Nurturing Disciples in Community
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 35)
In thinking about congregational care, there are four areas that aid in building up the body of Christ and strengthening personal bonds. Worship and Praise, Prayer, Study/Fellowship, and Work combine to nurture the individual disciple but also strengthen the bonds of Christian community. Being incorporated into the body of Christ, a believer is aware through faith of God’s sacrificial love and overwhelming mystery. Simultaneously, God is Lord of All and yet seeks a personal relationship with His children. When we look to Jesus and His call to be a disciple, we see the need for the Church and the individual believer.
Worship and Praise
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! (Psalm 150: 6 ESV)
When Christians gather for worship, the main purpose is to praise God for all He has done and to glorify His name. In corporate worship, we hear the Word and receive the Sacraments. Through faith in Jesus Christ, who has redeemed and reconciled us, we become servants of God. By His grace, we are empowered as a faithful community to “go in peace and serve the Lord” in service to our neighbors. Because worship is the center of the Church’s life, the community shares in the divine life. Our participation in the life of the Holy Trinity defines our participation with one another. Mutual love unites the members of a community as we strive to incarnate the gospel message by reflecting God’s light into dark corners. Our praise of God in worship is the foundation of witness in and to the world.
Prayer (Group, Intercessory, Individual)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4: 6 ESV)
Traditional worship involves prayers ranging from before the beginning of the Service when we prepare our hearts and minds to the Prayer of the Day through the intercessions of the Church and the great Eucharistic Prayer over the elements of bread and wine and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13). The hymns also serve as prayers. The difficult task of being in constant prayer begins after the worship. Just as there are many types of prayer in worship, there are different ways of praying.
Group prayer may be experienced either in worship through the prayers of the church or in small group settings where individuals pray for themselves and one another.
Intercessory prayer is fulfilling the admonition from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians when he urges them to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6: 2). This type of prayer involves communicating with God on behalf of someone. Because of His great mercy , we may humble ourselves to communicate with our loving Lord. We plead with Him for our needs and the needs of others.
With all confidence that God hears and answers our prayers, we may come to God in prayer individually. Those who draw near to the throne of grace may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebews 4: 16) Jesus Himself has given us a Model Prayer, so that we are never at a loss for words to speak to God the Father. With the words of The Lord’s Prayer, we approach God as our loving Father who tenderly invites us as His children to speak with Him with all boldness and confidence (The Small Catechism, III).
Study and Fellowship
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2: 42 NKJV)
Small Group Fellowship brings people together as they study God’s Word. When individuals come together to learn Holy Scriptures, it provides an opportunity for building a relationship with Jesus. Study groups encourage in-depth study in a supportive environment as well as individual study. By connecting with Jesus through the Scriptures and with other group members, Christians grow spiritually and are empowered to reach out to others. Each time we read the Bible, we meet Jesus. When we are in fellowship, reading the Word together, it creates an opportunity to encounter the living Jesus.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 16 ESV)
As worship is the center of the Church’s life, so the Church is to be the central community for the Christian. Through orthodox worship and study of the Scriptures, a Christian is equipped to grow in faith, which leads to service with and for the neighbor. Strongly linked to study and fellowship, work becomes an outgrowth of the study of the Word and helps to keep the disciple in community. Fulfilling the command of Jesus to “Go and make disciples,” we are called to become servants not only in faith communities but in mission both locally and in the world.
We imitate Christ’s life by being in service to one another for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. We are called to use our gifts for the work of the ministry to build up the Church, not so much in numbers as into the fulness of Christ Jesus who is the head of the body (Ephesians 4: 12 ESV).
The Vine and the Branches
As God the Father is the vinedresser, Jesus is the vine and His followers the branches (John 15: 1-2 ESV). When we abide in Jesus and stay connected to Him, we produce good fruit. Since Christians are connected to the True Vine, Jesus, we, the branches, are connected to one another. We nurture disciples in the body of Christ, when we mentor one another in worship, prayer, fellowship, and work (Deuteronomy 6: 7 ESV) and model Christ’s love as He commanded (John 15: 12 ESV).
September 23, 2019