Discipleship is a personal thing but it isn’t always private. At it’s very core it involves other people in community together; learning, teaching, walking alongside and encouraging each other in faith. This doesn’t have to look like the traditional church setting (although it can!) Small groups (like SCM groups or faith societies), online communities or a small group of friends who meet together to support each other, pray and read the Bible, talk about and put faith into action through social action- these are all great ways to create community and grow in discipleship. In this Blog Rob looks at how important community is in your discipleship journey.
Firstly, it’s important to realise that discipleship is not just about the individual, but at it’s very core it involves other people in community together; learning, teaching, walking alongside and encouraging each other in faith. In a few churches these day there is the tendency to think that discipleship is like a hierarchical system, where the ‘unwise’ will go to ‘the wise’ to become ‘more wise’. Of course in some circumstances this is fine. But for the everyday, it’s not always particularly practical.
Jesus demonstrated the value of ‘interconnectedness ‘with His disciples. Interestingly you don’t find too many examples of Jesus spending time with just one disciple – this may be a challenge to the introverts among us! He spent signiﬁcant time with the crowds, with twelve, or with three. This model of interconnectedness is then seemingly used quite often during the growth of the early church. So, what did this discipleship model look like?
The book of Acts provides a few clues. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). I couldn’t name many buildings in Jerusalem at that time that could regularly hold upwards of a couple of thousand. So, these early disciples must have spent time together in smaller communities eating and learning together. What a beautiful picture that is – people from different backgrounds and walks of life coming together to share experiences (and probably snacks) and grow more united in faith and knowledge.
Your community is more than just the people in your local area but your close community are people who you develop deep relationships with, who you can be accountable with to help you achieve the things you want you to achieve (not just in your faith journey) and to keep you motivated when things may be more difficult. There should be people in your community that challenge you, that think differently to you and who encourage your deepening relationship with God. But obviously this relationship is a mutual one. So, are you willing to do the same for the people in your close community?
Creating these relationships is not always the easiest. Relationships like this require sacrifice and trust. Which obviously is hard if you have been hurt by people in the past, and in all truth, there is a chance that people might still let you down and break that trust. But from my personal reflections I have always seen value in these communities and relationships and the positives far outweigh the negatives. I would encourage you to build and be a part of these communities and challenge yourself to become better disciples in community.