May 14th, 2012 at 6:00 am
I have a confession to make, and I hope that none of my old youth teachers, college leaders or even pastors are reading this. I cannot remember any specific study, class or sermon that was taught to me. I am sure that they were good and were well-prepared, but there are none that stand out or that I have kept.
What I do remember, though, is the relationship. I remember time spent with me discussing life and the Christian faith. I remember advice and counsel. I even remember some loving confrontation over sin and habits.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a place for the teaching/learning process in discipleship, but I believe that far too often we promote discipleship as a class or track rather than focusing on a lifetime of learning and building relationships with those who are further along in the faith or those who are a few steps behind us.
So, while Bible study and classes are the formal side of discipleship training and spiritual growth, I believe the best disciples are formed when these classes are balanced with intentional relationships with other disciples who are learning how to practice their faith in today’s culture. So, how does this look at FBC Midlothian where I serve the Minister of Discipleship? In short, we provide avenues for the formal and the relational.
Formal Discipleship takes place in two tracks. On Sundays, our Adult Bible Fellowship (ABF) groups meet for Bible Study. Some of these groups are as large as 60+, some as small as 12-15. They are primarily formed around life stages. Teachers teach through the Bible and learners learn how to apply biblical truth to life. Our Wednesday track offers groups for men, women and couples to study the Bible together in more topical centered studies. Parenting, marriage, leadership, and missional living are all topics that have been addressed.
Our informal discipleship happens through our small groups. We call our system LIFE Groups because it is the place where faith and life intersect. The idea we promote at FBC Midlothian is this is where we are “doing life together” with a group of other believers. Families join together a couple of times a month for a meal, for prayer, for scripture study, for support and for friendship. In these small groups, and over time, relationships are formed that promote discipleship and spiritual growth. Spiritual growth doesn’t happen overnight and doesn’t always happen at 9:30 on a Sunday morning in a class. Life is a learning lab where disciples are formed.
When Jesus called his disciples, he didn’t call them to a class, but to a relationship with Him. Yes, He taught them, but He didn’t JUST teach them. He lived with them, ate with them, prayed with them and loved them. They learned from Him because they were WITH Him.
Acts 2 paints a description of the early church where believers met for fellowship, prayer, support and community on a regular basis in addition to attending worship and teaching in the temple. If we want to “make disciples,” I believe that we need to practice the “formal” and the “informal” in the discipleship process.
By Kenny Lowman, Minister of Discipleship at First Baptist Church in Midlothian
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