‘How does what we do as a church, ordained and lay together, enable God’s people to grow in their capacity to live out the Good News of Jesus in all of life – in service in the Church and in the world?’
This question lies at the heart of the recently published ‘Setting God’s People Free.’ A report presented to the Church of England’s National Synod by the Archbishop’s council: https://www.churchofengland.org/media/3858033/gs-2056-setting-gods-people-free.pdf.
It’s a question that engages all the denominations within our ecumenical partnership. What can we do as faith communities to tend and create fertile ground so that together we grow as disciples, equipped and engaged for mission?
It’s this query that lies at the heart of the Saltley Trust’s research into Christian learning and discipleship. The Saltley Trust surveyed 33 congregations, encompassing within the sample different denominations and church traditions, sizes of church, and a range of contexts, both urban and rural. Their early findings do not provide world shaking news, rather, they underline the importance of some elements of discipleship that have been there from the very beginning of our faith communities. More importantly they are what we see when we pay attention to how Jesus ‘discipled’ his followers:
- Discipleship is about the whole of life, not just about what happens in church on Sunday. Our everyday lives provide abundant opportunities to learn and grow are everywhere.
- We grow in our faith as we put it into practice.
- We grow when we are engaged in and committed to a faith community.
- We grow when we engage in the communities in which we live and work as intentional agents of God’s kingdom.
- We grow when we share our faith in words and deeds.
The Greek word for disciple is ‘mathetes,’ which could be translated as ‘one who learns as they follow’. This brings us back to the heart of what it means to be church, disciple making communities where individuals learn together, worship together, put their faith into practice together, make mistakes together, reflect together and continue to commit and support one another to be salt and light in the places they live, work and worship.
‘Setting God’s People Free’ poses a challenge as we seek to develop our Mission Communities; how far are we encouraging, releasing and equipping one another in our discipleship as we participate in God’s mission. How can we avoid becoming inward looking, passive faith communities that are more focused on survival than living and sharing the good news of Jesus? These questions may help to provide a steer and a focus as we seek to respond to and shape our development around our common vision, to communicate and witness to the God who is for all and with all.
If you would like to learn more about the Saltley trust’s ongoing research into Christian discipleship, consider visiting their website at: http://www.saltleytrust.org.uk/whdg/
Author: Rev'd Nicki Pennington
CCL Learning Development Team Leader