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Discipleship philosophy

From Jesus' example, we believe there are 4 key aspects to discipleship. By focusing on these 4 ingredients, we can better cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit.
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From A Garden in Spring (Eastern Mennonite Missions' vision booklet)

    Salvation through Christ is holistic and comprehensive and cannot be reduced to a single,
    individual spiritual experience. In Jesus Christ, humanity and all creation are released from the
    power of Satan and renewed to the glory of God (Isaiah 65:17, Revelation 21).

    Having been forgiven and reconciled to God, we begin to walk in relationship with Him as            followers, or disciples. This relationship, formed in the context of God’s abundant, gracious            love offered to all people (John 3:16), transforms and empowers each disciple. Disciples are        also transformed through authentic relationships with others in the faith community who            encourage them to obey Jesus’ teachings.

    Learning obedience to Jesus and becoming like Him through the transforming work of the Holy
    Spirit within us is the central process of discipleship. As more and more people experience
    transformation, whole communities and nations are transformed. Following Jesus’ example, His
    disciples teach others who teach others who teach others. This multiplication of disciples            continues to be God’s strategy for changing the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).

Effective discipleship, as we understand it, includes four key ingredients: relationship, obedience, transformation, and multiplication.


Relationship

Relationship is the context within which discipleship takes place. This is why Jesus chose to focus on the few rather than the many. He knew it would be more effective to thoroughly invest Himself in a small group of people, rather than broadly connecting with as many as He could. He often avoided the masses to prioritize quality time with His disciples. And quality time it was. They shared life together, in every way. As they did, Jesus was a living example to them of what life was like in the kingdom of God, where love and grace abound. They saw His love and power healing the sick, restoring the broken, and lifting the downtrodden. Soon, He encouraged them to do the same things that He was doing. He rejoiced at their baby steps of obedience and rebuked them in love and grace when they fell back into their old ways.

It is this same kind of intimate relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit that allows us to participate in His work in the world. Part of that intimate relationship with Jesus is walking in relationship with others in His body. Loving, vulnerable relationships with others are one of the keys to effective growth as disciples. Programs, books, and large gatherings can be helpful in discipleship, but authentic relationships provide the most optimal setting for growth. Therefore, we focus not on what we are doing, but who we are connecting with. We go not looking for the many, but for the few. We ask the Lord to show us the people we are to be investing our lives in, and then follow Jesus’ example of passing on to them what He has put in us. Through sharing life, focused times of teaching, and accountability, as well as planned times of ministry together, we invite people to imitate us as we imitate Christ. Of course, our greatest joy will be when our disciples far exceed our own relationship with Christ and go on to disciple many others.

Sharing life together through authentic relationships, then, provides the context in which discipleship happens. Important questions to be asking are: Who is discipling me? Who am I discipling?


Obedience

Growth in discipleship is an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus through which He empowers us to obey His commands and transforms us into His image. There are two key parts, then, to obedience: listening and obeying. As disciples we intentionally put ourselves in places where we can hear what the Lord is speaking to us. Whether it’s in solitude or community, meditating and discussing His Word, or listening in silence, abiding in Him is our life-blood. However, it is not enough only to hear. We must also obey what we hear. Allowing others to speak into our lives and keep us accountable to taking steps of obedience is invaluable to our continued growth. As we take these steps of obedience, the transformation of Jesus is released in us and through us in greater ways.

Discipling relationships are focused on helping each other to deepen our relationship with Jesus and to walk in His ways. Many times the church becomes comfortable knowing about Jesus, but not knowing Him or following what He said. He had some very harsh words for those in that category. We believe that a key part of discipleship is learning together and providing encouragement and accountability to living out what we learn in concrete ways. Therefore, another key discipleship question that we ask each other is: What is Jesus calling me to and what am I going to do about it?


Transformation

Obedience to Jesus is the fundamental posture of a disciple. As we walk in obedience, we are transformed; we become vessels of that same transformation to others. The calling of Jesus is much larger than our own personal holiness. It is a participation with God in the transformation that He is bringing to the world. As we listen and obey, God moves through us to work in ways that are far beyond what we could ask or imagine. It is this vision of transformation that provides continued hope in seeking the purposes of God in the midst of a broken world. Therefore, we ask the Lord for His vision of transformation: What is the transformation you want to bring to me and to this community?


Multiplication

Every disciple is also a disciple-maker. Whatever we have been given is also meant to be passed on to others. Therefore, in addition to being faithful in applying what we know, we must also be faithful to share it with others in a way that they can also understand, apply, and share. We strive to make everything we do reproducible so that it never stops with us. This can happen at many levels but will be most effective if there are a few people we are consistently connecting with at a deep level, similar to the way that Jesus did with His disciples. This brings us back to the questions of relationship: Who is discipling me? Who am I discipling?

From the example of Jesus and many of His followers, we believe that relationship, obedience, transformation, and multiplication comprise the core of discipleship. Of course, no discipleship is possible outside of the work of the Holy Spirit. By focusing in on these four aspects of discipleship, we believe we can better cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit in making disciples.

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