At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the resurrected Jesus Christ commissions his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus has walked with, slept with, eaten with and lived with his disciples, instructing them how to follow God in every part of life, and now his commission seems to imply his disciples should go and do the same thing he has done.
This can raise the question of what it means to make disciples. Does it mean we gather a group of followers to live with and instruct them as though we have all the answers to everything in life? This no doubt puts a lot of pressure on us and could get awkward when our friends move into the living room to “be discipled!” If so, we may need a better understanding what it means to make disciples—or maybe a bigger living room.
A disciple is someone who has devoted themselves to learning a trade. This certainly helps explain what the disciples were doing with Jesus. They were learning in order to teach others. The word disciple (mathetes) is seldom used outside the Gospels and Acts. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament has an outstanding article on this word that better fills out what a disciple is and does. I will borrow from it here. It connects the word “disciple” to the word for "learn" or "teach." This in turn connects discipleship to a theme occurring throughout the Scriptures. We see it in verses like:
- Deuteronomy 4:10: “... how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.'”
- Deuteronomy 5:1: "And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, 'Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them.'"
- Psalm 119:12: "Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!"
In the Old Testament there is a constant repetition of the importance of learning the Scriptures to know and serve God. This is what every believer is to do. The article summarizes saying “disciple” is used:
"...exclusively of one who gives himself (as a learner) to Scripture. The intention in the Old Testament is that the pious Jew would occupy themselves in the Torah and its exposition and application so that they can and will do what is right in a given situation."
This is helpful because it shows that the goal of our discipleship is not to have others follow us and what we do, but for them to know the Word so they can rightly apply it in their lives and situations.
To further make this point the article shows that in the Old Testament there are few examples of people doing what Jesus did with his disciples. Joshua is with Moses constantly, but you don’t see this relationship with other figures—not with David, Isaiah, or any other kings or prophets.
The article also points out all the great figures in the Old Testament never try to “interpose themselves as a factor of independent worth in the dialogue between God and his people.” They never speak on their own account, they never fight for their own persons. God has given them knowledge of his will and put his word on their lips. They are stewards who pass on what they have received as that which has been received, not as though it comes from themselves. Their commitment is to God and not to themselves or to other men, no matter how profound a vision they may have had.
The messengers always point to the Lord and never stand in independent worth. They direct people to follow the words of God and not to themselves or their own ideas.
The messengers always point to the Lord and never stand in independent worth. They direct people to follow the words of God and not to themselves or their own ideas. This helps us understand discipleship so we better recognize the unique time Jesus' disciples were in. The disciples were those who attached themselves to Jesus as their Master. They were in a unique time of redemptive history and had a unique relationship to Jesus. They model how we relate to Jesus and are not the model of how we disciple others.
Our call as disciples is to cling to Jesus. He is our Master, Teacher, Lord. We are looking to him. Seeking to learn from him and have our minds renewed by him. Our wills bent toward his will. Our hearts in love with what he loves. Our call to make disciples is to point others to Jesus and to his words. Making disciples means helping others know him, love him, and follow him. This seems to be what Paul had in mind in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
It’s as though Paul wanted to be a window. Windows are not great because of what they look like but what they allow you to see. Windows are there for people to see through to something else.
It’s as though Paul wanted to be a window. Windows are not great because of what they look like but what they allow you to see. Windows are there for people to see through to something else. Paul is saying his example was only as good as it allows others to see Jesus. This is what our life is to be like too. We want to be windows that allow others to see Jesus. We want them to see the guidance, forgiveness, and hope that are in Christ. This is what discipleship points people to, and it removes the pressure from us. We don’t have to have the answers to everything in life. We are simply trying to point other to the one who does.
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July 21 2015 at 9:16 am 0 Comments
God has blessed the last two days of Joy Camp tremendously. On Thursday evening we had our traditional site cookouts at Laytonia and Johnson’s Park. We cooked hundreds of hot dogs and were able to interact with the campers and many of their families. At the Laytonia cookout the campers were even able to come up and share the “Gospel Chant” they had been learning all week.
Friday was our last day with the campers. At South Lake they had a brief ceremony to celebrate the end of the week since they didn’t have a cookout. Parents were invited, and we called each camper by name to receive their Bible and camp t-shirt.
