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“Our message must never change, but the way we deliver the message must be constantly updated to reach each new generation.” – Rick Warren
Covid-19 has brought on a new generation of ministry, requiring us to shift how we reach those we minister to. Livestreams, video meetings, and messaging are just some of the tools we have been forced to work with in this season of pandemic which is filled with social distancing and self-isolation. A question lingers in this new reality – can we actually disciple people in an online environment?
The Example of Paul
Whether it was sharing a meal with tax collectors, journeying with the disciples, or teaching large groups – relationships were clearly foundational to Jesus’ discipleship. We seem to often equate relationship with being ‘in person,’ and while there is no negating the value of in-person connections, we cannot make the mistake of thinking discipling relationships are limited to in-person opportunities. The Apostle Paul is probably the clearest example of an individual who was able to disciple from a great distance. We read Paul’s prayer in Romans 1:9 “I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.” He was discipling a community he wasn’t able to be with physically. Each of his letters were written to people he was distanced from, and these letters have become essential tools of discipleship for the church throughout history.
Using What We Have
If Paul could disciple people over great distances with written letters, then clearly there are opportunities for discipleship in an online environment. Amidst feeling ill equipped and being overwhelmed, be encouraged and reminded that the Holy Spirit can do the work of discipleship in whatever way the Holy Spirit wishes to work. The question needs to shift from the effectiveness of digital discipleship to “How is the Holy Spirit working through my unique gifts, skills and abilities to disciple people in this season of digital ministry?” Technology is not limited to computers. We may forget that letters and postal systems, telephones, in-person visits (when able) are all reliant on some form of technology. What technology is God asking you to use? Something new? Something familiar? Some of both?
God is faithfully at work in this season. He has equipped you and your local community of believers with what you need to be effective in discipling others in this season. God is desiring to work through you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t worry about what other churches or pastors are doing, worry about what God wants to do through you. Learn. Grow. Be faithful to God and watch Him work wonders in this unique season of ministry.
Lead Pastor, Parliament Community Church
Discipling Leaders Workshop
A few years ago, we wrestled with what discipleship would look like for us as a church. Subsequently, we landed four distinct steps, or components, that have been helpful for us. One of those is that we ‘train one another in obedience’. So now with the conviction of needing to live that out, and the conviction that everyone has something to offer, I have asked each of our staff to prepare a workshop of one area of their ministry that they have developed some learnings and experience – maybe even some expertise.
What if we trained each other instead of going to conference or workshops for personal or professional development? If nothing else, when we are required to teach something, we learn it better ourselves and we grow. So even if there are only a few others in the session, it’s still worth it. Initially, the goal was to have this training happen within our church context. But then we thought others would find this useful as well. So, with all of us getting so used to Zoom meetings, and being able to engage people from anywhere, we thought we would put this out to anyone else who would like to join. This is the origins of this simple concept.
If you find any of the topics helpful, please join us on Zoom for about 90 minutes for some informal training on various topics, typically on the second Tuesday of the month from 4:00-5:30 PM (exact dates and topics to be confirmed for 2021). We will also try to record each session so that they can be available afterwards.
Topics covered so far:
-“Discipleship Ecosystems” – Bruce Enns (Oct 14, 2020)
-“Healthy Global Church Partnerships” – Maryanne Berge (Dec. 9, 2020)
Future topics we’re working on in 2021:
Developing healthy and empowered leadership teams – Chandra Styles
The challenge and opportunities of missional communities – Brian Wiens
Spiritual formation – Maureen Brown
Conflict resolution – Jodi Enns
-something else that’s really good…
-another great topic…
Looking forward to having you join us!