Being, making and growing disciples
Latin Link members are passionate about working alongside local churches in order to be, to make, and to grow disciples. Here’s an overview from San Andrés church in Salta, Argentina, where the ministry team includes Latin Link’s Hans and Priscilla Breekveldt, Daniel and Flavia Lescano, and Paula and Matías Rigau. Hans explains:
Making and being disciples. That’s what San Andrés Anglican church in Salta is all about. As leaders, we’re working hard to be an example and to instil a culture of learning and growing as followers of Christ. That’s what the word ‘disciple’ really means. People who learn and follow the life of Jesus, in word and deed – trying to become living representations of who he is.
In San Andrés we focus on three aspects of discipleship: Head, Heart and Hands.
All three feature prominently in church life and we’re intentional about exploring them:
Head | Studying the Bible is essential for those who love Jesus and desire to follow him. It forms and shapes how we think and live. Through his word, we come to know God’s nature and attributes; his plan in history, his sovereignty, his providence, his love, and more. Once every two weeks, around 11 groups (for men, women, young people, and mixed groups) meet together in the church building for systematic Bible study. Some work through a course on the gospel of Matthew, others take an in-depth look at a part of the Old Testament.
Heart | Being a disciple is more than just information; it is also about character. Walking together: that’s how character is shaped, values are transmitted, and attitudes are transformed. Once every fortnight, six growth groups meet in different homes. These provide vital opportunities for sharing and pastoral care, cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, and making holiness practical, as we encourage one another.
Hands | Jesus served and so should we. He taught his disciples to wash each other’s feet. Similarly, our faith needs to be active. Everyone has something to give. All members are encouraged to serve – from hospital visitation and school volunteering, to mission trips, or helping smaller congregations. This winter, we’ve been preparing and distributing 45 meals twice a week to homeless folk, in a programme recognised by the municipality and run in conjunction with two police stations.
The pastoral team also invest much time and effort in individual relationships. Our aim is for all who lead to replicate the discipleship model and take several ‘learners’ under their wings. We pray that, in time, a culture of walking together and accountability will become instilled.
We don’t want to be heavyhanded though. We can only invite folk to come and be nourished with a view to maturing spiritually. An intrinsic desire to grow should motivate the entire process. And developing a trusting relationship that allows for vulnerability is not always easy or straightforward.
In some cases, by God’s grace, this can move from informal discipleship, though mentoring and apprenticeship, into formal ministry training. Over the last four years, San Andrés has sent six young adults to be trained for the ministry.
Practice what you preach
Discipleship is for life and no one is exempt! All three vicars of San Andrés (including me!) meet weekly in a discipleship group, with our bishop and other colleagues. Distances in the diocese are huge, so physical encounters are few and far between. But when necessary the Internet enables our connection. It’s a 21st Century way of growing together, which goes all the way back to Jesus’ model of how to be and to make disciples.
El Jireh (The Provider) is a church at the heart of a community, on the outskirts of Trinidad, Bolivia. Based upstairs in a mission hospital, they’re intentionally seeking to make disciples and have a number of different outreach projects. Strider, Simon Howling, is there for two years:
I’m mainly involved in youth discipleship – coming alongside young people and supporting them in their personal walk with God and through the complexity of their lives.
In addition to a church youth group, providing teaching and pastoral care, we’re running a football outreach project. Across three programmes, a team of volunteers and I are engaging and building relationships with around 50 young people aged 8-15, many of whom aren’t from church backgrounds. We talk, get to know them, and evangelise through friendship, all in the context of football.
It’s integrated, as we push them to be better footballers, to work harder, train harder, and be more focused and disciplined in different areas of their life, especially their spiritual life. As a result of the project, some have come to the church and heard the good news of the gospel for the first time. We’d love that to happen more!
Overall, we aim to ‘create a refuge that impacts and empowers through Christ’s love, mercy and grace to bring about holistic restoration, so that they understand their purpose in Christ to impact and empower others’. That’s our discipleship goal!