The quiet storm multiplied through disciples

The following post is from a friend of mine Bill Mowry, who serves on the Navigator staff. Great stuff on the history discipleship.

Jesus built a sustainable ministry through recruiting disciples — learners who would embrace His way of life (Matthew 28:19-20). This practice of helping people follow Jesus’ ways was at the center of the quiet storm. The early church believed that time was needed to shape a disciple from a new convert. Unlike our contemporary quest for efficiency and effectiveness, these leaders believed that “Christians were not made in a hurry.”1

In the midst of crowded and corrupt cities, the church became a brotherhood and family of committed Christ-followers. They believed that for a community to endure it must artfully and effectively pass-on its ways to others. The time of instruction and preparation for admittance into the faith had a particular appeal to new believers. They joined a brotherhood who advanced as a group of “fellow explorers along a route which required a high moral effort.”2

New converts followed a similar process from church-to-church by the third century. Interested persons were nominally ranked as “Christians.” It was often two-three years before they were baptized. The new Christ-apprentices were taught the faith and maintained accountability ties with a spiritual mentor. They were allowed to attend worship services with a special group of fellow apprentices but could not participate in communion.3 When the preparation was completed, he or she was brought forward for the final weeks of teaching, accompanied by fasting, frequent exorcisms, and confession of sins.4 Their baptism and admittance to the fellowship often took place on the glorious day of Easter.

The shaping of lives was intentional and personalized through a mentor. The discovery of the Didache (a mid-first century Christian writing) reveals a detailed step-by-step tradition where house churches prepared Gentile converts for full and active participation in the assemblies. The Greek word “didache” makes reference to the teaching that a master-trainer imparts to apprentices or disciples. According to Milavec, the force of didache is better rendered as “training” or “apprenticing” rather than teaching. Unlike the traditional classroom, this word communicates how novices gradually and progressively assimilated the ways and life of a master trainer.5

Each mentor was expected to illustrate, question, listen to, and challenge his or her candidate in such a way that not only the words but the deep meanings of Jesus’ way of life would be assimilated and applied. The mentors were to teach the Way so that it took into account the particular circumstances, strengths, weaknesses, and fears exhibited by the candidates.6 Discipleship was personal, starting with the needs of the individual, rather than herding people through a program. This simple sustainable strategy was done in life2life ways.

We may balk at this regimented approach today. It’s important to remember that the quiet storm advanced in difficult times. To win the respect of the outside world required a tough, committed faith from each believer. Growth was not left to chance in the early church. The “easy believism” of a quick decision could be snuffed out in persecution or in the rigors of life lived in a pagan world. The early church knew that to sustain and multiply itself, new converts had to be discipled in authentic, life2life ways.

The quiet storm started by Jesus calling a few men to follow Him. This revealed immediately the direction his evangelistic strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes but with people whom the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before He ever organized an evangelistic campaign or preached a sermon in public. “[People] were to be His method for winning the world to God.”7 The quiet storm swept through the Roman Empire with this simple, sustainable strategy of multiplying disciples in life2life ways.

___________________

1 Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians.
2 Aaron Milavec, The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary.
3 Fox, Pagans and Christians.
4 The Didache
5 Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Evangelism
6The Didache
7 Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism.

 

The Quiet Storm was crafted by Bill Mowry. Bill serves with The Navigators’ Church Discipleship Ministry. You can discover a wealth of creative ministry resources at www.ArtfulMinistry.com Feel free to contact Bill at info@artfulministry.com

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