The “Fourth Week”: Week Thirty-Two/Session Two.
Theme: Looking Ahead With Hope.
Our reading for today: Acts 1: 12-14.
So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, son of James. They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and His brothers. (Acts 1: 12-14 MsgB)
The fine art of Christian discipleship.
How do you and I actually get there? Is it truly possible for men and women to follow in the footsteps of the historical, first-century Jesus that we find written about in the New Testament? Is it feasible that there can be a group of people who live out their faith in Christ in such a way that they make a real difference in their world? And, if so, how does a church and its leadership team actually work alongside the Holy Spirit in making ‘disciples’ of Christ, followers of Jesus who are living lives that reflect the nature of God’s Son?
Some in the church world today wonder if that’s truly possible? Others assume it is already happening, yet as we’ve discussed earlier, for many years I was believing that I was successful at it; but in truth, I was only measuring that ‘success’ by counting up the numbers of my 3-B’s: (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the offering, and (B)utts in the seats! If the numbers were healthy and growing, I assumed that ‘discipleship’ in Christ was happening. But was it really?
Throughout my thirty-plus years in pastoral ministry, these burning questions have continued. And if you can get a group of pastors and church leaders to actually be honest about it, these questions are the ones that keep us all up at night, wondering if we’re actually making ‘disciples’ or are we just entertaining the flock, doing our best to not lose their attention?
Today’s passage from the first chapter of Acts is quite revealing when it comes to defining ‘discipleship.’ As I see it, Luke tells us here that the earliest group of Christ-followers held basically two things in common. First and foremost, these men and women all had the shared experience of being with the Master. Some, obviously, had been with Jesus from the beginning (approximately three years earlier), while others had joined up with Him at a later point. In this revealing passage, Luke also tells us that both Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his half-brothers were included in this early band of followers as well. Without a doubt, all of them had experienced, first-hand, the death and resurrection of Jesus that had occurred just days earlier. All, I’m sure, were deeply impacted by these amazing events and that shared experience was key to what comes next.
Secondly, and maybe most importantly, Luke tells us that these individual men and women decided to do a couple of key things as they went forward, and verse 14 reveals to us exactly what those key decisions were:
They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer…
In other words, those who had experienced the radical life-changing message and ministry of Jesus decided: 1) they were in this thing called ‘following Christ’ for good; 2) they united together in community; and 3) together, they would make their first priority seeking communion with God (i.e. prayer).
Hmm. Pretty revealing, don’t you think?
As we come to the end of our Ignatian Adventure, I’m wondering if these instructions just might be the key to holding onto everything we’ve experienced during our eight-month journey? Call me simplistic, but it seems to me that if we could become successful with just these two elements found in today’s passage, we just might be well on our way to finding a lot of the answers to defining what the New Testament perceives as the fine art of Christian discipleship. Around our church in Cedar Rapids, we call it following the 3-C’s…
- Communion with God.
- Community with others.
Join us next time for the third C: Commissioned into our world.
My prayer: Jesus, I know the key to successful discipleship is never simplistic, but I do so appreciate the fact that God’s Word does contain amazingly clear explanations on how Your first-century followers seemed to do it. I take Your Word as true and ask that I will be a faithful follower in my time by simply agreeing with other believers that 1) we’re in this thing for good; 2) we will remain united together in community with each other; and 3) we will make our first priority seeking communion with You. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what changes do I need to make in my pursuit of Christ so that it can become defined more and more by these three simple principles found in Acts 1: 14? What would it look like for me to live out a stronger commitment to an on-going communion with God in the context of a community of Christ-followers?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure.
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.