Discipleship is more a pathway than a program. There is no doubt that churches that approach discipleship as a pathway are far more successful in making disciples who thrive in Christ. With this said, people’s faith journey is somewhat unique to them, but there are defining moments along the pathway that are familiar to everyone.
At Crosswinds we have a discipleship strategy that assists people to navigate the four movements of our defined discipleship pathway. Our approach consists of three steps, REACH, TEACH, and RELEASE. These steps or ministry actions are meant to help people move along the path from BELIEVE, to BELONG, to BECOME, and then to BLESS. This discipleship strategy and pathway deserve further explanation.
As a church, we are committed to pursuing holiness (dedicated to God, serving Him, and surrendering oneself to the Lord being conformed to the image of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit). While doing so, we will faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ. We do this in the hope that people will take the step to BELIEVE. Using a familiar imagery from the Finger Lakes region, the pathway leads us first to stand on the beach curious about Christ. This first step is a time of vulnerability with God and self.
Once a person has believed, receiving Christ and His gift of salvation, they head into the water where they find themselves standing ankle deep. This new person in Christ is broken before the Lord (has a leaning toward His will). It is here that Crosswinds is committed to TEACH them to live the life of freedom, fullness, and faithfulness found only in Christ. It is here that they learn what it means to BELONG to Christ and His church as well as BECOME the person they have been created to be in Christ. This movement from BELONG to BECOME moves a person from ankle deep to waist deep in the lake water. A becoming person is growing in Christ through dependence on Him.
Lastly, Crosswinds will RELEASE disciples to pursue their full kingdom potential as they BLESS others. This releasing looks like a person swimming in the deep fully surrendered to Christ. This life of surrender leads to ongoing growth and investing in others who find themselves in various stages of the pathway.
Such a strategy to help people navigate the discipleship pathway seems clean and straightforward on paper, but actually can be a little messy. People don’t always move through the path as expected and the work of reaching and teaching and releasing takes time and a willingness to take a chance on a person. However, as messy as it can be it is so worth the commitment. I am reminded of this proverb:
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Prov 14:4).
It is the strength of the ox that allows for plowing the ground that leads to producing crops. If you want the crop, you need the ox, and, therefore, need to keep the ox in a stable, which involves the unpleasant work of cleaning the stable. The point is that an empty stable may be clean, requiring no unpleasant work, but it won’t produce any abundance.
Discipleship can be a messy business, but we are called to make disciples. The fruit of people coming to Christ, growing in Christ, and thriving in Christ is worth all the effort. I know I appreciate those who took a chance on me as they led me down the pathway.
I consider it a privilege to serve alongside each of you. Together let’s commit to journeying through the pathway as we help others do the same. Let’s ask the Lord to continue to bless us as He continues to use us to bless others.