(Audrey, Dean of Women, spending time with Ally, Korean student)
Life is difficult. How is it that there are days of complete bliss and yet there are days that seem utterly impossible to get past? I think everyone would agree that life is a roller coaster of emotions full of joy, despair, triumph, and defeat. Even though we subconsciously know life is hard, we often do not like to admit the reality of how hard it is. Oftentimes, we confidently reassure and convince ourselves that we can manage life on our own. While we all want meaningful relationships in our lives, our pride keeps us from being transparent with those around us. Relationships are important and because life is hard, we need each other. That is why discipleship is a critical component of biblical community. It’s truly amazing how God equips every believer with the necessary tools and unique gifts to support and strengthen the body of Christ.
What is discipleship?
Paul’s ministry to the early church and the importance he placed on discipleship encourages me greatly. Paul knew how hard living for Christ was. He frequently emphasized the reality of our struggle with sin and never denied how hard the battle would be. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 he exclaims,
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”
Paul recognized the spiritual battle every person faces in life and his desire in ministry was to help the early church believers grow in their Christian maturity. Paul’s life was a clear demonstration of the simplicity of discipleship. Throughout his three missionary journeys, Paul consistently spent time edifying the body of believers, teaching them the scriptures, and ultimately strengthening them so they would continue in the faith, being able to pass it on to further generation of believers. He recognized the beauty of body of Christ and living in biblical community.
How was Paul able to influence so many in the early church? I look at his example and see the firm foundation a person needs to emulate that kind of life. For a person to be able to say “imitate me as I imitate Christ”, says quite a bit about them. Paul’s love for people stemmed from his love for God and much like a tree bearing fruit, the deep roots of his relationship with God allowed him to have a fruitful ministry of discipleship in the early church. Likewise, as we grow in our love for God, our love for others abounds and we will desire for others to experience the joy it is to walk close to God.
(Audrey, Dean of Women building meaningful relationships with students like Cynthia)
So what do we notice from the early church model? Discipleship is walking through life encouraging, admonishing and teaching those around you. Discipleship is centered on hundreds of life-on-life moments. Although discipleship includes formal gatherings for Bible study and prayer, it also focuses on learning and growing together in the ordinary small moments of daily life. That’s reality! It’s encouraging those who are hurting. It’s teaching those who have a desire to grow. It’s admonishing those who need guidance.
Paul spent a majority of his time teaching the new believers and encouraging them in the basics of Christian living. We can see from his example that discipleship is taking those teachable moments and using it to help others learn and grow. It’s often those small moments of ministry that have the most significant impact on people’s lives. Ultimately, discipleship is being available to share a piece of your life and relationship with God to those around you. The apostles were passing on to the believers what God was teaching them and it’s the same for us. What God is teaching us is what we need to impart to others.
Many times we forget the simplicity of discipleship and fail to see how God equips us to do the ministry he has called us to. Life is difficult and we need each other. We are all walking together on this journey and we need to do our best as Paul encourages the Thessalonians to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”.