By Dr. Kevin Thomas —
Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations. Discipleship is more than believing in Jesus. A disciple is one whose life reflects more and more the thoughts, words, and actions of the Master. So, how do we make disciples at Forest Lake? We’re developing a plan for greeting the first-time guest and guiding and supporting him or her into the life of the church, baptism, membership, and ultimately leadership in ministry. Our discipleship plan follows a very simple outline: Community, Christ. Calling.
In forming our discipleship model, we wrestled with which should come first, community or Christ. Hopefully, people who are already following Christ aspire to put Him first in all things. But, we’re trying to engage people who may not yet be following Christ. For most, the first step into the Christian faith is through a loving community. John Wesley called it prevenient grace, the grace that God gives before salvation, grace that we often experience through the love of family and good friends-through community. We will not likely reach people we don’t know. Our hope is that through Wednesday night meals and community groups like Scouting, Financial Peace University, our monthly “adult hangouts,” and others we will make new friends that might discover God’s grace through Forest Lake.
As we make new friends, we’ll have the chance to offer them Christ through Sunday School, worship, and study groups like Sunday School, Bible studies, and other small groups. This Spring, we hope to introduce new short-term studies available at a variety of times throughout the week. These studies will allow people to explore the Bible and topical interest at a high-quality level without a long-term commitment. We’re also exploring bringing back Disciple Bible Study in a new format, possibly with an online component. The fellowship and study that occurs in these groups will provide excellent opportunities for people to make or renew commitments to follow Christ, what John Wesley called Justifying Grace.
“Calling” is God’s purpose for our lives. It’s how we honor God by serving others in our own unique giftedness. Calling includes two components: works of piety and works of mercy. To put it another way, we discover our calling as we love God through prayer, Bible study and the other Christian disciplines, and as we love others through service. To help people discover and fulfill their calling, Forest Lake offers growth groups, and opportunities for hands-on mission. Growth groups are designed to help people develop and strengthen their spiritual lives just as fitness centers are designed to help people develop and strengthen their physical lives. Of course, becoming like Jesus includes actively loving and serving people like He did.
No one will try to dictate your path on the road to discipleship. Ultimately, how you engage with Community, Christ, and Calling will be a matter of discernment between you and God. Forest Lake strives to offer you the opportunity to reach your full potential for Christ. It’s a joy to continue the journey with you!