At a conference last week, I met a young pastor, and quite honestly I thought this pastor might be a little too young to be pastoring a church. I was even more shocked to find out that this pastor was responsible for over 100 congregations! Surprisingly, this situation was quite common among the pastors and congregations in this restricted country that I was visiting.
This past week, Pastor Foley, Mrs. Foley and I, had the opportunity to train over 80 church leaders. The theme of our training was understanding the “key to discipleship.”
While some of the participants lacked a proper Scriptural education, we found that many pastors (even the very young ones) had a good Biblical foundation and a strong desire to learn more. We also found that the leaders in this restricted country had a similar problem to American churches. They understood the Word, they preached the Word, they valued the Word, but they didn’t regularly put it into practice. For example, one church leader said, “I’ve always had a desire to serve in the church, but I didn’t realize my responsibility was first to serve in my home.”
During the conference we spent time talking about the Work of Mercy of Doing Good, but we also challenged the church leaders to “do the word” at the conference according to Galatians 6:1-10. Verse 10 says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” You see, instead of simply listening to God’s word, everyone was being held accountable to put God’s word into practice.
The following day when we asked for testimonies it was exciting to see their faces light up and to hear their inspired stories of God’s faithfulness. For example, one participant ensured that all of the fellow participants had enough blankets as they prepared to sleep at night. Another one helped a fellow participant from a rural area communicate with her family back home. And another student carefully prepared boiling water for his uncle before he went to bed. These activities helped everyone to understand the difference between Bible study and discipleship, between Hearing the Word and Doing the Word.
These “doing the word” activities may not seem like anything earth shattering, but it was an attempt, on the part of each person, to mirror God’s goodness to others. They didn’t overthink “doing good,” they simply practiced God’s word in the situations that were presented to them.
So, what did we share with the participants as the “key to discipleship?” Better preaching? More Bible studies? A better Bible version? Longer worship services? We shared that the key to discipleship is the combination of “hearing the word and doing the word.” If we forget the doing of the word, then our faith becomes foolish and lacks impact, and ultimately we don’t really grow in the Lord.
During the conference, I was reminded that even though discipleship often seems to elude us, it isn’t a mystery. I was reminded that Bible College, seminary, cell groups and even a good steady diet of Bible knowledge aren’t prerequisites for discipleship. I was reminded that age and status aren’t requirements for discipleship either. What is required? Similar to the church leaders at our conference, “doing the word” in a simple and faithful manner is the most important ingredient for discipleship.