June 2019 - By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Pt II).

The end of June 2019 will mark five years since I was Ordained Deacon by Bishop David in Manchester Cathedral; in some ways it seems a very long time ago, in other ways it seems to have just flown by.

Over that period, as the requirements of training have gradually tailed off, I have had more time to devote to the area which we agreed should be my ministry focus, which is the Team lead on discipleship.

But what is discipleship, what does it really mean to us in our daily lives in Farnworth, Kearsley and Stoneclough?  It seems a big concept, and I think the word can generate a few responses:

Response 1 is to think that it all sounds a bit hard, “it’s not the kind of thing that I would like, you would have to be much more deeply spiritual than I am for that kind of thing.”

Response 2 is to be too scared, “what if I get asked difficult questions, what if it makes me look like I am not a proper Christian?”

Response 3 is to think it all sounds too dull, “is that not just hours reading the Bible or sitting in silence holding a pebble?”

So maybe discipleship is an unhelpful word, maybe journeying would be a better word.  We are all on a journey through life, every day is a new chapter, a new mile post on that journey.  All discipleship really means in my view is that we are trying to make that journey with Jesus, rather than on our own.

And if we are just going on a journey, does it really matter how fast we go, how good at walking we are?  Isn’t the important thing that we always just keep moving along that road?

As I am writing this, we have just had the London Marathon, and it was notable that the person who captured the nation’s attention completed the course in 3 hours 54 minutes.  He didn’t win, someone else got around the course in 2 hours 2 minutes, but they were not dressed as Big Ben, so no-one cared.

In case you are wondering about this sudden commentary on  long distance running, what I am trying to say is that there is no one right way of doing any activity, and that includes our journey with Christ.

Mr Bates (Big Ben) would not have a hope of keeping up with the elite athletes who ended up winning the race, that didn’t matter, he didn’t let himself be put off, he didn’t think it wasn’t something he could or should do, he just did the race in his own way.

And it is the same for us, we are all different. Some people will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the bible, but most of us don’t, some will be able to engage in deep theological discussions off the top of our heads, but most of us will just want to chat about what our faith means to us day to day, some can spend days in silent reflection, but for most of us 20 minutes seems a long time to be silent.

We all have something to offer to God, and we can all help ourselves and others along that journey.

Three years ago in June 2016, I wrote about this same topic, about the plans we had for quiet days, retreats and study groups. In the three years since, all those things have taken place, and are continuing, we have had some very successful trips to cathedral cities, and so the discipleship thing must be going well, job done?

Well I am not so sure, as there are still a lot of people in our congregations who have never been involved in any of our groups or events.  

If that is because you don’t want to get involved at this stage in your lives, then that is fine, no one is forced to do anything, we all have to journey at our own pace, but if it is because you are scared to try, or because you feel that there is nothing for you, then that is a failure on our part, and we want to help.

So if you feel that one of the groups or events may be a bit scary, talk to someone who has been, ask them what it is like, you might find that it is more interesting and less scary than you had imagined.

But if nothing touches the need you feel, talk to me or one of the other ministry team, there may be something we could arrange, and you may not be the only one who wants that experience.

We are all on a journey, whether we are dressed as Big Ben or are an elite athlete, God still loves us just the same for the effort we are making on that journey. 

Malcolm Wearing