BLOG 9/24/19


We take an awfully lot for granted in the Christian community/church, not the least is our presumption that when one takes baptism / confirmation vow … that one has any kind of a clear vision of how those vows of faith and obedience are to be practiced, or what exactly does any kind of Christian maturity look like. The long-term result of that blank spot is a huge number of sincere communicants engaging in liturgical rites, but remaining infants in the faith and passive in their own calling to be part of the church’s ministry where it counts the most: in the daily (24/7) context, or marketplace of one’s life—or, in other words, dependent infants in the Christian faith and discipleship with no sense that this is not what Jesus intends when he calls us to be his disciples. Rather, we are called by Jesus Christ to grow into his likeness, in his love, in knowledge, and in intimate communion with the Triune God.

Sound overwhelming? Look at it. When a couple of curious guys followed him early in his earthly ministry, he turned and asked them: “What are you looking for?” they responded lamely: “Master, where are you staying?” His response was: “Come and see?” That was the beginning of them watching him I action, and listening to him teach with a small company of intimates for three years.

Take note: Jesus became, not only their mentor, but also their model for three years. They walked with him, they saw him in action, he sent them out on apprentice missions, they questioned him, and they expressed doubts and fears. The result? They became reproductions, practitioners, of what he came teach and to accomplish as the incarnate son of God. He was not some disembodied religious figure, awesome as he was. He was the first-fruits of God’s new creation, his new humanity. After his crucifixion and resurrection, and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, it all became clear, and they were commissioned to do with others, exactly what he had done with them, i.e., to go make disciples everywhere, to teach them—yes! Ah, but also to model those teachings—to be mentors and models.

Inquirers need, not only what Jesus taught and requires, but also to have models of how it becomes incarnate in flesh and blood to. The apostle Paul would teach the Corinthian Christians to be imitators of him as he also was of Christ. He would tell the Philippian Christians: “What you have learned and received and heard (been mentored by) and seen (seen modelled) in me—practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.”

Those who are to become the leaders and teachers in the Christian community are not only to skillfully communicate the gospel of God’s new creation in Christ, … they are also to model it. They need to demonstrate to God’s people what it looks like in flesh and blood. This is done, not primarily in huge congregations, but in one-on-one mentoring, or in small groups of Christians growing together and seeking to grow into the image of Christ. (the concept of ‘clergy’ or church professionals) has the potential of confusing this purposeful discipline when it is not conceived as a servant role of mentoring and modelling what is being taught in scriptures.

Ah! but every Christian, Bible in hand, can make a punch-list of the commands of Christ, of life in the Spirit, and begin to be a communicator/mentor and a model in the wonderful harvest field that is his/her 24/7 harvest field.

To be continued … I love your comments.

About rthenderson

Sixty years a pastor-teacher within the Presbyterian Church. Author of several books, the latest of which are a trilogy on missional ecclesiology: ENCHANTED COMMUNITY: JOURNEY INTO THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, then, REFOUNDING THE CHURCH FROM THE UNDERSIDE, then THE CHURCH AND THE RELENTLESS DARKNESS. Previous to this trilogy was A DOOR OF HOPE: SPIRITUAL CONFLICT IN PASTORAL MINISTRY, and SUBVERSIVE JESUS, RADICAL FAITH. I am a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, a graduate of Davidson College, then of Columbia and Westminster Theological Seminaries.
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