Dear member of St Matthew's
Jesus never told us to Go and make converts of every nation – good as it is to be a convert. He didn't say Go and make churchgoers, nor Go and make Christians – though it's good to be a Christian and a churchgoer too. No, Jesus said, Go and make disciples.
But what is a disciple? They weren't unique to Jesus. In the Bible, John the Baptist also had disciples, for example. So did other distinguished Jewish teachers, or rabbis. And so did the philosophers of the Greek-speaking civilisation of Jesus' day. These disciples all sought, not merely to hear what their teachers had to say, but to learn how they lived. Above all they wanted to be like their teachers because their teachers' wisdom should be earthed in the way they lived from day to day. For this reason disciples would follow their teachers everywhere – according to some sources, even to the loo and under the marriage bed! They did this so they could copy the ones they followed and grow to be more like them.
So a disciple is someone who tries to spend as much time as possible with their master, in order to learn from their master how to grow to be more like their master. What a great ambition for a Christian – to grow to be more like our Master, Jesus! Did you know that is God's plan for you? According to Romans 8:29, God has "predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of His Son."
That is why I want 2012 to be a Year of Discipleship for St Matthew's. We have quite a few new people in church. What are we doing to help them grow to be more like Jesus? Have we got more to offer them than forever recycling them back to Alpha? Are there people who've been around a bit longer and who perhaps have lowered their expectations and stopped growing? Unless the church is making disciples then it is not doing what Jesus told us to do.
Here are a few things currently in the pipeline for our discipleship agenda:
· we're running with the theme of discipleship in our January teaching programme.
· there's a gifts course over two evenings on 25 Jan and 1 Feb. This will help you discover what gifts God has given you and what He is calling you to do in His service – a key part of being a disciple.
· our Lent course, Moving On, runs on Wednesdays from 29 Feb to 4 April and is designed to help us with first steps in discipleship.
· in October we have weekend away together booked. This will be a great time of fun and friendship and also help us with our spiritual growth as disciples.
· Join a home group or cell group – this is where we can support and encourage each other in the nitty gritty of living out a Jesus lifestyle.
Discipleship isn't just about hard work and duty. Let's enjoy getting to know Jesus better, let's learn together through our mistakes and weaknesses, just as Peter and the other disciples did in the Bible. Let's be new, different people at the end of 2012 compared to what we are now at its beginning. There's an adventure in store for us!
With my love and prayers for the coming year,