Tag Archives: discipleship

Letting Go / travelling light.

It is easier said than done, to let-go when changes occur. Some of these changes are physical, others mental or spiritual or emotional… none the less, there is a pattern that such changes follow that brings about despair or amazing chance.

It has occurred a number of times in my life and is about to happen again: leaving all materialistic stuff behind and starting a new life in a new place, on a new continent, in a new language.

Such change brings about emotional challenges such as saying good bye, excitement of the new, longing to hold on what was, fears of the unknown, and many others. There is a tension between what we consider good and bad feelings, or should I rather say, positive and negative feelings; though if we look at them openly and honestly they are in fact all positive or even neutral in character. They just are. They are normal. They cannot be denied and won’t go away. They might be pushed aside but are not resolved unless you embrace them and live through them.

Such change also brings along physical challenges. Those of starting a new home of leaving behind an old one (even in practical terms… getting a new bed, table, kitchen, clothes,…) of having to adapt to a new season, climate, language, etc pp. Continuing life with less materialistic luxury than you got used to over the past season in your life.

And there are spiritual challenges. Suddenly praying as usual feels different. Suddenly spiritual warfare needs to be dealt with differently and things you stand up for or against change. The calling to the new country can also entail challenges from God, can change your relationship toward Him, can be scary to exciting and could bring along insecurities God allows so you can grow in Him.

When I read in Luke 9:3, Mark 6:8 and Matthew 10:9 about what to take along as followers of Christ, when God sends us; the lists are similar and the symbolism the same… so I will stick to Luke.

Luke 9:2-4a And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.  And He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece.” Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city.…

So here we are instructed if we are to leave and proclaim the Kingdom of God. Let us remember that any follower of Christ is called as a disciple and that the above is our core message! It does not need a mission trip, evangelistic event or occasion. We are called to proclaim the Kingdom. So we can know this command is for our daily lives.

Allow me to attempt some interpretation on some of the things:

Take no staff: a staff is a symbol of authority and identity.

When I leave from one job to the next, most of the times, it helps little or even hurts new relationships when I arrive bragging about how great I was at my last post, what authority and knowledge and power I had. I will have a pretty lousy and hard time finding my feet.

Take no bag: what goes in your bag when you leave?

Mine contains memories, rituals of how to do things, own securities in essence that help me to be self reliant, no matter what shape they might take.

Take no bread: this reminds me of the Israelites in the desert. They could only harvest manna for that very day. It also reminds me of how God says we should never worry about what we feed on tomorrow.

If I move from one place to the next, I leave behind a spiritual home. If I take along the methods and habits and rituals of that old home to the possible next, I will start comparing constantly. Comparison kills in most instances. Spiritual food provided by a local church will never look the same when you move to a next place. However God does. His Bible does. And through such HE will feed us.

Take no money: When I take money, I become self reliant…

(I am not speaking of preparing with wisdom even financially.) Money often gives us a false sense of security. And thus when it fails, it leaves us in despair for something it was never really able to give.

Take no two shirts/cloaks: there are certain things that we desire to take out of fear and egoism. They cause excess baggage.

In the days of Jesus, taking a second garment would have meant excess baggage. It was not a usual thing to do either.

When I look at my own suitcase I am busy packing, I find there are things I desire to take, that cause excess weight. I desire to pack them because of the “but what if’s”. They cause an unhealthy focus on me, instead of the providence of God and are caused by a lack of trust in Him.

So why would God cause me to take no bread, no extra cloak, no money, no bag, no staff?

When God sends us on an adventure, we need to prepare. We need to use the brains God gave us. We need to be wise and make provision. However there ARE things we will be wise to do without.

For me these are:

My staff: it doesn’t help if I pitch and show off with who I have been in the past or what I have achieved. It will make building new relationships harder than it already is.

My bag: I need to embrace the fact that most things that create a comfort zone for me now, will change. Holding on to the old ways and trying to be self-reliant, will not be of help in this new environment.

My bread: I will need to find a new spiritual home, even when I will find support from my old one and will even stay in covenant with them. Unless I am open to the possibility of a new packaging to the same Gospel, I will struggle more than necessary and will be prone to attacks from the devil.

My money: For me that is symbolic of my library of books, my guitar, and other ways I self-reliantly learned to cope with emotional stress that help me to NOT rely fully on God. (Now I am not against ANY of these… but they should always bring me into His presence, not prevent me from facing my own emotions and His presence alike.)

