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Whole-Life Discipleship

whole-life-disciplesAs Christians, church life often gets most of our spiritual attention. There’s an assumption that church stuff is where God is doing things. Indeed, God is working through church programs, preaching and what not. However, what about the rest of our lives – work, home, social activities? Or, as the LLIC’s director, Mark Greene puts it, “What about the other 110 hours of the week?

I’ve recently finished Neil Hudson’s book, Imagine Church. Neil is also part of the LICC. His book is fantastic. I highly recommend it. In it, he focuses in on the front line and the ordinary moments of our everyday lives. He asks how God may be working there. He uses the term whole-life discipleship. In other words, there is so much opportunity as disciples of Jesus Christ to influence our world. To make disciples. Isn’t this what Jesus intended?

Too often, and for far too long, the church has been focused inwards, building and polishing the “vessel,” as Dallas Willard calls the churchy stuff. Again, this is important, but it’s not complete. It’s not complete because it can miss the treasure of discipleship in and among the world.

Jesus told his disciples to “follow him.” Later, he sent them out into all the nations. These two parts, learning from Jesus (i.e., following him, learning his ways), and then “Go,” out to all the nations to make disciples are a matched set. Can’t do one without the other, effectively anyway. Moreover, they compliment each other – “learning” as we “go.”

Here are the passages to highlight this from Matthew’s gospel:

Matthew 4:18-20 (Learn)
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

In other words, Jesus didn’t call them them into a huddle and then download a discipleship program into their brains. He spent years with them teaching them His Ways. After his resurrection, he said this…

Matthew 28:18-20 (Go)
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In a lecture at Regent College, Krish Kandiah, notes that the emphasis of this latter passage is on making disciples. It could be read more like, “Making disciples of all nations as you go.” The point is that discipleship – in all areas of our everyday and ordinary lives – is fundamental.

It’s in the ordinary (our home, work, grocery store) that we can flex our discipleship muscles. This is part of our training ground (coupled with sound teaching from the church). We tend to underestimate this area of our lives clinging to a sacred/secular divide, and thus compartmentalizing our lives and thus failing to maximize how God can use us in the ordinary everyday stuff. As followers of Jesus, he’s preeminent in all that we do.

Many of us will be surprised by what God will do in our ordinary moments. We’ve not been taught to capture the ordinary. Folks missed it in Jesus’ day too. First century Jews expected a messiah that would crush the Romans with military might, power, and glory. Instead they got Jesus. And he was so ordinary to them! I think of Mark 6, which show’s just how ordinary the Kingdom of God entered our world. It was so ordinary people were condescending.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Right? Isn’t this just an ordinary blue collar carpenter? Isn’t this the illegitimate child of Mary? Aren’t his ordinary brothers and sisters right here with us? There’s no royalty here, come on!

Undeterred, off Jesus went to usher in the kingdom – eating meals with people, walking down dusty roads, chatting at the water cooler (well), sleeping in a boat…etc. Of course he performed miracles and his teaching was profound, but it was all done in the ordinary.

We’ve been empowered to do the same as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted

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