Each month we’ll be hearing from one of our Regional Ministers, to encourage us along the way as we continue empowering missional disciples in our communities across the West of England.
Recently my daughter introduced me to the church leader and author John Mark Comer. He writes: “Our primary goal as followers of Jesus is learning to live in a constant state of connection to the Spirit. This is how we are able to be with Jesus, our Rabbi. We must invite him into every moment and learn to always be in two places at once—at home and with Jesus, at work and with Jesus, on your commute and with Jesus. Bring his presence into the routine of your daily life. But how do we accomplish that in the chaos of the urban, digital world? It’s pretty straightforward: to experience the life of Jesus, we must adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.”
As we continue to learn to live in a discontinuous time for the church and wider culture, what has become apparent is the need for us to discover what should be our core activities as church leaders and churches. John Mark Comer describes it as ‘Practicing the way of Jesus’, Jesus called it ‘being and making disciples.’
Jesus did many things and revealed amazing truths about God, but at the core of all His activities was the focus on forming disciples who made disciples. The Gospels tell us that Jesus begins His ministry by calling the disciples to follow Him. At the end of Jesus ministry on earth he says to them: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
Practicing the way of Jesus, making disciples, needs to be the core of our activities as individuals, for Christian leaders and Christian communities. Let me clarify this terminology in case we interpret this only through the lens of our own experience. Practicing the way of Jesus is focused on forming people to become Jesus shaped disciples, being apprentices who help others to be apprentices of Jesus. Helping others to learn to follow Jesus, by following us, following Him.
Practicing the way of Jesus and having a rule of life, is a set of practices and rhythms that help us create space in our busy world to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did and align with our deepest passions and priorities.
While the word “rule” may strike you as a strict constraint, the word we translate “rule” was originally the word for a trellis in a vineyard. In the same way a vine needs a trellis to lift it off the ground so it can bear the maximum amount of fruit, we need a rule as a support structure to organise our life around “abiding in the vine,” (John 15:1–8) as Jesus imagined. Rather than a rigid, legalistic to-do list, it’s a life-giving structure for growth, and joy.
There are a number of spiritual disciplines that are essential to following Jesus in our place and culture to enable us to be Jesus shaped disciples / apprentices:
- Silence and Solitude – An intentional time to be alone with God
- Scripture – Studying the word of God
- Prayer – Woven into the fabric of our routines
- Fasting – Willingly abstaining to focus on the Lord Jesus
- Simplicity – Structuring your life to becomes more freeing
- Living in Community – Partners for the journey and sharing life
- Sabbath – Setting time aside for rest and worship
Here are some questions to consider:
Which of these practices are currently part of your life?
Which practices do you need to work on?
Our aim is to learn to follow Jesus, by helping others follow us, as we follow Jesus.
The way of Jesus is critical for individual followers of Jesus, those who are called to serve in leadership and for Christian communities, in order for us to be the Jesus shaped disciples He longs us to be, to fulfil the great commission.