Jesus today sends out the larger group of his followers to become disciples – those who have learnt from the master and now share in his mission to proclaim that the kingdom of God has drawn near. It is this passage of scripture (Luke 10:1-9) that was the inspiration for the new logo for the parish, that was launched last year during Advent in the first message series that I preached at St Paul’s – the Law of Four. The logo is broken up into four quadrants around the cross, the identify the various stages in our journey – stages that continue as we journey and mature. Surrounding the cross are 72 circles of various sizes, to represent the call of this parish community to be the disciples that Jesus calls us to be, moving in and around the cross as we call others into life in Christ, and go out in service and discipleship.
It is important that we understand the various realities of what being a disciple is all about and the dynamics of our journey as friends and followers of Jesus. Fr James Mallon in his book Divine Renovation (2014) describes a disciple as “To be a disciple is to be a learner. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be engaged in a lifelong process of learning from and about Jesus the master, Jesus the teacher.” (Kindle edition, location 248) But the reality is that many people in our generation, although they may have even had a significant spiritual experience, are deeply disconnected from God and the Church. Sherry Weddell in her book Forming Intentional Disciples (2012) describes the spectrum of belief that we find in our world:
- I don’t believe in God – atheist
- I don’t know if there is a God – agnostic
- I believe in a higher-power or impersonal force – deist
- I believe in a personal God but have no relationship with God – census Christian?
- I believe in a personal God and have a relationship with God – believer
Even within the final stages of this progression, many variations exist, especially in the degree to which a person builds and maintains a healthy and life-giving friendship with the Lord Jesus. Weddell describes five thresholds of conversion – stages that I have been able to recognise in my own conversion and that initial movement towards faith that I experienced between the ages of 15 and 20.
- Initial trust. Can I trust you? There is at least a positive association with Jesus Christ, the Church, a believer, or something specifically Christian. Unless there is a bridge of trust in place, people will never move to active personal faith.
- Spiritual curiosity – a person is intrigued by or desires to know more about Jesus, his life / teachings / the Christian faith.
- Spiritual openness – a person begins to acknowledge an openness to the possibility of personal and spiritual change. Not yet a commitment to change.
- Spiritual seeking – a movement from an essentially passive position to an active seeking to know the God who is calling her/him. Something like ‘dating with a purpose’ rather than marriage! There is a seeker who is engaged in an urgent spiritual quest to know if they can commit to Jesus and his church.
- Intentional Discipleship – the decision to ‘drop one’s nets’ and make the conscious commitment to follow Jesus in the midst of the church as an obedient disciple with all that this involves – including reordering one’s life around this commitment.
Sherry Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples (2012) – chapters 5-8
Recorded at St Paul’s AP, 9.30am (16mins)
Sunday 14, Year C.