TheBean & I are on “day 4” of our recovery time from our trip to Germany. As I reflect on our time in Germany, I’m reminded of an email I wrote to a dear friend, Kurt, in response to his “hope letter” (You can read it & his other “hope letters” HERE.) This particular hope letter was called, “I’m gonna need that back,” referencing a desire to reclaim the word “Disciple.” I’d encourage you to check it out & then give this a read as well…
thank you for this… esp. the “I’m gonna need that back” for disciple. As I type this, Joni & I are in Berlin, nearing the end of a 17 day trip to several spots in Germany, brought here by the invitation of a local German pastor & longtime friend. We spent a week of our trip with him & the church at Bielefeld, called “Christ for All People” – it’s made up of/represented by about 15 nations & they have weekly translation of the services into English, Russian, Arabic & a handful of other languages, as needed.
The thing that has stood out to me about this trip is the focus our friends have on ‘making disciples.’ My friend Ewald is a regular traveler to Central Asia (Kazakhstan & all the “other stans” in the region, as well as Mongolia.) In many of the places he & his friends are going, they are seeing 1st generation Christians, meaning: the first people in their neighborhood, village, city, region, & even country(!) to become Christians. Places where the ‘old heads’ of Christianity have been walking with Jesus for 20 years, maybe, with no prior history at all of Jesus people in the region. In many ways, it tells/reads like the Book of Acts, complete with the living, breathing, Paul & Barnabas, Silas & John Mark teams of older/longer believing believers heading to regions to bring the encouragement of Christ, to rehearse the teachings of Jesus with people largely (completely?) untouched by the junk I often associate with what we experience in the Western (American?) version of christianity (little c on purpose).
All that to say – I read your hopeletter, & I’m encouraged… because I know you. We. Many others. Are being stirred to ’need that back’, to contend for discipleship to not be a program led by a solitary director, sequestered in a building away from the people, but to be a multi-way process & exchange between peoples choosing to seek Jesus, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to trust the Holy Spirit speaking to & with each other.
I see a road in front of me as a pastor in the US… a road that grows increasingly ’simple,’ with the invitation & place given to the HS to strip away all that is not Him. A willingness & a refusal to label someone as a disciple/not a disciple based upon the completion of a ‘course’ of study, but rather as a goal we seek to be as we endeavor to obey the words of Christ & to teach others to do the same as we share a Gospel Good News centered solely on Jesus as He reconstructs us, burning away the chaff, calling us back to a simplicity of life & devotion to Him that is applicable in myriad cultural & country & language settings, not dependent on technology, well-crafted theologies, & our gurus.
Brothers & sisters embracing & encouraging brothers & sisters.
I used to hate that term when it was thrown around in church… a lazy way to avoid using names & to hide behind religion.
This last week, I got to be with brothers from Ukraine, Russia, Palestine, Israel, the stans, & just about every country in Europe. To learn. To listen. To love.
One Ukrainian guy said, “Look around. Only with Jesus is THIS possible.”
A few thoughts from friend who greatly admires you & appreciates you & your journey & communications.