Discipleship Experiences and Environments

Peter Wohler - The Source

A must for the new millennium.

Let's start by stating the importance of Discipleship. Given the example of Christ and the whole great commission deal of "Go and make disciples," I would state that every Christian church, ministry, or mission organization needs to have some practical concept of Discipleship integrated into what they do. To go in, do outreach, serve people, tell them they need to make radical changes, tell them they need Jesus and then give no direction for them after they decide to follow God or rededicate their lives is hypocritical at best.

When I think about Discipleship I think of

  1. those that are new in their faith or rededicating their lives to God and
  2. 2) those that want to be involved in ministering to the alternative scene.

I would like to briefly address the later before looking at the need to provide for the former. I believe we all need a Paul and a Timothy in our lives. If you are a young adult feeling a call to ministry I would encourage you to look for Godly older men/women to glean from. They may just be wearing business suits and living in the suburbs. Resist the temptation to isolate and do whatever you can to be part of a body.

I also encourage you to seek out others who are doing a similar vision to visit and even work under to get experience. Source hosts an annual Urban ministry Training and internships throughout the year with that goal in mind.

This article is not so much about the importance of discipleship but the need to begin to see effective discipleship happen with new commitments in the alternative scene. The model of discipleship of getting together once a week for a 60 minute Bible study is never how Jesus viewed discipleship and it is falling short of the hunger for community and relationship a generation is calling for.

Let's add in a society that is so much under a crisis of family, broken homes, pre-teen sex, drugs... which all lead to individuals going into adulthood prematurely and having dysfunction living as their only model of how to live life. And if you did not know, the divorce rate amongst Christians is the same as non-Christians.

As we focus on the counter culture, the alternative types, those who do not want mainstream... we see individuals with many times huge emotional baggage, physical abuse, sexual abuse, sex-aholics, prostitution, drugs, financial debts... included to this is they are coming from a culture that is possibly very anti-Christian and does not want them to succeed in their new lifestyle.

Yes there have always been young people who have fallen through the cracks. But the piece of the pie is no longer less than 1%. The numbers have grown to a much larger scale... possibly 30-40%. And the cracks are much deeper, larger, and tougher to get out of.

The need for effective discipleship, which begs for healthy discipleship environments is overwhelming. I believe most churches do not see many in the mainstream stick around because the church does not display that which they can relate to. Most make attempts to become connected with a body of Christ but find no one is receiving them as new Christians and no one is addressing the real issues they are dealing with. They interpret this as they must be too messy for the church and as a result see Christianity as not for them.

They need a place to make a break from the past and set a foundation for the future. A place to be nurtured in what it means to be a child of God as well as learn life skills, how to manage money, a work ethic, and healthy conflict resolution.

Source has run the Joshua House, transitional housing for young men since 1995. 15-20 men have lived there annually. The house has had different generations of leaders, each with a slightly different style. However, we have seen the fruits of allowing men to grow at their own pace balanced with healthy expectations and always giving grace to the teachable hearts.

We did not set out to do a Discipleship House. But after we started reaching out to alternative young people, the need became obvious. How do you disciple a homeless youth, or a 19-year-old living with those he has used drugs with since he was 12?

Our models of discipleship also need to embrace a fuller meaning of community as well. The hunger for community is woven into this generation. And if it is not offered as part of their Christian experience it will be found outside the Christian body. This is also seen within the youth of the church. I have talked to many young adults that were raised in the church and now want nothing to do with it. What's the attraction to alternative religions?

I know young adults that completely fit the postmodern mantra who have given their lives to Islam. How could a religion that is more legalistic than any modern conservative Baptist be attractive to an individual that wants only acceptance and detests rules? Because they were taken into a home and treated like sons. A homeless 15-22 year old converts to Islam, over 80% of families in the Mosque would take them into their home.

A homeless 15-22 year old converts to Christianity; he's lucky to get a ride to the nearest shelter from the local church.

I believe we are coming to an age when every other church could have a Discipleship house. At Source I would say about 1/3 will do fine without it, 1/3 would make it but it would be an incredible help with it, and 1/3 won't be professing Christ within a year if they don't have it. Environments can be effective tools. But a house and a program will not take the place of the relationships and nurturing the individual needs to not just grow, but really make it.

***If you would like to here more about discipleship environments or the Urban ministry Training get a hold of me and I would love to chat. If this article has gripped you, don't let it go because the task may be too big. God in you is bigger.

Peter Wohler Director of Source

www.sourcemn.org - sourcemn@juno.com

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