Tag Archives: discipleship matters

Forward Today: Discipleship Matters

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott considers what real discipleship entails—and why it’s so essential.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Sometimes in our churches, I think we forget our marching orders, the ones given to us by Jesus. It’s easy to become a Preservation Society or a Museum of Maintenance or a Social Club of those we love. No one wants this, it just happens over decades. But our directions from Jesus couldn’t be more clear:
 
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
 

These verses often show up as a sound bite around the edge of baptismal fonts, but we shouldn’t stop with the exhortation to baptize. Jesus instructed his followers (that’s us!) not only to baptize, but to teach. And we are not just meant to teach, but to teach people obedience to Jesus’ commandments. Commandments are not very chic these days, but we Christians are bound to obey and to teach them. And what are these commandments? Jesus told us to love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbors as our selves. Jesus told us to love others as he loves us.

Practicing this kind of love is impossible on our own. We need God, and we need to be steeped in the life of discipleship – hearing, learning, and practicing this radical, loving way of life. Churches should be places where we explore what it means to love God fully and to love our neighbors fully as well. If church is going to move from being a place of comfort and familiarity into being a place of transformation, challenge, and sacrifice, we’ll need to work hard at creating a culture of discipleship.


This discipleship is not navel-gazing or internal focus or vapid spiritualized faith. No, the first clue something else is happening is that Jesus’ exhortation starts with “Go!” We are meant to leave our easy places and go into the whole world bearing Christ’s love and his message of hope and redemption. Discipleship means not only daily prayer and weekly worship, but regular service and great generosity. Discipleship is how our church might address many of the challenges of our time.
 
Forward Movement, along with our RenewalWorks ministry, is offering the Discipleship Matters conference next month. It’s an entire conference focused on discipleship. I hope you will consider coming to St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh, near Philadelphia, October 16-18. Send your congregation’s lay and clergy leaders or anyone who wants to learn more about discipleship and how to make it the main thing in your church. You can learn more online, and you can register here.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Today’s Wednesday sale item is Table Graces and Family Graces—just $11.57 for both!

ICYMI: Week of 12/16

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

For a few months now, we’ve been posting a ‘Question of the Week’ on our social channels every Monday. Sometimes the questions are pretty major (‘When did you hear the call to ordination?’) Other times, they’re a little lighter (‘What ornament do you put on the Christmas tree first?’) Often, they’re somewhere in between.

Judging by responses, this week’s Question of the Week was our most popular yet…

Check out some of the many responses, and tell us: What’s yours?

What have you been doing to celebrate Advent? Are you overwhelmed by Christmas shopping or travel plans, or have you found some time for reflection? In this week’s Forward Today, Scott Gunn wrote about the value of taking time for silence—and his own (successful!) experience trying silence during the service as a parish priest.

Judging by the comments and likes on this one, it was a welcome sentiment! Have you found the time for silence this season? There’s still time!

It’s been a month since Episcopalians gathered to talk Evangelism in Dallas, and we’re thrilled to see that the evangelism buzz has continued. Here on the blog, we were excited to share a guest post by the Rev. Emily Schnabl, a priest in Oklahoma who attended the conference and took home the ‘cardboard evangelism’ exercise to her parish. Here’s what happened. Cool photos, too!

And of course, we’re thrilled when we see tweets like this:

If you’ve been reading this space, you know we’ve been sharing stories of the Church’s response to Standing Rock. And we wrap up this week with a powerful one: this tale of seminarians from Texas who headed to North Dakota: ‘What Sustains the Peacemaker?’

Inspiring stuff. Have a great weekend.

Forward Today: Discipleship Matters

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes from the Claggett Center in Maryland–where RenewalWorks is hosting the Discipleship Matters conference–and reflects on why real, difficult discipleship is so critical in our faith.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

I am writing this as the Discipleship Matters conference comes to a close. Hosted by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham and the RenewalWorks ministry of Forward Movement, we have gathered to focus on how to create a culture of discipleship in our congregations. In other words, how can we get past maintenance and instead foster spiritual growth and commitment to following Jesus in our churches?

There is much good news here. In congregations small and large, people have shared ways in which their efforts have worked. People have found ways to get people reading and engaging with scripture. Others have changed the focus of adult formation to make room for transformation. Preachers have gotten more serious about their craft. Lay leaders have found it rewarding to consider vocation in their ministry both outside and inside the church. Where congregations have been willing to make the commitment to discipleship, there has been much fruit.
sclaggett

 

So what keeps us from getting serious about Jesus in our churches? One speaker contrasted the forces of life in Christ with the forces of death that resist growth and transformation. I think there’s something to this. At a less cosmic level, being a disciple of Jesus is costly and uncertain, whereas many come to church seeking comfort and constancy.
 
Is it worth it? Absolutely! Jesus is the only source of an abundant life that has nothing to do with material goods or external measure. In Jesus Christ, we find our true joy. When the church is about Jesus Christ and not mere comfort, we find that we have a precious gift to share with the world. Look around, and you’ll see people everywhere who are longing for hope, meaning, and purpose. We Christians have something to offer, especially when we get serious about the hard work of following Jesus.
 
Check out the tweets at hashtag #Discipleship16 for some insights from the conference. I don’t think we’re ever done learning how to follow Jesus. Our prayer book talks about growing into the full stature of Christ, and we never quite get there in this life. What is next for you? What does discipleship look like in your life?

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.