Too often IF discipleship comes up in a church setting it means a new program or a curriculum. It is a topic that every church knows is important, but doesn’t seem to really take place in most churches. Churches will say they value discipleship (and other sexy words like “mission” and “community” of course), but often this value isn’t embraced by the church culture. Discipleship is more often than not delegated to a program, a curriculum, or some class that people need to attend. Discipleship becomes a task instead of a relationship. A program to attend instead of an ongoing journey to discover.
Fortunately for me, this hasn’t been my experience with discipleship in the past and it’s not my vision for plant medina’s future. I view discipleship in the church as an invitation to a journey into Christ likeness with others. Discipleship is like being invited on a hiking trip by an experienced hiker and having this new friend show you how to use all your gear. Then actually going out and hitting the trails with you, showing you how to navigate tough spots and not just how to hike, but how to hike well.
This is the way Eugene Peterson described how his parish saw him as a Pastor:
“We want you to give us help. Be our pastor, a minister of Word and sacrament in the middle of this world’s life. Minister the Word and sacrament in all the different parts and stages of our lives – in our work and play, with our children and our parents, at birth and death, in our celebrations and sorrows, on those days when morning breaks over us in a wash of sunshine, and those other days that are all drizzle. This isn’t the only task in the life of faith, but it is your task. We will find someone else to do the other important and essential tasks. This is YOURS: Word and Sacrament….
One more thing: we are going to ordain you to this ministry, and we want your vow that you will stick to it. This is not a temporary job assignment but a way of life that we need lived out in our community…
There are many other things to be done in this wrecked world, and we are going to be doing at least some of them, but if we don’t know the foundational realities with which we are dealing – God, kingdom, gospel – we are going to end up living futile, fantasy lives. Your task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command and promise and invitation.”
I was a year into living the Christian witness when I transferred to Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. After 10 months of intense mentoring and training by a Navigator in Florida, I was now faced with a base that at the time did not have a Navigator missionary on staff. It was during this time I was sharing a meal with a new friend who was discipled by my former mentor in Florida.
In one of our first meetings he called me a FAT disciple… I never heard that before. When I heard it I thought, “Phat”? What’s this guy playing at? Is he trying to spit slang ?” He obviously noticed my glazed over eyes at his comment, and with a smile said, “You know… F-A-T. – Faithful. Available. Teachable. The qualities in a disciple of Christ.”
Looking back at this story now, I can honestly tell you that at the end of a tour as an M.Div. student at Asbury Theological Seminary, I am still very F.A.T.! I am called to be faithful both the “head and heart” knowledge and experiences that I have been PRIVILEGED to learn. I am still very much available to be mentored and to mentor. Finally, I humbly report that I have failed to live up to the standards of the name of my degree, Master of Divinity. I have not mastered the divine and am still very teachable by God’s Spirit, Word, and Church.
So… Ph.D.s, senior Pastors, priests, missionaries, Seminarians, social activists and writers .. have you managed to keep your weight on? Have you remained F.A.T.?