Friday was also our last day together as a team. We took time in the evening to recount God’s faithfulness by singing, listening to a short teaching, and hearing about how God worked at the different sites.
- Because renovations going on at Washington Square and Emory Grove, we weren’t sure how many kids would show up to camp. The leaders visited surrounding neighborhoods on Saturday and handed out flyers to tell people about camp. By the end of the week we were up to 54 kids.
- During one-on-one time one of the youth was explaining to a camper that in all the Bible stories throughout the week, each person had faith and God loved them. The camper responded, “Wait, God loves us? What if you don’t love God back?” So our volunteer was able to explain the gospel to him.
- We averaged between 40 and 50 campers.
- Many campers at Laytonia have professed faith throughout the years, so it is encouraging to go back and remind them of truth.
- Many of the campers have reached their middle school and high school years and have been coming since the beginning of Joy Camp. The experience is geared for younger kids, but by the second and third day the older kids were able to jump in and participate.
- Laytonia has a very diverse group of kids, but it's a tight-knit community with a strong sense of love.
- Because this site is an elementary school, our youth went into different classrooms and helped with summer school classes.
- We heard one first-time camper ask his friend, “Hey, do you believe in God?”
- Even some of the high school students expressed an interest in coming back next year to Joy Camp, not as campers but as volunteers.
- Many kids expressed that this was their favorite week of the whole year.
- During the upcoming school year we are going to partner with the school’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program by providing child care and mini Joy Camps. God is working in unique ways here at South Lake, so please continue to pray for us.
Overall, all of the leaders were encouraged by the youth who have grown up in the church their whole life and are very familiar with the gospel. But seeing them fully invested and being able to apply that knowledge to local missions was incredible. Our group demonstrated love toward each other as well as the campers and grew in unity. Many of the rising freshmen also stepped out of their comfort zones and were bold and courageous in sharing the gospel this week.
Now that Joy Camp is done, pray for each of the families and campers. Pray that they would be reminded of the gospel daily as they look at their Bibles and camp t-shirts. Pray that they would be able to share what they learned at camp with others in their community. Pray for the different churches in our area and around the world. Pray that they would send more laborers for the harvest and that the gospel message would go forth. The same Holy Spirit who helped us this week understand that faith in God’s promises leads to courageous obedience, is the same Spirit working throughout the entire world.
We are looking to do follow-up ministry throughout the year. Here are some ways to get involved:
-Monday nights (starting September 28), 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
-Fun, games, Bible study, friendship and help with homework
-To sign up, email Travis Earles
-Saturday, August 15, 10 a.m. - noon, at the Laytonia Community Center
-Fun, games and Bible study
-To volunteer, email Carlos.
-Saturday, July 25 and August 15, 10:30 a.m. - noon, at the Emory Grove Playground
-Fun, games and Bible study
-To volunteer, email Neal Stuckenschneider.
Lastly, we want to thank you for praying for us. This week could not have happened without you interceding for us. We are grateful for you!
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July 16 2015 at 1:47 pm 0 Comments
Today we focused on the life of Moses. The lessons started with a brief overview of Moses’ life: how he was saved at birth, ran as fast as he could away from Egypt, seemingly was content with his new life as a shepherd, and then came across the burning bush where God speaks to him. Campers read different verses from Exodus and continued to learn about Moses through different skits.
The story of Moses also references the Joy Camp theme: Faith in God’s promises leads to the courageous obedience of God’s commands. God commanded Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go. God promised Moses that he was going to deliver his people, and all he needed to do was go. Moses obeyed with courage even though his life might be at risk.
Planning is going well, and each site is doing a fabulous job reaching out to the kids and sharing the gospel. Despite our weary bodies God is giving us energy to persevere.
Tonight we had the privilege of attending the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. We gathered together with faithful prayer warriors from our church and took time to worship and pray. We prayed for our camp, for the specific communities, and for the glory of God to spread throughout the Gaithersburg area. It was refreshing to be together and be reminded of God’s faithfulness to hear and answer our prayers.
Tomorrow are our traditional site cookouts. We would love for you to come, participate, and see how God is working!. There will be many parents and families from each community to talk to, and opportunities to share the gospel.. The cookout locations are Laytonia (diagonally across the street from the church) and Johnson’s Park (behind the Flower Hill Starbucks).
If you are interested in coming, please feel free to email Corinne at the church office for directions.
