“Living Our Vision: Teach & Lead”

Scripture: Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 28:16-20

INTRODUCTION

Last week we began a 4-part sermon series on “Living Our Vision” at Bay View United Methodist Church.  The series comes out of the visioning process that we began back in September, and the response of the congregation to the question, “What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?”  The answer that we came up with together gives four qualities or characteristics of a disciple.  So, what does it mean to be a disciple?

1. Learn and Grow
2. Teach and Lead
3. Serve Others
4. Engage in the life of the church

We began the series by looking at what it means for disciples to be people who learn and grow.  Learning and growing is actually the fundamental meaning of discipleship – the Greek word that is translated in English as “disciple” literally means “one who learns.”  In Hellenistic Judaism, disciples were young pupils who spent their days in the presence of their rabbi – gleaning their knowledge of Torah interpretation and what it means to live that interpretation out in everyday life.

TRANSFORMING DISCIPLESHIP

Discipleship begins by making a choice to follow Christ, to learn from his teachings, and to grow in relationship to God through the faith that Christ modeled to his followers.  I mentioned last week that, while typical disciples of a typical rabbi would become have the hope of becoming a rabbinic teacher in their own right, the disciples of Jesus Christ had a different goal.  They were following Jesus with the hope that, rather than receive specific answers about the Torah, they were learning about a way of life and a path toward deeper relationship with God through the example of Christ.

But it isn’t enough for a disciple of Jesus Christ to seek personal transformation and consider the mission of discipleship to be accomplished.  Following Christ is not about learning a specific series of doctrines.  There are no exams to be passed.  Discipleship is about a way of life.[1]  It is about a path that Christ has shown us, and called out to each of us, “Come, follow me.”

And following Christ demands action.  This is made clear in Jesus’ words to the disciples at the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all of the things I have commanded you.”  Essentially, Jesus tells his disciples, “You are ready.  You may not have all of the answers, but you can do this.  Go into the world and share what you have learned from me.  Go forth and live out the things that I have taught you.”

TEACH & LEAD

The second pair of characteristics of disciples that our congregation has identified are teach and lead.  Each of us, as disciples of Christ, is called to teach and lead others.

How many of you get a little bit uncomfortable when you hear the words “teach” and “lead”?  [SHOW OF HANDS]  What is it about the words “teach” and “lead” that makes some of us feel uncomfortable?  [RESPONSES]

· Overwhelming task
· Preparation
· Speaking in front of groups
· Feeling like you have to have the right answers
· Organizing a formal classes
· Chairing committees

When we came up with this characteristic of discipleship, we also came up with some specific actions that we associate with teaching and leading.  These are things like modeling, mentoring, using our gifts, and sharing experiences.

Some of you may feel called to lead Sunday School classes and to serve as a committee chairperson, and that is great!  But others aren’t comfortable in those particular roles, and that’s good, as well.  You can rest assured that Jesus never said, “Go forth and teach a theologically rigorous Sunday School class.”  Nor does he ever say, “Go forth and become an ordained pastor.”  In fact, when Jesus gives the Great Commission, he says nothing about public speaking.

Instead, when Jesus gave the disciples the pep talk that has come to be known as the Great Commission, this is what he said:  make disciples of all nations…and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to disciple others – that means being teachers, models, and mentors.  Teach them what it means to follow the example of Christ.  Make teaching and modeling a part of your everyday life.  Offer to others the insights that you have learned through your own experiences of Christ.

It is impossible to become an effective disciple in isolation.  Discipleship is, by its very nature, a journey that happens in community with other believers.  It is through interacting with other believers that we are able to have conversations that lead to a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teachings.  Through struggling together, we come to respect the views of others – even when we don’t agree.  Even as we come seeking to learn and grow, we are also called to be an active member of the community of believers, offering to others the knowledge and insights that we have gained.

IMAGINING TEACHERS

When I think of people who have been the biggest teachers in my life, I don’t necessarily think of people who were “teachers” in a traditional sense.  Many of the people who have taught me the most have been my peers – people who I have struggled with and who I have relied on through difficult times, but who ultimately shared their own experiences and life lessons with me.

Actually, the person who comes to my mind most readily was a teacher – one of my seminary professors.  But it wasn’t the fact that he was a professor that I think of him when I think of important teachers in my life.  He comes to my mind because he was a mentor to me and because he modeled the kind of disciple that I hope to be.  He had a relationship with Christ and an understanding of the church that inspired me to want to learn more and to become a better follower of Christ myself.

I imagine that all of you have those same people in your own lives, people who have modeled discipleship and taught you what it means to be a follower of Christ.

You may have noticed that there was a slip of paper in your bulletin this morning with a few questions on it.  The first question is about the teachers in your life.  The other questions are about your own role as a teacher and a mentor.  I want you to take that slip of paper and turn to one or two people near you in your pews, and share with them your answers to these three questions.

[TIME FOR SHARING]

WRAPPING UP

Is there anybody who would like to share their answer to any of those questions?

[OPPORTUNITY FOR RESPONSES]

My hope for each of us is that we will seek out opportunities to share what Christ means to us, and what we know about being a disciple of Christ.  As you yourselves continue to be transformed by Christ, I pray that you will seek out others who you can help God to transform


[1] Neil Chappel, “Is This a Spare Sunday?” at A Weird Thing. Posted Sunday, June 19, 2013.  Accessed at http://aweirdthing.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/is-this-a-spare-sunday/

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