I had been in the hospital before with my son and had followed him to the correct department. Now I was back a few months later without him and unfortunately I couldn’t quite remember the way. Fortunately the receptionist told me to simply follow the right coloured line.
After several twists and turns, the line (I think it was yellow but can’t remember) got me to the right place.
As I followed the line back out at the end of my appointment I thought about how I had been so focused on following my son during my previous visit that I hadn’t even noticed the lines. My son had been to the same department several times before and he has such an amazing memory that it was just easier to follow him without paying attention to which way I was going. I attended his last appointment with him and I wasn’t expecting that I might have an appointment there for myself at a later date.
It occurred to me that whilst it is good to travel with people who know the way, that it is even better to travel with people who know the way who are willing to teach you how to find the right way for yourself.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we can help people to become disciples of Jesus. Does our approach require new disciples to always have someone else to help them to find the way forward in every situation or are we trying to teach people to learn from the experience of others as well as to give them the tools to find their own way?
If we encourage new disciples to be overly dependent on mature Christians then it may ultimately stunt their faith in Jesus as they learn to put their trust in and to follow people rather than God.
What might we consider helpful tools?
The Bible: I would always want to make sure that a new Christian has modern copy of the Bible (I would recommend the New Living Translation which is easy to read and understand). I would generally encourage people to start with one of the four gospels and I usually suggest Mark as it is the shortest. The Bible is God’s manual for life and so we need to read it to discover how we should live and relate to God as followers of Jesus
Talk with God: New Christians need to learn to talk with and to develop their relationship with Jesus. As they get to know him and learn to hear his voice then they will grow in faith.
Church: God wants his followers to meet with other disciples of Jesus. We ideally need to be part of church communities where we hear the Bible taught and are encouraged to pray. Finding somewhere which is accessible and understandable is important but I would also encourage people to find a church where you have opportunities to hear about the experiences of others. To hear what God is doing in other people’s lives is so important and yet many churches leave very little or even no space for people to talk about how they have been living out their faith.
To be in a discipling relationship: To meet regularly with others to talk about what being a disciple of Jesus means and how it is working out in your own lives is essential for spiritual growth. It provides an opportunity to ask questions about parts of the Bible you are finding hard, to pray together and to talk about particular issues you are facing. This could be achieved in a one to one meeting or in a small group, the key is to meet with people who you an be honest with.
Understand what it cost Jesus to save us: Jesus died to remove the barrier between us an God. He chose to die an agonizing death in order to make it possible to save andyone who wants to turn to God. When we realize what it cost Jesus to save us, it will radically change the way we think about, regard and follow him.
Learn to Love Jesus: Sometimes churches put the emphasis on following rules but it dawned on me some time ago that when we love someone then we want to make them happy. If we love Jesus then we will want to follow him in a way that pleases him which is a lot easier than just trying to follow a list of commands.
These are a few tools, but there must be others. What else could I add to the list?
When we are in a rush, it is easier to do things for people rather than letting them find their own way. With this in mind, I hope that we can all try to make space to slow down and to help people to develop in their faith and grow in their relationship with Jesus.