are invested in their relationship with God.
  • For them building a strong church is the most effective way of making a difference in the wider world with which they feel deeply involved.
  • Disciples practice lives of prayer, study, and reflection.
  • They experience deep gratitude for the good things they enjoy, seeing them not as things to own, but hold in trust.
  • Disciples express their sense of gratitude in generous lives of service.

The contours of discipleship vary from person to person because God not only calls us as we are as we are in the process of becoming. Our temperament, our gifts, our passions, and concerns are the lenses that illuminate God calls each of us to service in the world. We respond to our call through loving God and loving the people in whose company we live out our lives, moment-by-moment, day-by-day, one breath at a time.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus could well have been addressing the current plight of our own experience. Most of us feel harassed by the pace of life and it’s increasing level of demands. Our ability to respond to the rapid pace of change and the level of demand is decreased by the seemingly unstoppable rise in our levels of anxiety. We are now sorely afraid in the world in which we find ourselves, and Americans, who enjoy higher levels of prosperity than any other nation, seem to be the most afraid of all.

Spiritual community offers release from both fear and a sense of futility because it provides a way for us to work together to become the change we long to experience in the world around us. Our community, however, is currently operating at the outer limits of our capacity, continuing to run a program that is too large for the pool of disciples on hand. We find ourselves in the situation Jesus describes in: the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

Our continued high-level priority is to grow. I have outlined the ways in which the need for growth is currently being supported as together we become a more magnetic community; a community shaped to attract others who long to grow more in love with God and thus be equipped to make a greater difference in the world.

We have a job to do and I believe that at St Martin’s we have done it well in 2016-17. I firmly believe that only when we do our part is God enabled to do God’s part. So with all that we’re currently doing, and with the new directions that will undoubtedly open up in 2017-18, we must not neglect the second have of Jesus statement:

Then he [Jesus] said to his disciples: The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 

Jesus then called his disciples and sent them out. He sent them out in teams, two-by-two. It’s together that we become equipped for ministry in the world. There’s no such thing as a ministry of one.

 


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