News and Articles
1 July 2014
Over the past five whole-life discipleship blogs, we’ve explored a theology of work. As we painted a biblical picture of work, we also heard some true stories from people in our church family who serve God through a wide range of roles in society. Today’s blog concludes our series by looking at the role the gathered church plays in equipping individuals for life out on their daily frontlines.
The Bible tells us that those who exercise leadership in the church have responsibility to ‘equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up’ (Ephesians 4:11-13). The practical instructions given to churches by Paul and Peter provide ample evidence that this responsibility is not limited to equipping people for obviously ‘churchy’ roles, but extends to equipping them for distinctive gospel living in all of the spheres of everyday life. The church is called to make disciples - whole-life disciples – equipped to serve Jesus and reflect his goodness in every area of their lives.
In recent years we’ve become increasingly clear that discipleship must be at the heart of what we do at Above Bar Church. Our vision statement taken from Genesis 12:2-3 talks about how we are ‘blessed to be a blessing’. Having received blessings from God, the call to discipleship demands that we do not simply keep those blessings to ourselves to ‘feel good’ but actively share his blessing as we reach out to others in our city, our world and the wider church. The work of our Sent Mission Partners across the world is central to fulfilling that vision; so are our various city centre ministries here in Southampton (including the new CAP centre and our Social Development Worker). However, for most of us, the context in which we are called to share God’s blessing is right where God has placed us in our city on our frontlines – at work, volunteering, at home or studying.
Now you might be thinking, that’s obvious! Surely no church intends to go about creating ‘part-time disciples’! That’s right, but it’s actually quite a challenge to maintain a truly whole-life focus without other things getting in the way. As Neil Hudson explains in his really helpful book Imagine Church, many church leaders feel pressure to ensure that their church’s ABC’s are strong: Attendance, Buildings and Cash. When any one of these areas is experiencing difficulty it can consume an enormous amount of the leadership’s time. Meetings can become all about fixing the roof and filling rotas and we can be distracted from the core task of making disciples.
Whole-life discipleship is not a new idea at Above Bar, but we’re choosing to be more explicit about our focus in the hope that it helps us keep the main thing the main thing. Hopefully that focus has begun to give us all a common language for talking about following Jesus ‘on the Frontline’ and helped each of us to connect what we do on Sunday more easily with what we do on Monday. That is some of what we’ve been seeking to achieve through our recent Sunday teaching series, our Discipleship Day, doing Life on the Frontline in our small groups and through this series of blogs. It also stands behind our commitment to pray regularly for people in their workplace and in the community in our Sunday services.
Having a strong frontline focus should never diminish the importance of the gathered worshipping community. In fact, when we are serious about our calling to be a blessing in the places we work in the week, we realise just how important our times together are. We come together to receive from the Lord in order to overflow with his blessing to others in the week. We’re like a football team that come together on Sundays for our half-time huddle. It’s a time of refreshment and support where we can focus, look at tactics and analyse how things are going before being sent out to ‘play the game’ in the week in our various positions.
As this blog series comes to an end, why not take a moment to think and pray about what steps you might take to sustain a whole-life discipleship perspective in your life and in the lives of the people in your small group or missional community. How about praying through where your frontline really is with your small group leader? How about a note on your computer screen saver to encourage you to pray for your work and your colleagues as you sit as your desk? How about committing to ask at least one person about their frontline whenever your small group meets? How about identifying others in the church who have a similar frontline to your and getting together for an evening to chat about the issues?
I’ve been so encouraged by individuals who have spotted a discipleship need and taken the initiative to do something about it! It’s a sign of a mature faith. Ben Clark’s group of business people that meet informally in the pub each month to talk about their faith and work is an excellent example of this. So if you’ve been encouraged by this blog series, have some stories of your own to share or have some fresh ideas we could try as a church please get in touch. This is a journey that we’re on together.