During Jesus’ early ministry, it was very common for teachers to raise up disciples and teach and guide them to a path of growth. In Israel, there was a strong tendency to become a father figure, teacher, leader and spiritual guide to the disciple.
At that time, being a disciple meant sticking to someone as an apprentice, student and devoted follower. This practice led to seeking objective teaching and life lessons with the purpose of becoming a teacher, rabbi or leader. Following Jesus as a disciple meant a life commitment. To be his disciple was to be bound or attached to Jesus to carry out his will.
In Cuba, the culture is conducive to discipleship in a similar way. People are close to each other in a home. Sometimes they live together up to three generations. Neighbors help one another. Children and young adults respect their elders and refer to them as “tia” or “tio” (aunt or uncle).
In our churches, the discipleship form we use is “person to person,” natural discipleship occurs in daily life experience more than classroom discipleship. Of course, in every local church, the pastor has a discipleship program and applies it with the strategy God has provided for that church. For example, in our local church we have a program for the development of new converts that guides them through baptism and membership commitment.
However, discipleship does not stop there. We use a model based on the most popular sport in Cuba: baseball! We created a diamond-based growth strategy for each person. Believers go from base to base until they score a home run. To “run” the discipleship bases takes between 12 to 18 months to complete. It is highly motivational, as every true believer strives to get to the next base, the next level.
When the new believer finishes the diamond run, that person is ready to lead a small group in the area where they live. We have taught them all the basics they would need for this role. Some small group leaders are called into ministry. This group enrolls in lay leadership training and FLAME (FLAMA) courses that lead to ordination.
Discipleship is extremely important in every congregation regardless of how it is accomplished. Through it, the believer is affirmed in faith and trained to be sent out to serve as Jesus’ disciple. The teaching of Jesus was aimed at people making a decision to be his disciple, following him and doing his will as a disciple in his kingdom.
Nothing has changed, and this is the same thing Jesus expects of us today. Let’s be his disciples and follow him!
Travel with other Wesleyans on the Discipleship Cruise, May 21-25, 2018, where Cuban Wesleyans will join the group for informative workshops and sessions on discipleship and share what God is doing in their country. Participants will also explore historic Havana in an overnight stay. Registration ends November 15.