Dianne is part of Leadership Learning Team of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Elmer, New Jersey. NCM staff Cedric Brown is helping this North American Lutheran Church, with the assistance of Pastor Brian Triller, to establish a Growing intentional Disciplemaking Culture (GiDC) that is committed to seeing successive generations of disciples.
Discipleship. Now, there’s a word for you! Would I like to be one of Jesus’ disciples? For sure! Who wouldn’t? To be with Him every day, to talk with Him, to share meals together, to see Him perform miracles, to hear His teachings and His prayers, to see His way with people, to listen to Him open up the Scriptures? Sign me up!
Oh, wait a minute. Didn’t those disciples sleep on the ground? Weren’t they sometimes hungry and afraid? Didn’t they run and hide when Jesus was taken, interrogated, beaten, and hung on the cross? Didn’t most of them suffer and die for proclaiming their faith in Jesus? Maybe I’d better rethink this discipleship thing. I don’t want to deny Jesus, but I don’t want to suffer and die either. Discipleship can be daunting; you know, scary and overwhelming. Hmmm.
I experienced these conflicting feelings when I received a letter from two pastors inviting me to become part of a “seed group.” Our congregation had decided to become more involved in the discipleship process and joined with The Navigators to start a small group study. That made me feel good—to be chosen! I met with the pastors and other invitees to hear more about what it was and how it would work. It seemed like something I would be interested in, but it was going to take a commitment and my time. How far was I willing to go?
I was used to reading a short daily devotional and sometimes praying, so as I did that I asked the Lord to guide my decision about joining this group. Over the next week I received a lot of encouragement through my devotions and prayers. I was reading If You Want to Walk on the Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg and he wrote, “Jesus is looking for people who will get out of the boat . . . Jesus is where the water is” (p. 27). This type of message continued. By the end of the week the message was clear, and I decided to go for it.
The group started with an invitation to read a selected scripture and to record our thoughts about it every day. We were given specific passages to focus on for the first few months. Then we read a book about the grace of God, still recording our thoughts.
Now, we choose how we spend our “alone time” with God. We meet about twice a month and have a one-on-one phone call with the pastor. During our meetings and the phone call to discuss our journeys, we share things going on in our lives, any special insights we have received through our devotions, prayer requests, and so forth. We are building deeper relationships with Jesus and with each other. We are becoming more mature as disciples of Jesus.
Through this process, I am becoming more comfortable in my faith. To me, that simply means I am not afraid of what I will find, of where He may lead me. God has made us for relationship. He knows us intimately and wants us to be one with Him. My daily alone time has helped me to be more aware of His actions in my day-to-day life.
I’ve learned that this discipleship journey is also about building relationships with believers. I have a couple of “best friends” and a few good friends. I know that I can call on any of them at any time if I have a need. I trust them with my confidences and they do the same with me. We know one another well enough to share without fear of judgment or ridicule. We built these relationships by spending time together, sharing our lives with each other, caring for one another, and holding each other accountable.
Now I want others to know God. How can I help people “see” Him? Sometimes, a person just needs someone to listen. I can do that! Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19) and invites us to walk with Him. We can invite others to walk with us. Through our relationships, we can encourage them grow closer to Jesus.
Jesus does not have specific requirements for those He calls. He just wants ordinary people to follow Him. God works with each of us uniquely to help others join this discipleship journey. He has placed certain people on my heart that I want to disciple or share the Good News with. Some are already on the path, some are beginning their search, some deny his existence, but God has given me their names for a reason. I pray for them and for the Holy Spirit to guide me in speaking with them about this Jesus.
About that commitment . . . it’s been almost a year, a busy year with lots going on, yet I haven’t regretted joining the group. Does it take time? Yes, but I now look forward to what, at first, seemed like an obligation. Spending time with God is now a habit, one that I miss if something draws me away, and that does happen from time to time. It is a daily ritual that I enjoy and learn from. During those moments I spend alone with God, He speaks to me. At this point, I am working on my third notebook with my thoughts, questions, insights, prayers.
The psalmist wrote, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the Living God” (Psalm 84:2, NIV). I am fulfilling that yearning that I have had since I was a young child. Early in this discipleship journey, I noted in my journal, “There is greater joy in knowing Christ than any other joy I have experienced.”
Being a part of the seed group is helping me to live as Jesus’ disciple as never before, and to bring others along on the journey. I’m so glad I took the risk!
You may contact Dianne Hermanson at email@example.com.