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Called to be disciples of Christ

Kay Ronalds. Photo by Holly Jewell

I once signed up for an elective called "Radical Discipleship" at a youth camp.

It wasn't quite what I expected.

I had been a committed Christian for about five years and I was ready to stretch into following Jesus in a more radical way.

I thought that radicals were the ones who would turn up at street marches, call the rest of the community to account, and change the world for the better.

I hoped that this elective would help me to direct my youthful idealism and desire to live an authentic Christian life.

The presenter began by reminding us that the word "discipleship" means "learner" — nothing too radical so far.

Radical means "roots", so the elective on radical discipleship turned out to be a reminder of what was basic to Christianity and those practices that send a taproot deep into a life of faith.

Over the years that has changed my world, especially when it has seemed rather counter-cultural.

I grew up singing songs about choosing to follow Jesus.

"Follow me" was the invitation that Jesus offered the people who became his disciples.

Discipleship is about following … but it is more than blind devotion.

A disciple is a learner — one who listens, studies, thinks, questions and takes on the philosophy and lifestyle for themselves.

John Mallison, in his book, Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, explains the formation of disciples as a mentoring process: "the support of followers of Christ in their personal and spiritual growth and equipping for ministry".

A mentor will establish a grace relationship in which questions are welcomed, fostering understanding and seeking wisdom to recognise the breadth of Christian traditions and to wrestle with what faith looks like in the current era.

What is sacred, and what is a part of the cultural basket that we have inherited?

John Mallison also informs us that in the gospel of Matthew the word "disciple" appears 73 times, and refers to people who follow Christ and are committed to him and his teaching.

To be committed to the teaching of someone, you must know what that teaching is.

That is why it is important to read the scriptures and to learn from scholars and commentaries.

Luke reminds us to be witnesses, and that the Holy Spirit will help us to do that in both words and in actions.

For some people, Christian discipleship means withdrawing from society to pray and work for God, whereas for others the call is about daily engagement with humanity and the rhythms of the world.

In May of this year we will gather for our Synod meeting, exploring the theme Disciples on the way.

UnitingCare Queensland sponsors the Moderator's Community Service medals, so please look around your community and identify people who have offered outstanding community service as an expression of their discipleship.

Rev Kaye Ronalds is the Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod.

Photo : Kay Ronalds. Photo by Holly Jewell