Missional Discipleship

Monday, September 20, 2010 at 03:09PM

The other day I attended a monthly lunch with other leaders who are wrestling with what it means to live missional lives and lead missional communities.  We talked about what a missional disciple is and looks like.  I remembered a paper that I wrote during my Sustaining Pastoral Excellence cohort group experience regarding Discipleship and what it is based off of Micah 6:8.  I sent it to the leader of the group and he encouraged me to post it here.  So that is what I am doing.

For this discussion I will use one Scripture as a starting point.  That Scripture is found in the Old Testament book of Micah.  Micah 6:8 says this, “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

There are three parts to this Scripture.  Three parts to what is good and what God requires out of his followers.  Those three parts of a disciples life are to act justly, to love mercy, and to walking humbly with God.  Let’s take a look at these three parts separately.

1.                  To Act Justly:  According to the Webster’s dictionary justly means to act or be in conformity with what is morally upright or good.  So to act justly is about using our lives for good in our world.  All too often I believe we limit discipleship to inward things (spiritual disciplines like prayer and bible reading) while in fact discipleship is an inward and an outward journey.  To be a follower of Christ means that we will work for justice in our world.  Scripture bears this out.  God has a heart for the poor, the needy, and the oppressed.  There are over 2,000 verses of Scripture that deal with poverty, the poor, the needy, and the afflicted.  Some of these verses include: Matthew 25:31-46, Amos 5:24, and Luke 16:19-31.  A disciple of Jesus will show his discipleship by acting justly.  Some ways of showing justice include:  service, working towards peace and justice issues, prayer about world situations, peaceful protest, writing letters to government officials, and building relationships with others who are less fortunate.  So one of the ways to recognize a disciple is that a disciple should be working towards justice in our world.  We should be working to make our world a better and more just place for all people.  Martin Luther King Jr. said Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  Disciples of Jesus need to be on the forefront of justice issues in the world, standing up for the needs of the poor and the oppressed, and working to right wrongs on all levels (personally, relational, corporate, governmental, etc..)

2.                  Love Mercy: Mercy is defined as compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power, a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion, or compassionate treatment of those in distress.  As Christ followers we have been shown mercy- in that Christ has taken the penalty for our sake.  In other words we don’t get what we rightly deserve.  And as we have been shown mercy by God we in turn should show mercy to others.  We realize that it is not anything we have done or will do.  Titus 3:4-6 says this about our lives and God’s mercy, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior” As we grow deeper in our faith journey, one of the fruits that we should display more of is mercy.  We should love mercy, because without it we would be lost.  We should love to show others mercy, because we realize that we are no better off than anyone else.  Someone once said that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.  I believe this trait of discipleship is severely lacking in our world today.  We need more Christ followers to show mercy, to not judge others, and to be filled with compassion, grace, and love for all people.  When we see ourselves how we truly are (loved by God but sinners saved only by the grace of God) that we are able to show others mercy.

3.                  To Walk Humbly with our God: I believe this is the inward nature of our discipleship.  To Act Justly is outward focused.  To Love Mercy is both outward and inward focused.  To walk humbly with our God is inward focused.  This is the area of discipleship that we talk about the spiritual disciplines such as prayer, solitude, bible reading and study, silence, and fasting.  This is where we live out the meaning of John 15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  To remain in God is to daily work on our relationship with Him.  Just as we need to work on our relationships here on earth by listening, communicating, and spending time, we are to do these things with God.  To walk with God implies a journey not a final destination that we can reach now.  Our faith is a journey with a companion.  This walk with God is reminiscent of that final walk that Jesus took to his death.  In Luke 9:23 we read, “Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  This verse, I would say, also does a great job of summing up what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  To deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him.  To deny the flesh (the attitudes, actions, desires of this world), to take up your cross (that actions, attitudes, desires of the Kingdom of God including suffering), and follow Him (make him Lord of your life).  The Kingdom of God is about walking humbly with God, denying yourself, and following after Christ while the Kingdom of this world is about walking arrogantly with yourself, making your own decisions, and looking out for number one.  Being a disciple of Jesus, and a member of the Kingdom of God is so opposite of our natural tendencies.  It goes against everything our flesh and our world tell us.  That is our job as disciples to follow after God even though everything else tells us the exact opposite.  A disciple of Jesus followers after God by being constant in prayer, diligent in study, fasting, listening, and being in communion with God and with other disciples.

When we get down to the matter of discipleship we must realize that what the Lord requires us is not an easy road.  Look where it got our master Jesus.  To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God is so much the opposite of the kingdom of the world.  Discipleship requires work, patience, and determination.  To be a “Christian” is easy, just say you believe in God.  To be a Christ follower is difficult.  G.K. Chesterton said it best, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”  But the best things are those things which aren’t easy and free.  The best things are the things that we work for and give our lives to.  Discipleship and following Jesus is the best thing and it is worth everything that we have.  After all Jesus gave us everything that he had (his blood, sweat, tears, and life). We should return the favor.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.....