While I was away on holiday last week I had the chance to read a couple of books. One of those books was The Vine Project by Col Marshall and Tony Payne.
A follow-up to their excellent book The Trellis and the Vine, The Vine Project is designed to help ministry teams shape their ministries around a culture of disciple making. While it is designed for teams, it operates on the basic premise that all Christians are disciples called to make disciples. I found it encouraging and refreshing to be so clearly reminded of what it means to be a Christian. I thought I’d share five key convictions I took away.
1) We make disciples because God is working to make disciples. In the words of Colossians 1:13, God is rescuing people from the domain of darkness and transferring them into the kingdom of the Son he loves. And he does this all for the Son’s glory. Give thanks to God and praise Jesus by calling others to be his disciples and praise him too.
2) The word disciple simply means ‘learner’. A disciple of Jesus is a ‘forgiven sinner who is learning Christ in repentance and faith’. We continually learn what it means to live in the light of what Christ has done for us. We live as those who are being transformed by the Spirit through the word of God into the likeness of his Son (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). So we hunger for the word of God, and seek to prayerfully apply it to our lives each day, that we might be made more like Jesus.
3) Because it glorifies Him, we want to see others grow more like Jesus too! We seek to make disciples by persevering in proclaiming the word of God in prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, together with the disciples around us. We want to see everyone around us grow towards maturity in Christ. For some, that will be helping them become a disciple by sharing the gospel. For others, it will be encouraging them to grow as a disciple. Take the time to think about the people you see every day. How can you encourage them to grow towards maturity in Christ?
4) All Christians are disciples. All disciples make disciples. Here’s how the authors put it, drawing on the beautiful picture of the body of Christ in Ephesians 4; ‘By their preaching, training and example, pastors equip every Christian to be a Christ-learner [disciple] who helps others to learn Christ’. How are you intentionally helping others to ‘learn Christ’? Is this part of your everyday life?
5) Every person, in every place, at every time is an opportunity to disciple. How can we encourage them to ‘learn Christ’ by bringing the word of God to them? We can do it at Church and in our Gospel Teams – do we take the opportunities we have there to encourage others? We can do it at sport, work, the shops etc – how can we speak in all of these settings in a way that encourages and invites others to learn Christ?
There’s lots more to the book than this, especially when it comes to shaping our ministries around disciple-making. But the first step is to understand for yourself what it means to be a disciple and how you are living that out. I hope this short reflection is enough to encourage you to pause and consider what it means for you to be a disciple. Are you actively seeking to be a Christ learner? Are you actively seeking to help others learn Christ too? I found it a great encouragement to reflect on these questions myself, to repent and correct my attitude where I need to, and to strive to make the most of the opportunities God has given me to join him in his work of bringing people to his Son.