My extra cloak: In my desperation and sometimes fear to let go all of the old and start anew, I sometimes embrace things in a manner that you would think they bring salvation. I believe I cannot do without them, it threatens me to let go of them. However if I am honest… I haven’t needed them here in the past season; they will not save me or make the difference hoped for. I hold on to them in my desire to keep the old and in doing so they increase my reluctance to embrace the new (as my arms are filled already and my focus is on ‘poor me’.)

Gods advice and instruction of what to take, applies perfectly to my life and the season I find myself in.

However no matter whether you find yourself in such a season, or just want to de-clutter your life a bit, His instruction will be able to lead you.

You will probably have to adapt the examples I used. You might even have to adapt the symbolism. Just remember that this is not something you should pretend will never apply to you.

I pray you life may be enriched by His presence, by an increased trust in Him and testimonies of His providence and love throughout your process of change.

God bless.

What is discipleship anyway?

This is a long post. It is not the typical blog post, but it is me spilling my innermost thoughts on a matter close to my heart. I hope you will read it none the less and that you will allow it to challenge you.

Studying course material on “Exploring Biblical Discipleship”, I have started on a journey of re-determining what discipleship is to me; what the functions of the church are with regards to the topic; where I stand in all of this and what the biblical demands are and what possibilities with regards to enhancing His kingdom are contained therein.

My frame of reference to churches exercising ‘discipleship’ is relatively small, regarding the fact that I have merely been a member of the Lutheran Church, the Pentecostal church movement and the Charismatic church movement, having visited merely one of each throughout my life. However the picture seems somewhat too similar to miss.

If the topic of discipleship even arose it mostly consisted of measures to make people better members, help them understand the doctrines at hand more easily, gain a life filled to a greater deal with freedom God has for us, and propagating conformity to ‘our style’ of church through and by the use of courses, participation in programs, short (often not more an one hour per week, sometimes a day) impact moments that in turn were supposed to transform lives.

If I am honest, I find all these approaches have failed in most of all instances. Looking at my own life, I admit I have often gained knowledge and have achieved becoming a better member, co-worker and participant in the specific denomination I was in. I have learned how to pray, worship, preach, socialize and talk the lingo of the community of that church. I have even acquired disciplines related to that. But I have not necessarily become a better follower of Christ. I have experienced conformity to church rather than to Christ. I have adopted pride for my church, believing I was more holy and godly than before and in that pride hindered myself from becoming more Christ-like.

If I think of discipleship as an apprenticeship however, I notice how momentary events, programs and courses fail to fulfill this task. Watching my mother bake bread, or even helping her mix the dough, will as a standalone event that might happens once in a while, not make me a baker. Following a recipe of Jamie Oliver, to the point, will not allow me to be a cook as good as he is, even if I cook one of his recipes once a week and soon might get the gist of the procedures.

Apprenticeship is just so much more.

I have been involved in and participated in so called discipleship programs, courses or events for the past 18 years (the first nine years on and off, the latter on a continuous basis). I have gained much knowledge, attained some disciplines (some of which were only applicable in a certain type of church) and learned to speak the lingo, be a profitable member to any church and yes, I got to know God more;

It recently dawned on me, that although I have been involved in disciple-making and being discipled the past nine years, my life and walk with God has changed the most when I spent three years teaching at a small private school in Swakopmund. I learned more about the fruit of the spirit in the first year of teaching a grade 5 class, than I have in seven years of being involved in a church. And while spending numerous hours together with my learners in various subject classes, they soon became a thermometer to my walk with Christ by reflecting my attitudes, my moods, my passions, my abilities and disabilities that I unknowingly imparted into them.

If you would ask me today, when I have most likely succeeded in ever making true disciples, it was in those three years, spending my time, my energy, my heart, dedicating and directing my prayers and fasting, my visions and ideas, and investing it into the lives of primary school students.

Why would I say such a thing, when I was taught that true discipleship happens in a church program?

