Communal Discipleship (Pt. 1)

3 Apr

Teaching, modeling, and practice can be easily identified in personal discipleship, but how do we see each of these exhibited in communal settings like Lord’s Day service, community groups, and Bible studies?  

Sunday Mornings

Lord’s Day (Sunday) service presents us with a unique picture of discipleship in which the knowledge and grace of God are imparted to God’s people, equipping them to live God-glorifying lives and offering them opportunities to do the work of ministry both in and outside the church.  In this communal setting, when all of God’s people gather together, the 3 C’s (convictions, character, and competency) are expressed through four specific inter-relationships:

  1. Shepherd & Flock
  2. Believer & Believer
  3. Believer & Unbeliever
  4. God & His People

Shepherd & Flock

This is the relationship between the pastor(s) and the congregation.  The church gathers to worship God through its songs, prayers, and tithes.  However, the church also gathers to receive instruction from God’s Word.  Thus, the pastor teaches the congregation from the Bible, proclaiming the Gospel and equipping the saints for the work of ministry.[1]  But the pastor does more than this in preaching God’s Word.  For the Spirit, working through the Word, not only equips people for ministering to others, but also brings life, healing, encouragement, comfort, and conviction. The Sunday service presents multiple opportunities for believers to serve each other, living out their calling, and modeling the Christian life for others.  Greeting, prayer, leading worship, serving communion, and collecting the offering plates are all ways in which God’s people serve each other to the glory of God and the building up of the body.

Believer & Believer

In addition to the way in which these acts serve to build up the body, those who serve (in the service or in various ways outside the service) provide an example to others.  Believers model their gifts and put the teaching they have received into practice, inspiring others to do likewise.

Believer & Unbeliever

Not only do believers serve other believers on a Sunday morning, but also unbelievers.  Our desire as ambassadors of the Gospel should be to proclaim this good news to those who have not yet heard it.  Thus, when the opportunity presents itself, believers should invite unbelievers to church gatherings and services and follow up with them afterwards.  Just as discipleship takes place in the context of a network of relationships, so too does evangelism.  This relationship is a testimony to one’s convictions and ministry.

God & His People

This leads to the final relationship, that of God and His people.  God is over all the previous relationships, superintending them all to accomplish His ends for His glory and their good.[2]  Yet, there are two other ways in which God engages His people, extending to them His grace, truth and love:  Communion and Baptism.  Communion reminds us of Christ’s finished work on the cross on our behalf, refreshing our souls and assuring us of our position in Him.  Similarly, baptism publicly announces Christ’s work in us, and is the God-given sign of our inclusion in the covenant community of the church.

As for God’s people, we glorify God through our worship of Him and His works, and speak to Him in our prayers.  We come to Him, in need of His grace and with a hunger to hear from Him through His Word so that we might go out to do the work to which He has called us.

In each of these relationships we see discipleship taking place.  Convictions, character and competency are being built up and strengthened.  God’s Word is taught, people serve each other and model the Christian life for others, and the work of ministry—in its various forms—is practiced.  This is communal discipleship at its best, and God delights in it.

[1] Ephesians 4:11-12

[2] Isaiah 48:10-11, Romans 8:28


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