I don't know about you, but when I look back on old pictures of myself from the 70s, I shake my head in disbelief. There I am sporting my groovy wide collar, wild prints, bell bottoms, and patent leather dress boots. And don't get me started on that haircut!
At the time I thought I was really with it, but only when we look back do we see how dated we are, and how some styles don't stand the test of time.
The same is true about discipleship. Many different methods and trends have developed. Some people advance their own model and disparage others. That's not the best approach. I want us as Wesleyans to choose to be a movement, rather than depending on any one model.
Instead, let's consider what might be essential elements across any successful discipleship model. At minimum, these four dynamics will always be involved:
- Relationship – disciples are made by people, and any effective discipleship materials and meetings will be good at getting relationships sparked and connected. Talking with each other about our relationship with Jesus is the essential context of discipleship, no matter if you're paired up in an accountability group, small group, class, seminar, or community group. Relationship matters more than size.
- Prayer – make sure God is included in the conversation. If you never talk directly with God in the context of a discipleship relationship, then you can become too "me-focused" and limit discipleship effectiveness. Then those who are more mature in their faith or more passionate about prayer don't model for or encourage those who feel like rookies. And honestly, if we can't pray together in discipling relationships, then where can we pray?
- Bible – opening up God-breathed Scripture turns relationship into discipleship. Instead of merely expressing uninformed opinions, we together seek wisdom in the Word of God. If you have a relationship where you pray and read the Bible, you have the beginnings of discipleship. But for the fourth essential . . .
- Multiplication – a discipling relationship is an open highway. The purpose is that every discipled person would grasp our Lord's commission and move to disciple others. If you stay in the same relationships and never build new relationships allowing for discipleship, then you've reached a spiritual cul-de-sac. It's time to break loose and multiply yourself in another disciple, in new groups, in new congregations.
When we speak of "discipleship and multiplication" they are not in the end different things, they are interrelated as the same gospel goal. We, in The Wesleyan Church, are in a renewed season of focus on discipleship. We want our membership process to be an entry point of discipleship for all those who seek to not only believe in Jesus Christ, but also want to belong to a faith family that helps them become all that God has for them. I want to invite you to engage with these Belonging membership resources that help you do just that at Wesleyan.org.