Thursday, October 18, 2018

Saturate Groups | Multiply: A Creative, Conscious, and Beautiful Disciplemaker's Privilege and Joy w/ Natasha Sistrunk Robinson

Evangelism is more than getting people to change their individualized way of living or convincing them to convert to Christ. It is about inviting them to join God's family and to join forces with what God is doing in the world. + Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, A Credible Witness: Reflections on Power, Evangelism and Race

To strengthen Emmaus City's City Group participants to gather and go together in new missional communities to love our city, we are jumping into Saturate groups this fall that will go through the Saturate Field Guide for the next 2+ months. Here is a previous post in relation to this journey:

Saturate Groups | We Can't Do It Alone: Why We Commit to Practice-Based Transformational Communities

Eight weeks is a long commitment – and this is a lot of new material with a lot of soul searching in a concentrated amount of time – but Saturate Groups' journeys, both individually and communally, can also be a bit fun when we let down our defenses and look for Spirit-fueled surprises in unexpected moments along the way. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship is famous for the title, but in his introduction he writes, “ ... Discipleship means joy. ... ”

... If we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer these questions we shall have to go to Him, for only He knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow Him, knows the journey's end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy. Discipleship means joy. ... 

Along with the Saturate Field Guide, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson provides much wisdom and reflection in relation to the cost and joy of following Jesus' lead as an African American woman in Jesus' Church in the mid-Atlantic region. Her book, Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship, helps us understand more about the Kingdom work of making disciples; below is an excerpt from Chapter 4: Multiply the Kingdom and the Priesthood.

Intentional Discipleship is a Personal Positional Privilege and a Great Kingdom Responsibility

Like the faithful saints who have gone before us, we understand that this service of priesthood has been given to us as a gift for a specific purpose. In his revelation, the apostle John honors Jesus as the One "who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father  to Him be glory and power for ever and ever!" The priesthood includes all believers; we are all called to serve God and reveal His glory throughout the earth.

In the Old Testament, the priesthood was never simply about the individual priest's personal relationship and connection with God. The priests were always engaging God on behalf of God's chosen people. The priesthood is not only a personal positional privilege; it is also a great Kingdom responsibility.

Empower Disciples By Raising Understanding of Who We Are and the Expectations of What We Can Do

We would do well to study the priesthood of all believers and take seriously the responsibility we all have to equip and prepare God's children for works of service. People are lost and dying; the spiritual battle is real, and as disciples of Christ, we need all followers on the front lines. The priests of God must prepare the people of God and set them free on mission for God's Kingdom.

We empower by raising our understanding of who we are and our expectations of what we can do. If we are empowered to intentionally disciple, multiply, create, and live our lives on purpose for God, we will embrace the priesthood of all believers as the responsibility of all Christians. 

Yet because of our sinful hearts, we must be careful. God's authority is not given for the promotion of individual pursuits or to exert power over others. We should be humbled when we lead or serve others, recognizing that Christ is our ultimate authority and any influence we have is not about us  it is first about Christ and next about those He has called us to serve.

When we intentionally disciple in transformational communities, we proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We understand the significance of our calling as the priesthood of God (1 Pet. 2:9) and as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20). We are deliberate, innovative, and creative. 

Together we glorify God because we are loving, creative, conscious, diverse, and beautiful. Raising up, releasing, and then multiplying followers of Christ to grow and flourish in all parts of the world and in all areas of life is purposeful and intentional Kingdom work.

We Have the Freedom in Christ to be Exactly as God Created Us and to Complete the Work He has Prepared in Advance for Us to Do (Eph. 2:10)

Through intentional discipleship in a transformational community, we continually point people to Jesus and watch as the chains of Satan's kingdom are broken, and we are empowered to live victoriously as priests of God's Kingdom! For this freedom, Christ has come (John 10:10). But this work and commitment will not be easy. Daily, we must submit ourselves to God and discipline ourselves to persevere. What we do consistently over extended periods of time will result in lasting change. As priests in God's Kingdom, we have great responsibility:

When we see darkness, we make disciples who shine God's light. 
When we see evil, we make disciples who overcome evil with good. 
When we see oppression, we make disciples who practice biblical justice and offer hope. 
When we see the poor, we make disciples who invest time and give generously to liberate them. 
When we see hate, we make disciples who love. 
When we see risks, we make disciples who turn risks into opportunities. 
When we see children who are lost, we make disciples who disciple, mentor, and usher them into the presence of Christ. 
When we see doubters who say 'No,' we make disciples who say, 'In Jesus' name, yes we can!'

We must commit to the long haul, doing this work consistently until Christ returns, knowing that our Christian race is not given to the swift or strong but to those who endure until the end. With the hope of our eternal salvation, the finished work of Christ on the cross, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we press forward ... 

4 Theological Foundations That Fuel Our Commitment to a Transformational Community 

| 1 | Christ: Christ's finished work on the cross allows us to live as free and flourishing people. Christ sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to live as transformed servants, surrendered to God. God is the author of the entire story of Scripture, and He has given each of us a script or role to play in His grand narrative. God wants us to get involved and join in His work. Jesus said, "I have brought You (the Father) glory on earth by finishing the work You gave Me to do" (John 17:4). Like Christ, we each have a choice to glorify God with our lives and through our work. We glorify God by agreeing with His desire to change the hearts and minds of people, and by discipling them to align their lives and will to His good vision for the world.

| 2 | Conviction: Together we can ponder, "What does the Bible actually say about making disciples?" and "How does the Church practice this conviction?" And together, we will allow the Scriptures to reveal our blind spots. Then, we will move forward with confidence and courage as we prepare our hearts for transformation by the Word, the Spirit, and the Church.

| 3 | Courage: Will we make disciples? This is a courageous question in light of what Jesus calls us to do. James also gives us a helpful warning: "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them" (4:17). We don't boldly declare to God, "I will not make disciples;" but we often simply crowd our lives with a lot of good things that become idols and leave no space for the very things God says must be a priority for all Christians  mainly, loving Him, loving our neighbors, and making disciples of Jesus Christ. It is not enough for us to know what the right things are; we need courage to do them. Sometimes our godly work assignments can be intimidating, but Dr. Halee Gray Scott reminds us that, "courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to move forward despite fear."  

| 4 | Confidence: It is humbling to know God has written us into His story and wants to use us for His Kingdom purposes. It is also comforting to understand that in spite of our best efforts, "success" in discipleship does not depend on us. It is God alone who changes hearts, transforms lives, and brings us all into alignment with His vision for the world. He does this through the work of the Holy Spirit. By committing to discipleship, we avail ourselves to the transformation process. We can have great joy in living our lives for God's purposes. When our priorities are in order, our lives have clearer focus, and fulfillment in our lives on this earth can be a by-product of our obedience. A common saying goes, "Be the kind of woman who, when your feet hit the floor in the morning, the Devil says, 'Oh no, she's up.'" I don't wake up wondering whether my day is going to count or if my life matters, because my confidence lies in the person and finished work of Christ. My identity rests in Him, and for that reason, I have accepted the work He has assigned to me. You, too, can have this same confidence in living your life on mission for Christ, and you can start in discipleship in a transformational community for Christ's Kingdom purposes. 

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship

Please pray with me that Jesus will use this saturated time together with the Saturate Field Guide to make us disciplemakers:

+ who participate in this 2-month Saturate plan to shape Kingdom visions sustained by transformational communities, and 
+ who become sent disciplemakers with City Groups who go with Jesus to love and serve people in our city.

Next post: Saturate Groups | A Jazz-Shaped Faith: How Tension Can Lead Us to Transformative Places w/ God and Others

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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