Who Are You Discipling?
This question rocked our world a few years ago! It was a difficult one to answer and frankly made us squirm a little bit. First, here's a little clarity on the meaning of the word "discipling." In essence, it means to spend time with an individual or group so that the relationship results in helping those people grow closer to God and stronger in their faith. It doesn't necessarily include a formal Bible study, although it may, but is more about "life-on-life" experiences creating opportunities for us to encourage people towards godly living. Okay, got it. We're supposed to spend time with people and help them grow closer to the Lord and live more godly lives. So, who were we discipling?
The list was a short one. In fact, other than our boys, we didn't think that anyone was really on the list, if we were being honest with ourselves. But for a Christian, the instruction from Jesus to "make disciples" (Matthew 28) should permeate everything we do, right?!? But did it? Not really. Yes, it's true that we were in full-time ministry at that point, supporting church-planting efforts all over the world by providing construction project support. So we were in the game. But...who were we actually discipling?
This led us to evaluate how we were spending our time. Did we even have any margin in our lives to spend any time with anyone? Not really. Between the rigors of our ministry, running our household with two young boys and various other church ministries, our schedules were packed! So we began to evaluate how we could re-prioritize how we were spending our time. And we began to pray. We prayed for forgiveness for being negligent in discipling people as well as asking God to provide us opportunities to disciple people in a real life-on-life way.
Be Careful What You Pray For!
It was shortly after this that I met our local fire chief. I asked him if he had any ideas for how folks from our local church could help his department. His answer totally blind-sided me and stopped me in my tracks! Without any hesitation, he said: "We need help counseling. We need help counseling firefighters who do or see horrific things that people shouldn't have to do or see. We also need help counseling people in the community during and after an emergency event. This includes the victims and the extended family and friends that have been traumatized by events such as a house fire or a car accident, especially if there is a death." Wait...What?!? You mean I would get opportunities to spend time with people talking about difficult real-life situations and try to help them find hope in a hurting world?
I knew instantly that this was an answer to our prayers. God was providing a door to build relationships with people who were in need of Him. So be careful what you pray for! I also knew from my experience in the U.S. Army that the chaplains that were skilled and decorated soldiers were the ones that were sought out by the soldiers, not the chaplains that just slapped the uniform on but didn't really understand what it meant to be a real soldier. So I knew that to provide the best biblical counseling possible to firefighters, I would need to learn their language and culture and become a firefighter myself. So that is what I did.
God has tremendously blessed our family's decision to pursue being His witnesses in ways that we couldn't imagine. We now have several people that we regularly share life with and seek God together. Most of them have little to no church background and do not understand the church culture or words. And yes, there is definitely a church culture that can be difficult to break into and understand. But they have come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. So now what?
A missionary serving overseas must spend time studying the language and culture they are immersed in to start a culturally-relevant church in a foreign land, one in which the people will understand what is being said and lives will be changed by the gospel. We, too, have been studying the language and culture of the people here in the Harrisburg, PA area and have found a "people group" that the gospel is not reaching. We are now called to start a church that will speak to these people in a way that makes sense so that lives are changed by the gospel.
This, in fact, is already happening as we respond to a hunger for God's Word, the Bible, that has not been satisfied for them before. Lives are being changed, commitments to follow Christ are being made, and people are growing in their faith. Most importantly, healthy, godly relationships are being forged into a faith community. A local body of Christ is being formed and growing which we now call "Faith Community Church" (www.FCCWestShore.org). All because of four little words - "Who are you discipling?"
This new journey of starting a church is actually one that we've been on for a long time! God has uniquely experienced us through the military, secular and ministry roles that we have filled to be able to relate to people in this area. So really, He's given us a lifetime of preparation to get us to this point and we're excited to follow His leading. It's no wonder that Ephesians 2:10 is one of our favorite verses: "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
Our Mission Organization Address
P.O. Box 8585
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8585
Email: fred at abwe dot org
Office Tel: 717-578-0504