As we gather as a broad and diverse Mennonite Brethren family for any kind of discussion, our clear use of language is especially important. This may be particularly true in the case of discipleship – a word that we seem to use in various ways.
The definition of discipleship presented at the EQUIP study conference is as follows:
“the process of following and imitating Jesus in a way that results in inner transformation into his likeness. Discipleship always happens in community with other believers.”
There is much to be affirmed in a clear, simple definition, but perhaps an essential element of discipleship could receive more attention.
In this description, the goal of discipleship is inner transformation. The interior renewal of our lives is crucial, but does this capture all of what discipleship is about?
Tonight, Darrell Johnson reminded us of Jesus Christ’s great claim, that he has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). This is Jesus stating the facts about the really real world with a cosmic scope that leaves nothing off the table. At work, at home, in politics, even in the church: Jesus is the resurrected Lord of all spheres. Therefore, being a disciple of Jesus is not something relegated only to the interior aspects of our lives, but, in its fullness, is about Christ’s transformation coming out in how we live in the world.
If being a disciple is to become increasingly shaped into the likeness of Christ, then we should imitate the story and purpose Jesus modelled. We are choosing to be the disciples of the One who “gave up his divine privileges” (Philippians 2:7 NLT), to “[come] into the very world he created” (John 1:10 NLT) and give away his life as the expression of God’s love for the world (John 3:16).
Discipleship after this Jesus is not self-contained, but needs to come out in visible, practical expressions in our complex world.
For me, the symbol of a wind turbine is a guiding image that helps me to understand discipleship. Wind turbines are incredible feats of engineering, yet remain entirely dependent on the wind in order to be effective. As the arms turn, the turbine produces power that overflows beyond itself: power to bless the world.
As disciples of Jesus encountering the Spirit’s work in our lives, we must know that this is still for a larger purpose: it will spill over to bless the world that God loves.
—Denver Wilson is pastor of McIvor MB Church, Winnipeg.