I see the effects, the after-math of my time there. The contact I still have with some of my students; the fact that they confide in me; that their parents contact me when needing advice on their child’s dating; that they ask for prayer – even over a facebook chat and are overjoyed when I take the time to answer some of the difficult questions in life or just listen to them; when they honour me by mentioning me in the best possible contexts without me ever knowing beforehand that that is how they see the impact that I had in their lives and that it pointed them to Jesus, then I am truly humbled, then I stand fearing God, knowing I didn’t pray enough for them, that I have failed giving them my best in so many instances and yet Gods grace was sufficient to allow a divine impartation to their lives through mine.

These facts let me question how we do discipleship. They urge me to reconsider my stand point.

I have read much about discipleship be it in articles, books or the Bible. I have listened to teachings, participated in courses and am even now again participating in a course that seems to revolutionize my view completely. However most of the material, out on the market, seems to propagate a discipleship I have also encountered and described above. Some of the material has challenged me to stop, think and critically review my own take on the matter, which leads me to my current philosophy of discipleship. I say current, because I acknowledge finding myself in a process of conversion and reviewing this topic as one of many on my journey with Christ and becoming more Christ-like. I deem it necessary to remain teachable in all this, but at the same time stand firmly rooted on the revelational truth I have thus far.

I carry an ever expanding dream within me. A dream that shouts ‘discipleship’ at the top of its lungs. A dream that seems impossible to realize by humanly power, yet seems so much more like a possibility to redeem our culture, our humanity and enhance His kingdom.

I dream of a church that is the center of connecting ministries that we wouldn’t even call such in our current churches:

Imagine all teachers that are part of the church come together regularly to pray; over their challenges, for their students, for colleagues, for curriculums, for families, etc. no matter which school they teach at. Imagine their teaching to be fully acknowledged a ministry of the church, even though it might not be a ministry in the church. Imagine that ministry being backed up by intercessors, feedback, and treated as a branch of the church where discipleship happens without the condition of constantly speaking of Christ and people coming to church first. Yet living Christ and allowing through work appropriate transparency to make one’s own faith tangibly visible.

Now imagine doing that with many other professions also. Imagine the impact we could have!

I dream of a church where family becomes an intentional ministry within itself and also to replenish where our community lacks. Imagine, men of all trades in church, rising not only as priests of their own households, but even rising to replenish something where our society is broken, becoming fathers to the fatherless and considering that a full ministry with all it needs.

Imagine young university students, pitching at the netball and rugby matches of school going learners, supporting them, cheering them on, and celebrating their lives through that. Imagine the lasting relationships that would be build and the spiritual impact that could and would happen at the side of such a field, when suddenly teachers, friends, parents and even enemies would notice the impact in that sportsman’s life.

Imagine the church instead of protesting in front of abortion clinics offering a home for the next 12 months to these women (no matter whether they abort or not) to live with families or couples (of course with a certain reasonable and appropriate contract) in the time of finding their feet in life (whether healing emotionally after an abortion, or learning to be a parent). Either way it would be offering a solution, rather than condemning them and leaving them alone in a stigmatized society trying to find their feet and survive.

Imagine a church that connects people to real life experiences like these and many more – for ideas in this respect seem endless. I dream of a church where discipleship is not a word, a course or project or seminar, but where it becomes a way of life. A church where the Sunday sermons and the time of fellowship before and after are merely a mean to rejoice, receive some teaching and instruction, but likewise to make connections that enable true life relationship, apprenticeship, yes discipleship to happen. A church that is church more outside of the Sunday services, than it is now.

Only such a church enables apprenticeship that leads to a transformation to our master, Jesus Christ. We would find ourselves outside of our comfort zones, living closer together than we deem socially the norm, being more transparent than we feel comfortable with and constantly challenged by the reflection in the lives of those around us that reflect the impact we make, and give constant live-feedback on our own discipleship progress through conversion on all levels.

I do not have a plan how to change our lives and church experiences to match such a philosophy of discipleship.

I know that one step I am taking myself, is returning to teaching in the upcoming year. Considering the impact this changed view will have on the kingdom of God right there where I will be, fills my heart with anticipation and fear of God recognizing my own depravity in the light of who I am and who He is.

As I continue to journey, a mere disciple of Christ, helping and facilitating others to become disciples also, I find I have much yet to learn. But I trust, that by His grace, we will be able to redeem ‘discipleship’ for His kingdom in a way, that is worthy of our Lord and God, our master, our King.

Dare to dream bigger, dare to trust God and go, LIVE discipleship with all you are and have!