Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. — Matthew 28:19-20a
Jesus’ words are the propelling mission of the ELCA.
That call is fresh today as Christ’s example leads us out into the world to be a dynamic church of disciples (of all ages) initiating God’s mission in the world!
With the advent of the new millennium, the ELCA embarked on a journey that embodied this church’s desire to “teach the faith.” The Call to Discipleship was developed as a key expression of the ELCA’s Initiatives for a New Century.
Now, 11 years later, it’s time to reissue the call. It’s time to challenge one another to learn to “live in Christ.” It’s time to employ creative and profound ways and to develop effective models for discipleship that deepen spirituality and transform individuals and congregations!
What is discipleship?
As disciples we are called to follow Christ on a life-long journey, imitating the heart and mind of Christ.
Disciples are not born; they are formed in a community that learns, encourages, prays and worships together. This process of spiritual growth and transformation continues as disciples become apostles (those that are sent) on God’s mission to love, serve and witness in the home, community, workplace and world.
God’s presence and promise, given to us in Baptism and affirmed each day, calls us to a “vocation” of discipleship in our day-to-day encounters.
Our call to discipleship propels us to act as Christ would in our daily encounters with others and in our growing relationship with God.
The ELCA names seven common practices modeled by Christ: prayer, study, worship, invitation, encouragement, service and charity.
Faith practices are the tools of discipleship, which deepen our relationship with Christ, equip us to live out our vocation and demonstrate how we are to love, serve and bear witness in the world.
What does a discipling congregation look like?
Most congregations “learn as they go,” discovering what it means to be disciples in their particular context. “We’ll try something and if it doesn’t work, we try something else.” They are open to new possibilities at the Spirit’s nudging. Here are a just a few examples:
While Christ Lutheran Church of Jefferson, Iowa, averages about 48 people at worship, this congregation typically tithes 15 percent in addition to special offerings. The people of Jefferson consider themselves disciples, sent to serve others. Their Lenten offerings support mission congregations and sustain a day camp for children from the community. Their “maternity ministry” provides a Christian children’s book to every family taking a newborn home from the local hospital.
For more than 25 years, Principe De Paz, Miami, has trained lay leaders in an ongoing School of Discipleship. Learners experience the basics of discipleship grounded in study, prayer and spiritual formation. Through this school many ministries in Miami have been supported.
Grace Lutheran Church, Loves Park, Ill., is on a Mission from God. The congregation calls its members to recommit to deeper discipleship through an integrated process involving study, prayer, worship and service.
Worshipers at Peace Lutheran Church, Charlottesville, Va., are reminded of their invitation to step into God’s mission through seven simple, yet profound, murals painted on the walls of the sanctuary. Each depicts a mark of discipleship that encourages the congregation as it follows the call of Jesus Christ.