We will place the same priority on discipling and serving as we do on our services of worship. By valuing and measuring holiness, service and obedience, we will increase the fruitfulness of the good news in our communities.
— Uniquely Free Methodist, fmcusa.org/uniquelyfm
Our General Conference 2015 Disciple Deeply leadership team (Pastors Bruce Cromwell of Central Free Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan; Derek Isaksen of REAL Family Church in San Jose, California; and D.J. Vincent of Emmaus Community Church in Salem, Oregon) realized from the start that we cannot prescribe a one-size-fits-all discipleship curriculum for the entire church. We do believe, however, that we can provide a biblical context for discipleship along with resources that will help local pastors and leaders develop an effective discipleship ministry in their own settings.
Love and Worship
The context for discipleship is contained in our Lord’s command to love (Matthew 22:34–40, Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:25–28). As Jews, Jesus’ disciples were already familiar with the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
This is the command to worship God. To worship is to order our lives
upward in loving devotion, attentiveness and obedience to God, in response to His love for us.
Love Your Neighbor
The disciples were also familiar with the second greatest commandment, which flows out of the first: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
Jesus defined a neighbor specifically as someone different from us (Luke 10:29–37), someone we would not look to for economic, social or emotional advantage. This is the apostolic call to love a lost world. The first command is a call upward toward worship; this second command is a command outward toward mission.
Love One Another
After washing the disciples’ feet,
Jesus gave them a third command: “Love one another” (John 13:34–35).
Most would confuse this with the second, but Jesus emphatically said it was a new command. If we read John 13–17, we sense Jesus’ primary concern the night before He died. He spoke passionately about the new
entity He was about to birth with His own blood — the church. This third command is a call inward, to care for and love Christ’s body.
What is more, Jesus said that the quality of our love for each other is our primary witness to a lost world. Our outward mission depends on the strength of our inward connection as the people of God.
We see discipleship as a natural expression of the church — a three-dimensional economy of love. If any of these three dimensions are missing, or neglected, we are not true followers of Jesus, and the church is infinitely less than it was created to be.
An effective discipleship plan must call a person upward, outward and inward. In other words, our discipleship must be shaped by an integration of our theology, our mission and our ecclesiology (our understanding and practice as a church). LLM
Mark Van Valin is the Disciple Deeply strategy team facilitator for General Conference 2015, the lead pastor of the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church in Spring Arbor, Michigan, and a member of the Free Methodist Church – USA Board of Administration. He has developed and led discipleship accountability groups for men for many years.