Discipleship as Invitation and Challenge

Discipleship is a key ingredient to life with Jesus. In fact, it was His last command to his followers – ‘Go and make disciples…’ (See Matthew 28:19). The trouble is that our discipleship looks more like a training programme for a business. We have strategies, bible studies, and highlight right doctrine but that’s not how Jesus did discipleship.

His strategy was this: Invitation and challenge.

Jesus lived by Invitation and challenge. He invited people into relationship with him and a challenge to live a Kingdom life. (As a Kingdom people thinking about discipleship and mission… we can recognise that they both hinge on these two things) Our discipleship and discipling of others is based on the invitation to be a part of the family followed by a challenge to live out those family values, characteristics and actions. Invitation and challenge… Be a part of the family but observe how we live and imitate that… Hopefully, we will be living authentic Jesus lives! It’s less about right doctrine and ticking the church programme box and more about being a community!

Here is a reminder of some invitations and challenges that Jesus offered..

Matthew 4:17 – Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Matthew 4:19 – Follow me and fish for people

Matthew 5:13-16 – You are the salt of the earth and light of the world … don’t hide, don’t loose your flavour! People will see your good deeds.

Matthew 10:1 – Jesus gathered the disciples and gave them authority to continue the works He had been doing!

Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me and learn from me.

Matthew 13:44-46 – Kingdom like a pearl/treasure … sell everything to enter it!

John 20:21-22 – Receive my peace – I am sending you!

Remember discipleship is about following Jesus. Its about learning what Jesus did and doing the same. As a family of God on mission we are called to continue Jesus’ ministry – heal, deliver, resurrect!

He is speaking to us all the time. Where is Jesus giving you an invitation today? Where is He challenging you?

Blessings

Oliver

ps… if you want to read more about this get yourself a copy of The Passionate Life or The Passionate Church by Mike Breen

 

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Church or Kingdom? So what of church…?

Previously, we talked about Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus came to bring a Kingdom and His Kingdom leads to the building of a church, which is of course, His Body.

So, if Jesus didn’t preach the Kingdom of the church, what does that mean for us as churchgoers? Jesus said that whenever 2 or 3 are gathered together, He would be there in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). Coffee morning in Weatherspoons, Sunday gatherings, worship practices, lunch out together, are all gatherings of Church. Essentially, its when the Body of Christ get together in Jesus’ Name. It is not primarily a Sunday morning gathering but it includes that. It’s whenever brothers or sisters meet and fellowship together. For a believer in a hostile environment, this may mean a chance meeting in a wood or a coffee shop, where all you can do is silently express praise to God and encouragement to one another.

Sunday mornings are essentially a gathering when we get to together with the intention to worship God, celebrate (testimony) what God has been doing in the week as we have been advancing the Kingdom. It’s also a time to intentionally encourage one another and build each other up so that we are empowered to continue the Kingdom mission set before us.

In this sense, Sunday gatherings should refocus us to be Jesus centred and Kingdom minded – in our workplaces, coffee shops, toddler groups, hospital appointments, etc. etc. Essentially, Jesus spent one day a week teaching in the synagogue but 6 days a week in the market place, walking through the desert streets, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons and announcing the reign of God.

Unfortunately, we can blur the lines. We can place church at the centre rather than a life giving relationship with Jesus, that spills over into a life giving relationship with one another.

If we think Kingdom above Church, we become less worried about our patch and more aware of the bigger picture. We become more concerned with blessing those around us and more determined to see God’s reign in our communities, towns, workplaces and daily routines.

Jesus said ‘… I will build my Church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.’ (Matthew 16:18) If Jesus is responsible for building the Church, we have been given the responsibility of announcing God’s reign and making disciples of those who respond.

Let’s be Kingdom minded people, making the most of our relationships with one another.

Blessings

Oliver

Church or Kingdom?

Have you ever been in the situation where you have been chatting with someone and in that discussion ‘church’ is mentioned? You often get one of two responses:

  1. ‘Oh that’s nice.’
  2. a blank expression with an uncomfortable twinge in the shoulders followed by a grimace on the face!

It’s easy for us to talk about Church. It’s something we do, something we are a part of. We have close friends there, have some kind of gathering that we like to invite people to, a mid week program… But the good news is NOT church centred.

It may not have occurred to you but in Matthews gospel the word church is mentioned 3 times! That’s 3 Times by Jesus! Once, when Jesus declares ‘I will build my church…’ (Matthew 16:18 emphasis mine) and secondly, where the word is mentioned twice, in the instruction on how to deal with trouble makers (Matthew 18:17).

