Making Disciples, Transforming Congregations
Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” We were not called to make “members,” but rather to specifically and evidently make “disciples.” It is them, those that we disciple, whom we will baptize and teach in preparation for the advent of our Lord Jesus. The categorization of “member” does not help our movement, but rather favors the institutionalization of the spiritual experience of individuals and of our churches.
The understanding of the call, the acceptance and the decision to follow Jesus, the joy of learning from Him, opting to imitate Him, reflecting His character, the commitment to the entrusted mission and the completion of the work—all of this only makes sense within the framework of discipleship, as a privilege of our relationship with Christ.
In contrast, none of this is possible in the context of membership. Members do not need to change and improve; however, those who follow Jesus as His disciples always experience transformation and growth.
We want to lead individuals and congregations to a healthy, dynamic and joyful experience in Christ under a new paradigm. The Southwestern Union Discipleship Project seeks to do that within the framework of the “3 C’s Strategy.” The initiative, in its concept and in its practice, challenges us to be disciples of Christ Jesus, living and behaving as disciples, but, above all, shining as disciples to glorify our Master and prepare ourselves and others for His glorious coming.
The purpose: to intentionally develop and grow our participants, congregations and territories.
This dynamic places Christ in the center, and we live consecrated to Christ. In Christ, we live with compassion towards others, especially towards those we want to reach for His kingdom. So, in Christ we commit ourselves to the mission, to the church and to the completion of the work.
A strategy of 3 C’s comes from the fact that there can be no Christian discipleship without consecration to Christ, through connection, communion and dependence on Jesus.
Consecrated to Him, we are in an ideal position to feel compassion for others others, which moves us to take an interest in their needs and help them through service. Only consecrated to Christ and with compassion for souls will we be able to make a commitment with the mission and be aware of the urgency of this crucial hour.
The spiritual experience of the disciples of Christ is not achieved by position, hierarchy or authority, rather, it is enjoyed in a service of selfless love for Christ and our neighbor. In this learning journey, the fact that we are sent as “ambassadors and open letters” prevails. Jesus is always the Teacher and our example, motivating us to come together to complete the mission that He entrusted to us “in this generation.”
The process is essentially an experience of transformation and sanctification. Our message and banner are Christ-centered. The instrument the Spirit uses is witnessing. The distinguishing signs are the fruits of the Spirit. The learning experience is eternal. Our constant motivation is our love for Christ and our desire to live for Him. The opportune time is today and now, before the door of grace closes. The goal is not baptism or membership, it is being a true disciple.
This project has come to be because it is extremely important to establish a specific and intentional discipleship program in our congregations. This will help those who participate to establish and maintain close relationships with Jesus and with one another in a way that favors their maturity and growth. As a result, the fulfillment of the mission will be promoted by growing and expanding the Kingdom of God.
This plan is not a book or compendium of recommendations, just a simple and clear program that is easy to apply in any congregation, regardless of size, culture or location. Today, and at this prophetic time, it is not an option, it is a pressing need. To learn more about the Discipleship Project, visit SouthwesternUnion.org or email ORigacci@swuc.org.
By Osvaldo Rigacci, Southwestern Union Vice President for Multicultural Ministries