Discipleship at the Cafe

What would the Church look like if we thought of “disciple-making” as
our core purpose, in adult formation programs, in seminary education,
in worship?

There you go, folks—that’s the key question. It’s from a post here at the Episcopal Cafe. I’d say all of the rest of our questions about church stuff (including what we do with people, buildings, politics, etc.) are properly subsets of this question.

11 thoughts on “Discipleship at the Cafe

  1. Derek the Ænglican

    Hmmm… In what sense, Anastasia?

    In the sense of “being obedient to the Gospel” or in the sense of looking like a certain theological/political subgroup?

    I think many Episcopalians immediately think the second when they hear the term rather than the first.

    I ask in particular because I think it’d be the first but you often hear much more language about discipleship from the second as well. In fact, I’d guess that’s one of the reasons some lefty-mainline groups *don’t* want to talk about discipleship—it might sound a little too “evangelical”.

  2. Christopher

    I associate the term with being formed by the Gospel–Jesus Christ, with St. Benedict, and with Bonhoeffer. The cathedral in Vancouver, BC uses the title “The Sending of the Disciples” for the closing portion of the liturgy, which I think is quite right.

  3. John-Julian, OJN

    Derek, I think this is wrong! (Now, having recovered from that shock, I continue…)

    Worship – notably liturgical worship – ought not EVER to have an agenda outside itself. The purpose of liturgical worship is NOT to “make disciples” (except in the mystical sense that it “disciplizes”all who participate).

    “Making disciples” is surely a laudable and central responsibility of Christians, but to put it at the center is ridiculous. The current faddish big push for “mission” (as opposed to squabbling among ourselves about morality) is also a politically correct false front.

    Our FIRST job is surely to recognize and strengthen our sense of being united to Christ, and worship takes first place. Then, of course, service to that very Christ as he manifests himself in others in need. And, of course, sharing the wonder of that unity has high place. but it is NOT the be-all and end-all, because unless I am living my union with Christ, I have no real discipleship to offer to anyone else.

    My experience is that if one’s first attention is given to worship, everything else falls automatically in place: service happens, mission happens, sharing happens, disciple-making happens —but the same cannot be said when one of these is set up as Number One Agenda.

    I don’t speak of this only as an ideal or a principle. I know it first hand and have seen it work in parish after parish. Do the worship, and one will be literally driven to service and mission — but not the other way around

    Seek first the kingdom – the one-ing with Christ – and all else will be offered as well — and then “making disciples” will automatically become important, even without conscious effort or intention.

  4. Derek the Ænglican

    But—Fr. John-Julian–I *do* accept the mystical part and the formation part. Liturgical worship forms us according to the mind of Christ and provides us a model for what it means to live as we ought.

    I don’t have the experience that you do, but I still believe that the experience of worship by itself is not enough for the majority of people today. We still have to *teach* the liturgy and what lies behind it.

  5. Vicki McGrath

    Derek, bls, et al.,

    The Diocese of Newark wrote its Profile for the Bishop’s search in 2005-2006 in the form of various parts of the Eucharistic liturgy (very broadly speaking). The idea of the section marked Confession was to own up to our failures and short-comings. As a Diocese known for our work and positions on social justice (which was true in the days of +George Rath’s episcopate, before Bishop Spong)we knew that our emphasis *as a Diocese* on worship and spiritual formation was quite lacking. We felt it was time to own up to that for ourselves, as well as to our potential Bishop candidates. We understood that our Profile was as much a tool of Diocesan self-understanding as it was an avenue of communication with our candidates. As the Co-Chair of the search committee, I can say with great joy and appreciation that our new Bishop Mark Beckwith has taken for our four Diocesan hallmarks (“gates of hope”) worship, spiritual formation, justice/non-violence, and radical hospitality.

    As in any system (family, parish, etc.) it can take a long time to create real transformation. But I agree with John-Julian that worship is absolutely the place to start (although you may get push back from the system about it). After all, our very reason to be a Church is to be in relationship with the Lord and Savior of the all creation – and we do that first in worship and then in everything that flows out from there – even growing and deepening disciples.

    Vicki McGrath+

  6. Vicki McGrath

    Oops! When reaching for a “close parentheses” I seem to have hit a rather wry/sly looking emoticon!

    As my kids would say: “My bad.”


  7. bls

    Thanks, Vicki; I posted the link because I was glad (and impressed) to see that “Confession.” I am a great believer in the facing of facts and the acknowledgement of one’s own faults, and I liked the “amendment of life” language. (I live in Newark, also, BTW.)

    That’s what I meant by the “first step” – a reference to A.A., actually.

  8. Anastasia

    i forgot the check back. i meant being obedient to the gospel, although the term has been appropriated. the idea–that church is about making disciples–is also integral to conservative evangelical theology as well.

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