The church is sometimes over-obsessed with orthodoxy. Jesus was clear as to what he was about:forming disciples for Kingdom living.
What does it mean to form disciples as the primary mission of a local church? I received a helpful answer to that question from Dr. David Lowes Watson 30 years ago:
To bear witness to Jesus in the world through works of
worship, devotion, compassion, and justice under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit.
John Wesley enjoined “works of piety and works of mercy” to his followers in 18th century England and America. Dr. Watson simply expanded Wesley’s two emphases to four! I have not found a better or more encompassing answer to the question of “what defines a disciple.”
First and foremost, I must endeavor to meet that definition in my own life.
WORSHIP: I must worship God in a community of believers at least once each week unless genuinely prevented. I have worshipped at least weekly since childhood; and my wife and I still try to worship each week in a faith-based setting today.
DEVOTION: In some ways, this is the toughest discipline to maintain. But it is central to the people of the God revealed in Jesus. Most mornings begin for me with a prayer of thanksgiving and “remembering my baptism” (aloud) while splashing water on my face. Most late evenings bring a few moments of thanks for the day now ending, intercession for those on my current prayer list, a reading from Psalms, and a hymn from memory.
COMPASSION: Am I willing to be interrupted by some urgent or unexpected human need, to be attentive to a hurt or disappointment or painful loss wherever encountered? Will I actually seek opportunities to extend compassion/mercy throughout each day?
JUSTICE: Will I be an advocate for justice, even in difficult or controversial settings? Currently, my primary efforts in this regard are growing: I send several financial contributions each year to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Elaine and I are joining a group of folks who read to (and with) at-risk young elementary children at a school on the North Side of Pittsburgh. I have given up plastic straws for purchased drinks as an environmental statement. And we provide resources to enable meaningful demonstrations by grandchildren and other family members for economic and environmental marches in Washington DC.
For me, discipleship is a glad response to the grace of God in my life. The above quadrilateral provides a continuous challenge and stimulation to be a more faithful follower of Jesus. And the model provides a meaningful teaching tool/conversation starter along the way.
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