14 February, 2013 Duncan Forbes
So how do you disciple a council estate Christian? Do you have to get reallypractical? It’s true that on Estates we tend to be quite practically minded, but I’d argue that all of us have to get really practical in our discipleship, whatever our background.
Christian discipleship can often focus on teaching people information. Perhaps we are influenced by Ancient Greek culture here. I don’t want to de-emphasise knowledge, but in line with Scripture I want to emphasise action equally. Paul emphasised knowledge that led to godliness (Titus 1:1). Now someone might object and say that as long as you teach the doctrine, the godliness will follow. But is this really Paul’s approach, or even the Bible’s approach? The rest of Titus is so practical that Paul clearly did not think godly actions come automatically – without specific practical teaching. James warned us of the danger of listening to the word without doing what it says (James 1:23-24). Jesus Himself commanded to make disciples through the means of baptizing and teaching people to obey everything He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
So how does this work out in discipleship? On our estate we’ve developed a new catechism called ‘The Urban Catechism’. Like previous catechisms, we use the question and answer method to teach doctrine. This teaches doctrine, but we also want to see the godliness that comes from doctrine, so we have added the following elements:
- Application questions
For example, Pete and Ashley might meet together and look at the following question.
Q. Should we love everyone?
A. Yes , and we should also have a special love for believers .
They will then look up the following references and study questions.
 Matthew 5:43-45 - ‘How are we to treat our enemies?’;
 Galatians 6:10 - Who are we to especially do good to? and 1 John 4:20-21 - Can we say we love God if we do not love Christians?
Pete then shares a prepared illustration of the hypocrisy of saying you respect a friend, whilst constantly disrespecting his children. Then Pete and Ashley answer the following application questions.
- How have you been acting towards your enemies?
- Do you tend to love people based on what they do, or on who they are?
- In what ways do you personally show love for the church?
- In what other ways could you personally show love?
- What about this week?
As they go through these questions, Pete shares how he tends to like people if they do all the things he approves of (being punctual and polite etc.), but dislikes people who don’t. Ashley shares how he has a grudge against his Mum because she rejected him for becoming a Christian. Pete also makes a commitment to help out with the Church lunch this Sunday, and Ashley commits to visit someone he doesn’t really get on with very well.
Having bared their souls to each other, both men bow their heads in prayer, asking God for forgiveness and the grace to love everyone, especially believers. The next time they meet, they share how they’ve been doing in this area, and then go through the next question, in eager anticipation of the Spirit’s conviction, and the fruit that will come.
This is one of the many ways we do discipleship in our church. I’m not saying that every church should use the Urban Catechism, but I do believe that we can all benefit from an approach that is both doctrinally rigorous and practical.