Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in his book Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life, stated that, “what makes you a disciple is not turning up from time to time. Discipleship may literally mean ‘being a student’, in the strict Greek sense of the word, but it doesn’t mean turning up once a week for a course (or even a sermon). It’s not an intermittent state; it’s a relationship that continues.”
Discipleship is a relationship. It is a relationship between the follower and Jesus. It is also a relationship between the individual Christian and the Christian community, the Church. A disciple is committed to Jesus and day-by-day learning to know him better and follow him more closely. At the same time, the disciple is one who lives out their following of Jesus in community with fellow-disciples. The individual disciple spends time reading Scripture, especially the Gospels, praying to enable communion with God, making petitions for others and creation, and in silent listening waiting to hear from God. These practices help transform the disciple into being the person God calls them to be personally. In the faith community of the Church, the disciple is further nurtured and transformed by Word, Eucharist, and the work God sets before the whole Church in service to the world. Developing a rich inner spiritual discipleship and participating with fellow-disciples in worship and work, followers of Jesus flourish individually and as a faith community.
Healthy and effective discipleship requires a relationship with God, the Holy Trinity, and with the People of God, the Church. When we look closely at Jesus’ life, we see his example of personally drawing close to God the Father, and of regularly attending the synagogue and being among the gathered people of God. It is critical to know Jesus personally and for each of us to spend time alone with him. At the same time, it is critically important to gather with fellow Christians. We need both if we are to follow Jesus well.
During the Canada Census of 2021, 21.5% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians self- identified as Anglican! We are the province with the highest percentage of Anglicans in all of Canada. There are more than 110,000 Anglicans in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are some 20,000 Anglicans in the Diocese of Western Newfoundland Labrador Straits! Wow! Our Lord began with just 12 disciples. Imagine all Anglicans in our province taking our rightful place in the Anglican Church and living out fully our discipleship! Imagine how much more we could glorify God and serve the common good!
The truth is, we have a lot of Anglicans, not too few Anglicans. Discipleship calls us to be fully involved; to follow Jesus intentionally and genuinely, and to participate regularly in the worship and work of the Church, the Body of Christ. This we can all do! It is simply our deciding to take our discipleship seriously and living it out with fellow-Anglicans all around us.
Being a disciple is what it means to be an Anglican. Being a disciple is what it means to be a Christian. Jesus calls us to follow him and to take our place among fellow-disciples in the gathered family of the Church. Through baptism we are children of God and we belong to God’s family. Like every family, it is important to take our place and do our part. But, we not only give, we receive! Our lives are enriched and empowered by living close to God and in fellowship with the people of God.
With 110,000 Anglicans in our province, imagine our strength! Imagine all of us following Jesus and gathering regularly with fellow Anglicans in our communities! What an even greater love we could have for God and neighbour and creation! What an even greater service we could render to our community, province, country, world, and planet!
Discipleship is the key to a spirit-filled Christian life and to a vibrant and vital Church, locally and globally. Following Jesus, the way of love, is the source for fruitfulness among Christians and in the Church! Discipleship brings us close to Jesus and fills our hearts with his teachings and love, overflowing to those near and far! Discipleship is a continuous relationship with God in Christ, with one another, and our growing in love and compassionate-caring. We are called to be disciples and to help one another to be disciples. The outcome is spirit-filled Christians and a vivacious Church! Discipleship is at the core of of the life of the Christian and the Church. It produces in us the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit. It is continuous relationship and life-giving! Thanks be to God!