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Discipling takes time – even for Jesus: Checkpoint Autumn 2022

CMS workers Andrew and Liz Glover serve at International Christian Fellowship (ICF), in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where Andrew is the senior pastor. In this article Andrew reflects on the centrality of Jesus and the Bible to the process of discipling. 

The example of Jesus 

By the time Peter makes his famous declaration that Jesus is the ‘Christ’, the ‘Messiah’ in Mark 8:29, the disciples have already been with Jesus for about two years. 

But even then, neither Peter nor the other disciples understood the nature of Jesus’ messiahship. After, Jesus went on to teach them that, “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31) Peter rebukes Jesus. Despite a shared culture, Peter understood the role of the Messiah differently. He assumed God’s chosen one would be a conquering leader not a dying saviour. According to Peter’s understanding, the Messiah doesn’t die at the hands of Gentiles, he defeats them!  

Sometimes the things that contribute to discipling are surprising. Who would have thought that simply seeing the pastor washing the dishes at a church lunch would be notable…” 

The disciples needed more discipling before they could see that Jesus, the conquering King, was also the Suffering Servant. He was both the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the “Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). He would indeed be a conquering ruler, but his victory would be won through sacrifice. As the disciples watched, listened to, learned from and imitated Jesus for years, they gradually learned and grew more like him. 

Significance of culture 

Discipling took time–even for Jesus. Discipling today also requires time to understand the culture and background, including the church background, of those being discipled. This was true even when Jesus’ disciples were from the same culture.  

Working in an international church we have learned the importance of observing and comprehending the culture and church background of our brothers and sisters in order to better disciple them. Being among people from many different cultures means that a considerable amount of time needs to be devoted to understanding people before they can be discipled well.  

Sometimes the things that contribute to discipling are surprising. Who would have thought, for example, that simply seeing the pastor washing the dishes at a church lunch would be notable and encouraging for a mature Christian woman from Asia, in whose tradition the pastor would never do such a lowly thing! 

Demonstrating godliness  

Our friend David* is an example of how taking time to disciple slowly has worked in our context. When David first came to ICF, he was feeling a little ‘lost.’ Things were tough for him in Cambodia. David is a great guy, enthusiastic for Christ as a well-taught Christian from a Western culture, but we needed to understand him and he us. Spending time together, inviting him to watch and engage in some ministry with us, chatting about life and politics and culture and theology helped him become grounded spiritually and personally. He’s now not only a brother in Christ but a good friend.  

Discipleship through studying the Bible 

In the discipleship opportunities we have in our church and our small group Bible study we model relationship and an approach to the Bible as the living word which is to be heard, understood and obeyed. It’s so good to see the ‘Aha!’ moments when something suddenly makes sense! 

A married couple from different European countries exemplify this. We have witnessed certain aspects of the Bible coming to life for them, and there have been deep, tearful conversations about life’s challenges. Their faith and our fellowship in Christ have been strengthened. What a wonderful privilege and joy to be involved in such a time. 

Will you make disciples? 

The opportunities for discipling, for helping others to see and hear Jesus as we follow him together, are everywhere. Are you inviting your sisters and brothers to imitate you and walk with you as you follow Jesus? Can they see you following Jesus?  

After all, it’s hard for people to imitate you if they can’t see you. 

 * Name changed for privacy reasons. 

PRAY 

Pray for Andrew and Liz as they work with men and women from diverse cultural backgrounds in Cambodia. Pray for wisdom and understanding as they seek to teach, encourage and disciple Christians in their church.