Growing Disciples

When I was training for ordination I discovered I could ‘do’ flower arranging. It took me a while to figure out how I’d learned to do this.  My mother loved flower-arranging – she went to lessons, we spent holidays collecting interesting driftwood for arrangements, she was on the church flower rota. I spent a lot of time following her around, watching, learning. I wasn’t allowed to actually touch the flowers (of course!) but I got to soak the oasis and sweep the floor.

I wonder if we learn our discipleship in a similar way – by watching those we know are disciples and copying them – learning by living and watching.

Of course discipleship isn’t flower-arranging – it’s about a whole life lived for God, not just a hobby. But there is something similar which happens in the developing of disciples.  There will be people we meet who show us what being a disciple is like (by showing us something of Christ) but there will come a time when we want to go deeper – to learn more about Jesus Christ so that we can be more like him.

So discipleship is about becoming – the ‘learning’ is never assessed: we’re never required to reach a level so that we can ‘become’ disciples. We don’t have to pass any tests (phew…) rather it’s about us setting out on a journey towards God. A journey made in the company of others. Being a disciple is never an individual pursuit. It’s always about community. As we journey on, there will be all sorts of people who travel with us and show us the way: church communities, friends, teachers, colleagues, strangers. Of course, sometimes we’ll encounter Christ in those people – as we encounter others we’ll encounter God.

CCL’s strapline is ‘Growing Disciples for Mission’. So what might we need to be doing in order to grow disciples?

  • Welcoming (disciples grow through ‘belonging’ as well as ‘believing’)
  • Accompanying (through prayer partners, house groups, supporting networks)
  • Participating in worship, mission, community engagement
  • Reading the Bible (wisely and prayerfully) and some other reading. But if you don’t like reading or can’t read, are there other visual sources for this key biblical teaching?
  • Formal Training: those of us who are teachers in CCL would like to emphasise this element of discipleship – through our validated Tuesday evening teaching at Rydal Hall, but also in many of the other courses we deliver (like our Advent course)
  • Praying: we can only know about God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – by developing our relationship with Them: listening, worshipping, being with. Learning to love Him better.

The Archbishop of York has written well about discipleship (see here) and quotes David Watson: “Christians in the West have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. The vast majority of Western Christians are church-members, pew-fillers, hymn-singers, sermon-tasters, Bible-readers, even born-again believers or Spirit-filled Charismatics … but aren’t true disciples of Jesus Christ.  If we were willing to learn the meaning of real discipleship and actually to become disciples, the Church in the West would be transformed, and the resultant impact on society would be staggering.”

What do you think? Here at CCL we’d value your input. Please email us with your thoughts, questions etc: admin@cumbriachristianlearning.org.uk

Author: Revd Dr Allison Fenton

CCL Vice-Principal, Initial Ministerial Education

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