Engaging in Discipleship

Have you ever wondered if it is really worth the investment of time and energy to invest spiritually in the lives of others? The process of sharing life with someone can be a challenge, and then when you through faith into the mix, what then. What if they ask a question that can’t be answered with John 3:16? What if they struggle in an area where I, too, have struggled or continue to struggle?

As you may know, my faith was transformed through a discipling relationship while I was a college student. I was safely attending a local church. (I even sang in the choir.) I usually attended the college Sunday School class. But then, I met Gary. He challenged me to begin to study scripture for myself. He asked me to describe my faith without using the pat answers I always heard at church. He challenged me to begin to share my faith with others on a regular basis. He also modeled what it was like to make an investment in discipleship. I was forever changed. God has provided the opportunity to disciple college students ever since.

If you have wondered about the first question–the answer is YES. I had another reminder of that fact earlier this week.

For the past few years, a student named John has been a regular part of our Tuesday lunch crew. John was actively involved in a local church and served in a leadership capacity there. While he was “plugged in” to ministry at another location, he enjoyed inviting his friends to join him for lunch at the 2:8 House.

Last semester, I asked John if he would like to begin meeting regularly. Sometimes we meet on campus, at the 2:8, at his house. He has even fixed me breakfast. Every time we share how God is at work in and through us. We talk. We pray. We have become friends—even brothers in the faith.

In a few months, John graduates– that special time in life when a university awards you a special piece of paper and launches you into the next phase of life. We have talked about the “next step,” the job search, the possibility that God has gifted and called him to serve Him in engineering. Last week, I mentioned to John that I had a friend I would like for him to meet.

I called Chris.

On Monday, John and I drove to Oklahoma City to meet Chris. He is an engineer. He moved to Oklahoma City 15 years ago to begin his first “real job.” He now owns the company. He is a good friend. He is a brother in the faith. In fact, he is someone I was able to disciple when he was a student at Pittsburg State University. On Monday, he talked with John about engineering, about interviewing for a job, about spending time with family, about faith.

Chris gave us a tour of his manufacturing plant. He talked about some of his current projects and challenges. He even took us to lunch.

Life was shared. Christ was honored. John noticed.

“I thought it was really cool to be a part of two generations of discipleship,” John said. ” You have been discipling me, and I had a chance to meet someone you discipled before.”

He also was challenged and encouraged by the visit.

“I spend so much time in the classroom, it was really cool to walk through the plant and to talk to someone about who is doing the day-to-day work.”

As I shared a couple of hours with Chris and John, as I listened to them talk about various projects and engineering processes, as they shared parts of their faith journeys, I was reminded of the personal privilege God has given me to be a part of both of these young men’s lives.

God still is in the business of changing lives. He still loves us. He created us with unique gifts and interests. He still calls us into relationship—with Him and with others.

Discipleship works. LOVE WINS.

 

Building an Intergenerational Faith Community

Community is a word with many applications and implications within the local church. It may be a reflection of how the “family of God” cares for one another. How completely we know and love one another within the fellowship. It can also be a reflection of how well the church knows and provides care for its neighbors. How does the church embrace the people and the needs in their own neighborhoods. After all, doesn’t the Great Commission begin where we are–our own Jerusalem?
For the past few years, my local fellowship, Norman Community Church of the Nazarene, has been working toward establishing “an intergenerational faith community.” Not a multi-generational church, but an intergenerational church.
Some fellowships have developed multiple services as a way to engage various generations. These worship services are labeled as “vintage” or “traditional” or “Overdrive” or “Twenty-something” to help insure members arrive at the proper time. While addressing a certain need, these services tend to divide the church demographically—a multi-generational church.

Twenty-something Pastor Josh Loveless raises some insightful questions in a recent Neue Quarterly articile, “The Rebellion of the 20s ministry: Maybe it’s time to repent of our segregated services.” ( Neue Quarterly, Issue 2, Winter 2009).

“I’ve often wondered what would have happened if our church leadership invited the voices of our 20s leadership team to speak about what they are feeling about the future of the church. I wonder what would have happened if old men had embraced the visions of young men and young women. I wonder what would have happened if the young men and young women embraced the dreams that God had given the old men. I’m left to wonder how our story might be different.” (29)

In many ways, this is the process that began in the round-table discussions at the M7 Conference. The Church of the Nazarene invited 400 university students to join a discussion about the future of the church. These round-table discussions provided these young adults a collective “voice” that has been heard by denominational leaders. The denomination has provided the opportunity for this voice to be discussed around tables in congregations throughout the United States and Canada. How will this “voice” be received? How will these young adults impact the church today, tomorrow and in the future? It may depend on how well we listen to each other and to the Holy Spirit.

Loveless continues: “remember how passionate Peter was in Acts 2 when he quoted the prophet Joel? ‘Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’ When we speak of the church, all of us have different ideas about what that actually means. Peter’s message that epic day is a reminder to all of us about one of the pieces that is essential to the movement of the Church: A collective intergenerational voice that is sensitive to the Spirit of God.

“For the first time in history we have five generations alive at the same time. What might that mean for how we invite each generation to a seat at the table to teach one another about theology and ecclesiology?”

“Part of what has become broken is the language we’ve adopted in the Church to define younger generations. The phrase the ‘next generation’ has been thrown around a lot. Pointing to an idea that this group of people will one day be a contributing member of the church community. Languages can be limiting, but we have to find words that inspire who we are supposed to be in the present. This ‘next generation’ is spending money, making music, writing books, making websites, educating children, making children, and they are doing all of this right now. They aren’t standing on deck. They are on the field hitting home runs right in front of us. And yet this is overlooked.” (29,31)

Jon Middendorf, senior pastor at Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene, provides direction and encouragement as he shares the story of his church (Listening Inside Out, p. 82).

“At Oklahoma City First, our young people are bringing their imaginations to our calendar and budget meetings. We are listening to them as they bring opportunities for us to minister as the people of God, the body of Christ. While many are forecasting the end of denominations, we are seeing loyalty and commitment from our young adults, provided that they remain confident of our intentions to shape our budgets and ministries according to the mission of Christ.”

What is God saying to you as a pastor or member of YOUR local congregation? How does your congregation demonstrate Christ’s love to one another and to your neighbors? What is the next step for you and your congregation? Are you willing to take that step?

(For more information about Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene you may visit www.okcfirstnaz.org. For additional information about the Neue Quarterly visit www.neueministry.com or www.relevantmediagroup.com.)