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.

Last month in his short article, my colleague Gary Woodall reminded us of the importance of being with Jesus – spending time with Jesus and taking on board his truth.   Gary reminded us of Romans 12:2 where the apostle Paul writes,

Do not allow this world to mould you into its own image instead be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind.’ 

Our minds get renewed as we spend time with Jesus in prayer and in his Word.  Dedicating ourselves to this, is key to the journey of our ‘Becoming like Jesus’.  Before Christians were ever known as ‘Christians’ they were known as ‘Followers of the Way’ (ie. followers of the way of Jesus).  There’s a big part of me regrets that we ever moved beyond this description – because it reminds us of what we are and how we are to live.

I was in a meeting last week and the speaker reminded the gathered group and challenged us that our churches are called to be ‘disciple-making communities’.  He spoke of the fact that we often fall into what might be described as a knowledge-based discipleship, and reminded us that what Jesus actually calls us to is obedience-based discipleship.  His challenge rang true with me and gave me pause for thought.  Let me invite you to consider this for yourself – how would you describe your discipleship (your journey of following Jesus)?

In Philippians chapter 2 the apostle Paul teaches that ‘our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus – who humbled himself, became flesh and blood, and took the form of a slave (yes, that’s the Greek word that is used here), and became obedient to death on a cross.  The Greek word for ‘attitude’ means ‘set your mind on this’ or ‘commit to this’.  A paraphrase might be, ‘make it a priority’.  This is the essence of discipleship, not just knowing stuff about Jesus – but learning to live like him.  Let me invite you to take this seriously – and make the transformation of our character and our values a priority from day to day. 

Over the years, I’ve become increasingly challenged that when Jesus said, ‘Come follow me”, he really meant it.  All that stuff about ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’, ‘forgiving your brother, not holding a grudge, ’when you reach out to, and care for the poor – you’re doing it to Jesus’… and lots more.  He meant it!  And when the apostle Paul writes that if I am significantly gifted, but don’t have love, ‘I am nothing’ and ‘I gain nothing’ (1 Corinthians 13).  Or as the Message puts it, ‘I am bankrupt without love’.  He meant it!  That’s how it is!

Let me be clear, the aim here is not to send us on a downward spiral of guilt, but rather to remind us of the best way to live.  Proverbs 3 says: 

‘My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity… Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man.’

Committing ourselves to the Way of Jesus, to becoming like Jesus, is the best way for you and me to live. We were born for this.  Let’s not settle for second best! 

Let me invite you to take up a challenge.  Ask someone close to you.  Someone you trust, who wants the best for you.  ‘Can you think about, and tell me of an aspect of my character and values, where I might grow to become more like Jesus?’  Talk about this together – and if you agree with what they’ve said, invite them to pray with you about this (over a period of weeks/months?) and work at surrendering this aspect of your life to the lordship of Jesus.

May we all know God’s grace and strength as we seek to ‘Follow the Way of Jesus’.

Alisdair Longwill
Regional Minister