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Benchmarks | Discipleship

This Benchmark blog was guest written by Dave Hoskins, a member of the Central Vineyard team. He's pretty hard to miss as he's the one with a pretty impressive beard, coloured the finest of ginger. Enjoy!

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
— Matthew 28:18-20

For the past three years, I have trained to become a nurse. This involved a repeated process of teaching, observing and practicing. During the teaching stage, I learned the theories and rational of the many different actions nurses must carry out, and during the observation and practicing stages, I was assigned an experienced nurse to watch how they carried out their nursing cares, and then to guide me through completing those cares myself. Now, at the end of this degree, I have the basic experience and knowledge from which I can continue to grow and develop my understanding and ability in order to become an increasingly more proficient and caring nurse.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus’ life with his followers reflected a similar pattern. He would cycle through times of teaching, demonstrating and releasing his followers to continue the work of the Kingdom of God here on earth. Then they would gather together and talk about all that they had done. Sometimes they got it wrong and required correcting, and other times they would return with joy, marvelling at the power carried in Jesus’ name.

Jesus discipled Peter. Peter taught and discipled the followers in Jerusalem. Paul discipled followers all through the Middle East and Asia Minor, commanding the followers in Corinth ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.’ Paul’s disciples Timothy and Titus would make disciples in Ephesus and Crete. And so it has been for two millennia: a disciple has made disciples who have gone on to make more disciples. At a recent Vineyard Conference, Costa Mitchell asked,

“What is the fruit of an evangelist? What is the fruit of a teacher? Can I answer my own question? The fruit of an evangelist is another evangelists. The fruit of a teacher is another teacher. The fruit of an apostle is other apostles. The fruit of a pastor is that other people will be caring. The gifts are given, not so that someone gets famous, but so that the saints are equipped to do the work of ministry. Jesus is supposed to be the only guy who gets famous out of this deal.”

In the Vineyard, we believe that the best way to make disciples is by planting churches. So we plant churches to make disciples, and we make disciples who plant churches. This sentiment has been reflected by others from a diversity of movements and denominations. Mike Breen, an Anglican minister who now leads 3D Movements, a movement promoting discipleship and mission writes,

“If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.”

Discipleship is at the core of what Central Vineyard is doing, and we are doing so through four ongoing and intersecting branches:

Finding God: being a disciple involves an ever increasing intimacy with the God of the bible.
Finding a friend: being a disciple involves an ever increasing depth of community within the context we are placed.
Finding a job: being a disciple involves an ever increasing sense of the role we play in the gathered and scattered people of God.
Finding ourselves: being a disciple involves an ever increasing understanding of the people God has made us to be.

Following this command is an intimidating task. For this reason we keep in mind the statements Jesus bookended the great commission with. Firstly, this command is given with ‘All authority in heaven and on earth.’ When discipling and being discipled, we are doing so with all the authority of God at our backs. This authority can not fail. Finally, Jesus says ‘behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ He will be walking beside us, guiding us, comforting us, and empowering us to carry out his work in the world.