As promised, here are my notes from session one of Exploring Membership with Following Jesus. The audio will available this week on www.followingjesus.org.za (or check www.valleyvcf.org.za).
SESSION 1: INTRO TO FOLLOWING JESUS
What does following Jesus have to do with church belonging and membership?
To answer the question we begin with Jesus’ basic/generic call to all people, then we look at his commission to those who respond to his call, and then the experience and understanding of the early Christians as to following Jesus and church belonging. This will explain why we call our church Following Jesus, and why we believe in belonging to a local church in committed membership.
- 1. JESUS’ GENERIC UNIVERSAL MESSAGE AND CALLING
1.1.Jesus began his ministry by first proclaiming the Kingdom of God:
“The end has come, God’s rule is here defeating evil’s tyranny, liberating people into God’s reign of love. Therefore repent… and believe this good news!” (Mark 1:15 cf. Matthew 4:17)
1.2.Then he immediately called people into his Kingdom community – to experience God’s rule: “Come and Follow me, and I will Form you into Fishers of people” (Mark 1:16 cf. Matt 4:19). Jesus’ basic message (the Kingdom) and his call is applicable to all people in all generations.
1.3. Therefore, our life’s vocation (or ‘calling’… ‘to call’) is to Follow Jesus, by being Formed in his Community, in order to Fish the World for God’s Kingdom… just as Jesus did…
Jesus a) followed his Father (in intimate relationship through prayer and Torah obedience)
In b) community formation (forming and being formed in his little disciple community)
To c) save the world. His core values were: Following, Forming, Fishing!
Our calling is a whole-life and life-long journey… following Jesus… in community… for others.
1.4.An explanatory note on being a follower of Jesus:
A ‘disciple’ is a disciplined learner – pupil or apprentice – in a committed relationship with Jesus Messiah, learning from him how to live your particular life just as he would if he were you. Discipleship / Apprenticeship is ‘living with, to learn from, to become like…’
We ‘learn from Jesus’ (Matt 11:29-30) by coming under his yoke… the yoke of his Word (his teachings, see John 8:31-32), his Spirit, his Kingdom Community and Mission in the world.
1.5.A second explanatory note on Jesus and his community:
Following God, Forming (being formed in) Community, and Fishing World, happens…
1) in a context – as fits our particular life situation (Fitting Context)… and
2) with a view to growing into our identity as God’s beloved child(ren) (see Mark 1:11).
I.e. the ultimate goal of following, forming and fishing, as fits our particular life context, is to be free to love as God loves (Freeing Love) – to love God and others as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31)
1.6.Therefore… see our basic framework/diagram showing the core values of Following Jesus
2. JESUS’ GENERIC UNIVERSAL COMMISSION TO HIS FOLLOWERS (DISCIPLES)
2.1.Before Jesus ascended into heaven he commissioned his faithful followers (disciples):
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:10-20 NIV)
2.2.As followers of Jesus we are commissioned to go and make followers of him… we can only make followers (true disciples) to the extent that we ourselves are followers (true disciples of Jesus)…
2.3.We make followers of him from people of all types, reconciling all cultures, nations, etc
2.4.We’re commissioned on the basis that Jesus – due to his death and resurrection – has been put in charge and given the say over everything in the heavens and the earth (Kingdom authority!)
2.5. How do we make followers (disciples) of Jesus?
By 1) plunging them into the Reality of the Trinitarian God… baptism is more than immersion into water to publicly symbolize joining Jesus and his community. Its deeper reality is being immersed into the Trinitarian Community of God’s Life and Love… incarnated on earth…
And 2) by teaching and training them to obey all that Jesus taught and commanded; i.e. to be (trans)formed into the kind of person that routinely obeys Jesus, that lives a life of love just as Jesus loved (all he commanded is summarized in the double love commandment, Mk 12:29f)
2.6. Therefore, the implications: 1) Jesus’ first followers (the Early Church) clearly followed him in community – join Jesus and you join his community; and 2) they made followers of the ascended Christ by baptism and teaching – baptism as a public initiation into the Trinitarian Community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, synonymous with joining God’s people/community. It was unthinkable that one can separate faith (following Jesus) from initiation into and accountable belonging in Jesus’ local specific community – called ‘church’.
The next session will examine what belonging and membership meant in the Early Church.