Several years ago, I was out hiking on a humid, summer day and came upon a small, beautiful pond which was fed by a mountain stream. I had the bright idea that I would like to go for a swim and cool off. After taking off my boots I began to wade out into the water. Two feet out, the water came up to my ankles. Five feet out, the water came up to my ankles. Twenty feet out, the water came up to my ankles. It was at this point, I realized I was not going for a swim as the pond was beautiful and wide but not very deep.
As I have served the Lord in various ministry capacities over the past 40 years, it seems that too often this describes many people who call themselves Christians. They may be active in their congregation; they may claim various gifts of the Holy Spirit; they may be serving in various ministry capacities; they may have certain devotions or participate in a religious order; and may say they have been born again. Yet, their relationship with God is only ankle deep.
Jesus asked his disciples (and he asks us) to go into the world and “make disciples.” He didn’t say go and make church members. He didn’t say go and get people to make a decision for me. He didn’t say go and teach people how to be religious. SO, this begs the question: What is a disciple?
A disciple of Jesus is a person who has decided to walk in the ways of Jesus as her/his Savior and Lord. This person is living a lifestyle which imitates Jesus Christ and his teaching. This person has not only received Jesus as their Savior but is attempting to follow his Lordship through the power of the Holy Spirit. Now, admittedly, this looks different in various traditions of the Faith. However, I suggest that there are several common denominators of all disciples of Jesus.
1. Intellectual Knowledge. Followers of Jesus learn the things Jesus taught his first disciples as found in the Bible, the Old Testament and New Testament. This is a life-long adventure and is manifest in understanding certain basic tenets of the Christian Faith. Can you explain why we call God “Father?” Can you tell someone why Jesus is the “only way to the Father?” Do you understand why we can say that our sins have been forgiven? This is just scratching the surface of the intellectual knowledge which disciples of Jesus will have.
2. Relational Knowledge. Followers of Jesus grow in their relationship with God and how to commune with him through the Bible, prayer, worship, the breaking of Bread, and fellowship with other followers of Jesus. God is not an intellectual concept; He is a living Being who desires fellowship with us.
3. Missional Knowledge. Followers of Jesus are on a mission – to expand the knowledge of God and His Kingdom through Jesus Christ. This is done by using one’s spiritual gifts and talents in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring God’s love to the people in our circle of influence. He calls us to make disciples of others and this is our mission in our time. I like to ask people who their “Timothy” or “Theresa” is. Who are you discipling and encouraging in their walk with Jesus?
Are you an ankle-deep Christian? Why not intentionally take your relationship with God to the next level? Deepen your intellectual knowledge, your relational knowledge, and your missional knowledge.
I want to invite you to attend our next Provincial Assembly in June 2019 which will focus on discipleship. Not only will we have our Revised Catechism and our new 2019 Book of Common Prayer for you, but we have a host of excellent speakers to challenge us in our call to discipleship.
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America