Discipleship, what is it and what does it look like?
“It’s helping the addicted, homeless and displaced re-discover the joy and hope they once enjoyed.” Ken Hall, Community Development Worker, HopeStreet
The word disciple comes to us via the Latin word ‘discipulus’ meaning learner but its origin is in the Greek word ‘mathetes’ which means a pupil or an apprentice. In a Christian context, we are apprentices to the Master Craftsman and serve an apprenticeship that never ends.
Growing up in an evangelical church in a Sydney Bible Belt, I’ve been spoilt for choice regarding training in my faith journey. There has always been an abundance of courses and teachings relating to the development of strong disciples. Many of us in Australia are very fortunate to have had these learning opportunities but I believe we need to be wary of the temptation of feeling that we’re not ready, not good enough or need to do just one more course before God can use us to impact the lives of others – this is not what Jesus taught. Jesus modelled the perfect example of discipleship and gave us two commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 37-40
In John 13, Jesus reminds us of the importance of demonstrating this love for each other and how this is a distinguishing factor for us as disciples of Jesus.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34,35
So when you come back to the basics and look at discipleship in the light of Jesus’ teaching, it really is a very simple message: We should be wholly and solely sold out to God. To grasp discipleship in its purest form involves living out these two commandments each and every day.
I asked Ken Hall to share his reflections of discipleship in an urban context. Ken holds a bi-vocational role in Woolloomooloo as Community Development worker with HopeStreet and as Pastor of Woolloomooloo Baptist Church. Through these roles he interacts with people from all walks of life and at times those who have challenging and traumatic issues they are navigating.
“’Yeah, I used to be a full-on churchy.’ I hear this often. Amongst the residents of Woolloomooloo, both homeless and housed, there are a few people that have had issues in their life overwhelm them and feel they’ve lost the faith they once had. So discipleship here in Woolloomooloo isn’t a neat six week programme. It’s a collection of scattered and spontaneous moments of reminding those who once walked with Christ that his love for them is still there. It’s getting them to recall the truths of God’s word. It’s helping the addicted, homeless and displaced re-discover the joy and hope they once enjoyed. It’s sitting in HopeStreet’s Back Shed Cafe and sharing about Jesus over a coffee. It’s inviting them to be a part of our small church gathering on a Sunday morning to re-engage with a Christian community. It’s praying with people that the Lord would reveal his love once again to those who feel unlovable.”
From one apprentice to another, I encourage you to step out boldly as you ‘make disciples of all people’ Matthew 28:19. I also ask you to pray for us as we seek to be reminders of God’s love and grace and to be true disciples in a challenging and often hurting community.