Roger Matthews: City Leader, Navigators Chicago Mission
Roger, how would you define discipleship?
I think of discipleship as the process of loving, developing, and serving people by joining them in learning and living out of what God says is true:
- Our identity as God’s children – seeing godliness as blamelessness instead of working on sinning less to be righteous or trying to manage the sin in our lives
- Intimacy with Christ and interdependence with other disciples and laborers will result in a life characterized by relationships of trust, a hope grown through adversity and abundance, and a willingness to love others unconditionally
- Inherent in the gospel is a responsibility to relate to each other and the world in a way that others will see God and be drawn to Him
What is more important, what a disciple believes or their lifestyle?
Believe is a hard word to interpret in our culture. Do we really believe something if it doesn’t actually change our lifestyle? A person may know a lot about God or the Bible, but a disciple is someone who is on a life long journey in trusting more and more of what they believe in a way that they live out the truth. Trusting God, particularly in the area of our identity, always comes before submitting to and obeying God. What we actually trust is shown through our life choices and the fruit of our choices.
What are the unique challenges of discipling in an urban context?
When those outside of an urban context talk about discipleship, they are primarily talking about helping someone learn to develop their relationship to God and growing a biblical character. Some include emotional maturity in discipleship.
In the urban environment, we think holistically about discipling the men and women. We would include areas like education and learning, social and relational maturity, employment, money, and home life (marriage and family) as potential areas that will keep people from being and making disciples for the rest of their lives. If we don’t address or include these life skills in our discipleship, our disciples will continue to struggle with their relationship with God.
This is primarily an individual, or life on life, process. It is not likely to happen in a discipleship program. Depending on a person’s life experience and the environment they grew up in, they will uniquely need growth in some of these areas. This happens most effectively in the context of a community of disciples and laborers.
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Discipleship and character…
Character development starts with humility, integrity, and vulnerability in an environment of grace, truth, safety, hope, trust, and love. Discipleship that doesn’t start in the heart may result in behavior change, but may also create hiddenness or temporary performance that will not grow our relationship with Christ.
Discipleship and worship...
God has given us a new heart and made us his children – the more I understand this, the more grateful I am. Offering ourselves to God for His purposes moment by moment and day by day without regard to the cost is worship which God describes as true and proper. In the American religious culture, a corporate celebration with music has become known as worship. This may be part of how a disciple worships, but a disciple’s whole life is an act of worship as they continue to mature in faith.
Discipleship and fellowship...
Discipleship is most effective when it happens in the context of biblical community and mission. Experiencing the one another commands and growing relationships of mutual trust and love allow disciples to be transformed. Sometimes fellowship means less than it should and can miss the opportunity to relate and engage deeply.
Discipleship and leadership...
Kingdom leadership is different than organizational leadership. We never graduate from being disciples – it is a lifelong journey. Every disciple is commanded to disciple others as they go through life, meaning they are leading others. Every disciple is designed by God to contribute and lead in the area of his/her gifts and talents.
Discipleship and stewardship...
As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we grow in recognizing that all that we are and have is a result of God’s grace. Since the Bible is clear that God owns everything, we live our increasingly as stewards rather than owners as we grow in trusting God. As we grow, we recognize that stewardship applies to our time and our talents as well. Stewardship implies God’s ownership of us. His ownership will result in an ultimate accounting of what we have done with our time, our talents and gifts, and our possessions at the end of time. There is no right of privacy in God’s Kingdom.
Discipleship and citizenship (responsibility to witness & missions)...
Inherent in the gospel is the responsibility to bear the message of Jesus to the world around us. Included in the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is the idea that every recipient of the good news repeats the process with friends who do not yet believe as they go through life. This means we intentionally live in loving relationships with people who believe and behave differently than we do.
What scripture best communicates your perspective of discipleship?
Verses that God has spoken to me recently on discipleship include:
- Hebrews 11:6 and John 16:8-9 - trust is the basis of our discipleship
- Ephesians 2:8-10 – God saves us and has a role for us in His Kingdom, all by grace
- John 1:12-13;16-18 – we are God’s children; we live in environment of grace and truth
- Matthew 22:36-38 – the response God expects when someone trusts His love
- Matthew 5:20 – godliness, righteousness is blamelessness, not sinlessness
- Romans 12:1-3 – worship is a whole life activity
- John 13:34-35 – when we love each other, people will recognize Jesus
- Galatians 5:1-6 – God has given us freedom so we can express our faith in how we love and serve our neighbors
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – God’s Word will equip us for the contribution God is calling us to make with our lives and gifts
- Ephesians 4:11-16 – the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher were given to equip every believer to grow into Christlikeness and contribute their part to His work of reaching and discipling the nations, when we each do our part in love – God will hold us together to grow us inwardly and outwardly
- Isaiah 43:4-7 – God loves us, we can give ourselves away to others for His gloryIsaiah 61:1-6 – God will use us to raise up oaks of righteousness who will reproduce and rebuild, restore, and bring the gospel to the world – resulting in glory for God