As we enter our last few days of camp, here are some ways you can be praying for us:
- Physical and mental strength for leaders and youth
- Sufficient sleep, energy and joy to persevere through our last few days of camp
- Healing for minor scrapes and bruises that happened today
- That our youth would have clarity during the one-on-one times in the afternoon and be able to communicate the gospel effectively to campers.
- That God would send more laborers to the harvest in Gaithersburg and that the follow-up ministry of making disciples in our community would grow exponentially and thrive for the glory of God
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July 15 2015 at 10:12 am 0 Comments
It’s day two of Joy Camp, and God has continued to bless us. Today we focused on the idea that true faith is enduring faith by learning about Abraham. In the story God first calls Abraham and then gives him the promise of being the “Father of Multitudes." This promise to Abraham is repeated several times throughout the chapters in Genesis. Abraham believed and obeyed God, even as his faith was put to the test when God asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
Here are a few updates and prayer requests from each site:
- Praise report: There were double the amount of campers today and many teenagers!
- Pray for a young girl camper who comes from a home of mixed faiths.
- It was encouraging to see that many campers are bringing Bibles back to Joy Camp that they received previous years.
- It is encouraging to see younger campers bringing their older siblings and vice versa.
- There are many campers who are asking what it means to live an eternal life. A lot of the campers are believers.
- Pray that our volunteers will continue to have deep, biblical conversations the rest of the week.
South Lake Elementary School
- Praise report: There were a lot of new campers today. So it's evident that people are spreading the word.
- During one-on-one time, one of the youth spoke with a girl who has already given her heart to God and goes to church. Her mom works long hours to support the family. Pray that God would provide and that their family would be able to go to church more often.
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July 14 2015 at 10:22 am 0 Comments
It's Youth Local Missions week, and about 70 youth and adult volunteers from Covenant Life are out getting to know our neighbors! We are serving kids and their families at three sites, playing a variety of games, hearing short talks, singing, and acting out skits related to what is taught.
The Joy Camp theme this year is “Faith Leads to Courage.” Throughout the week we are learning that faith in God’s promises helps us to have courage to obey God’s Word. We will also be talking about how we can be courageous if we put our faith in Christ. We will specifically be learning about five examples from the Bible (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and Daniel) who courageously obeyed because they had faith in God’s promises.
God has already blessed us even on the first day of camp. Here are some specific ways God has been at work:
- A new site this year, pulling from the Washington Square, Emory Grove and surrounding neighborhoods
- We had about 20 campers today.
- We were blessed by many expressions of love from the kids.
- The campers were involved and excited to learn from the Bible.
- We had over 30 kids that came back today. This is amazing! Numbers are usually lowest on the first day of camp.
- There are a lot of new families in the neighborhood who are also new to Joy Camp.
- Campers jumped in and got involved right away.
- It started raining a little bit during the Noah’s Ark skit (right on queue!), and sure enough, it stopped at just the right part of the story, too!
- Sometimes it’s hard for campers to retain Bible knowledge from previous years, but as the lesson goes on, it all comes back.
South Lake Elementary School
- Campers were ready and waiting when we arrived.
- The volunteers were joyful and entered in with the kids despite the heat and not having air conditioning.
- There were about 30 campers today, ages 4 to 21.
Although God is already doing a lot, we would still love your prayers!
- Please pray for continued physical strength for the youth and leaders of Joy Camp. It is a very long, and busy week, and we all get extremely tired.
- Pray for courage and boldness in sharing the gospel to others, for our youth specifically.
- Pray for opportunities to share the gospel and that hearts would be softened.
Thank you! We look forward to sharing more about how God is working in our community.
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June 28 2015 at 3:13 pm 2 Comments
Each Sunday during our worship services the Holy Spirit moves on the hearts of different members to share words of encouragement with the congregation through the Ministry Mic at the front of the auditorium. To help clarify the biblical foundations for this practice and elaborate on how the Ministry Mic operates, the elders have written a paper called "Understanding the Ministry Mic."
The paper looks at:
- The Purpose of Sunday Mornings
- What We Believe About Spiritual Gifts
- What We Believe About Prophecy
- What Should the Use of Spiritual Gifts Look Like at Covenant Life Church?
- Answers to Common Questions
- Resources for Further Study
We hope this resource serves you and builds your faith for God's work in and through our Sunday gatherings.
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