Now lets contrast that with what Jesus actually preached about… Namely, the Kingdom of God, His Father’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven… At a quick count in my NIV study bible concordance, I have counted at least 45 times in Matthew alone that Jesus speaks about the Kingdom/ Kingdom of God/ Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus came announcing the reign of God. That’s what the Kingdom is. God’s Kingdom, God’s reign, expressed through lives repenting – turning around and following Jesus. It’s both an inward reality – The Kingdom is within – Jesus reigns in my life and also an external reality – God’s reign breaking in through the announcing of the good news of Jesus and confirmed with signs and wonders.

The Kingdom is also both a present and a future reality. It’s present here and now amongst those whom Jesus has become King and over the Body of Christ. It’s a future reality because Jesus will return to complete His work and bring in a Kingdom that is eternal.

I wonder… Do we need to get back to a Kingdom centred gospel? After all, Jesus is the King whom we follow and pledge our allegiance to and it’s His reign we are ushering in. I sincerely believe that when we announce that the Kingdom of God is near we will see lives transformed and I have confidence that building church is Jesus’ work that follows our faithfulness in ushering in the Kingdom of God. Let’s not be concerned with bums on seats in church but in lives entering the Kingdom of God.

May His Kingdom come, and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Blessings … Oliver

Signs of the Kingdom pt.2

In the first part of this blog we considered the signs of God’s Kingdom – healing, deliverance, resurrection, Good News preached to the poor… The signs are not what we expect. And they certainly weren’t the evidence most people were looking forward in the 1st Century Israel…

In the same way that the signs of the Kingdom aren’t what we expect, neither was Jesus’ discipleship program! Our discipleship program often consists of a 12 step course or various opportunities to serve in the local church. It consists of a good old fashioned Bible study, excruciatingly examining every doctrine of the Church. And yet when we read the gospel accounts of how Jesus taught the disciples it was a very different picture.

Luke 9 starts off with Jesus calling the 12 disciples together and then giving them power and authority to announce the nearness of God’s Kingdom and the signs that Jesus had been doing! They were thrown in at the deep end and sent out in two’s to have a go at the things they had observed Jesus doing. They were expected to come up with creative ways of feeding 5,000 people, they were thrown to the extremes of experience with horrendous storms and miraculous catches. They did the things Jesus did… They observed, had a go, and, eventually took those signs of the Kingdom to the Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

Jesus said: ‘These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my Name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.’ (Mark 16:17-18)

Discipleship looks a whole lot different to what we think it should. Discipleship means to follow Jesus … to live a daily life with Him and to observe what He does … and do it ourselves. And then the process starts all over again with us… We invite people into relationship with us. Show them how we follow Jesus and challenge them to do the same.

Where is Jesus inviting you to follow him today? What is the challenge to you?

These Signs of the Kingdom will accompany us as we follow Him. We are His hands and feet now…

Blessings Oliver

Signs of the Kingdom Pt.1

Recently, I have been thinking about the passage in Luke 7, where John the Baptist is in prison…

He sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a question: ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’ (Luke 7:19) WHAT?! This is the same guy who stood in the river Jordan and pointed to Jesus saying, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!’ (John 1:29) The same guy who said ‘I am a voice crying out in the wilderness, “prepare the way for the LORD!”‘ and here he is asking Jesus if he was the Messiah…

I wonder, don’t we all ask Jesus that question when we are sat in some prison in our minds, or behaviour… Let’s be honest. I fluctuate from great faith to great doubt! Sometimes in the space of a morning! And yet, there is something deep within that keeps us pursuing God, even when we feel like we are just hanging on.

Look at Jesus’ response… ‘Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.’ (v.22)

John knew the signs of the coming King. He knew the prophecies of old, he knew what to expect when the Messiah came. And this is Jesus’ appeal to Him. Check out the evidence!

I find myself asking: ‘are they the signs I would have expected?!’ Maybe a conqueror on a Shire Horse. Or in churchy terms… a nice service for an hour on a Sunday morning or an extensive church program offering nice activities to help us feel comfortable with our lives. We often miss the coming of God because we are busy looking elsewhere or caught up in needless tradition.

Jesus’ coming was with power and was found in amongst the drop outs, drug addicts, thieves, tax collectors, prostitutes and the down trodden of society. It was found in acts of compassion and mercy. The evidence points to who He is… The Messiah. The King promised of God.

Where are you seeing the signs of God’s Kingdom today? How are you joining in?

Blessings Oliver