Discipleship means different things to different people. One of the aims of this course is to explore more deeply what discipleship means to you and your church community.
Key Text: John 1:43-51
What does discipleship mean to you? Was there a moment when you decided to become a disciple or was there a more gradual process involved? Share briefly in the group.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?”
Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Susy Putnam, from Totnes, and husband James, spent six months with the church in Kerala, India, on our short-term mission programme. While there, she had an encounter with God.
Today I had a light bulb moment. The church we attend holds services in the local language of Malayalam (we attend because this is the service our host leads). James enjoys it and knows it is where God wants him. As for me, I have struggled in every way to sit through these services. But then I read something in Henri Nouwen’s book The Road to Daybreak which really helped me.
Reflecting on his experience of people with profound disabilities, Nouwen writes: ‘It is a profound experience to be in the presence of someone who I can hardly understand, but who nevertheless communicates deeply the mystery of God’s presence among us. It is an especially profound experience since it unites me so intimately with the so-called [learning disabled] men and women and lets me hear as they do, with the heart.’
So, I decided to go to church and listen with my heart. On this particular morning, I opened up my spirit and let God’s heart and spirit connect with my heart and spirit. Instead of striving in any way to make sense of the service, I just let go and received. I received from the pastor’s heart and from my Father’s heart. I was listening without filters. All judgments I had been making – perhaps unconsciously – were gone. This was the nature of my 90-minute encounter with God.
Surrounded by local women to my left and right, I had no escape route. It was just me, God and the Malayalam words that I let wash over me.
I realised I had not only been striving in church here in India, but also at church back home in England. Striving to connect, striving to worship, striving to listen… Today the striving ceased.
Holy God, you know us just as you knew Nathanael.
Open our hearts and spirits to yours,
that we might hear your call
and our response be as wholehearted as his.
In the light of this study, what learning might you adopt to help you grow
in your discipleship?