It may surprise you to know that the word “Christian” did not even exist when the Early Church was born. The first believers were known as “disciples” not as “Christians”. They were later called Christians when a movement of Gentile believers began in the city of Antioch. People in that society saw how disciples of Jesus lived and slapped a label on them — “Christian” — which literally means “little Christ”. The label stuck. The problem is that nowadays, the term “Christian” does not solicit much positive reaction. People watch how so-called Christians live and wonder if their lives are really any different from the rest, or if being a Christian is just another personal religious preference. In the face of all the negativity surrounding Christianity and the Church, the concept and reality of discipleship has become increasingly significant.
Christians are fundamentally disciples of Jesus. The word “disciple” in the language of the New Testament is “mathetes”, which means “learner”. In those days, a disciple was someone who had bound themselves to learn and follow the teaching and way of life of a spiritual teacher or master. A disciple was an apprentice, a student, a pupil that learned to see the world the way their master teacher saw the world. Their view of reality, their beliefs and convictions, their way of thinking and daily practices were all shaped primarily by the master’s teaching and personal influence. Jesus called people to be his disciples, to learn his way of life, his values, convictions and view of reality. But he did more. He conferred to his disciples his authority and ability to accomplish his mission. He commissioned them to be a community of believers (the Church) to carry out God’s larger redemptive purpose in the world, and in doing so to discover their own unique destiny and contribution to his cause. In the life, teaching, ministry and mission of Jesus Christ, God has intersected every human story with His promise of life, redemption, and restoration. And He invites every human being into His larger story of restoring all of creation.
This is the context for the invitation into Christian discipleship. Practically speaking, discipleship is a life-long journey of being apprenticed to Christ in order to learn the ways of God and in order to do the works of God in the world. Christian discipleship is wholistic, which means it impacts every arena of our life (body, soul, spirit, heart, mind, will, work, and relationships). For discipleship to be authentic, it must touch our head (knowledge of the truth of Scripture), our heart (the experience of grace through the presence of God), and our hands (the application of grace and truth in our daily life). This is generally how the life of a true disciple of Jesus should flow. From head to heart to hands and back again in a never-ending and transformational process of growth and development, the Christian disciple becomes more and more like Christ.
It is with this in mind that New Life is introducing a formal program called “FLOW”, which seeks to intentionally engage people in the life-changing process of Christian discipleship. While there are limits to any program, FLOW aims to engage the head, heart, and hands of students through an integrated learning model. The program will introduce students to much-needed Biblical teaching that will appeal primarily to the mind and seek to transform the way students think. The program will also involve students in the practical application of spiritual practices (i.e. prayer, worship, witness, study, stewardship, silence, community) through participation in smaller learning communities. Each learning community will be facilitated by a coach and will focus on the implementation and practical development of a particular discipleship skill.
The program is designed around four-week modules. A person can start with any module based on their best understanding to date of where they are in their spiritual development. Each module will offer Biblical teaching around a particular spiritual-growth focus. In addition, each module will offer a menu of learning communities that will help the participant implement discipleship skills and habits that are necessary for deeper growth in one’s relationship with God. The uniqueness of the FLOW process is that there is a strong relational component to it. Every learning community will allow for participants to interact with a spiritual-growth coach over a four-week period. The coach-participant relationship is intended to bring just-in-time instruction, and ongoing encouragement and empowerment to assist the participant in their journey with God.
Through FLOW, we believe that God will allow us to return to the simple and authentic practice of following Jesus Christ in a world of complexity and confusion. We believe that through this process, the Holy Spirit will empower people to live the lives God intended for them, and fulfill the commission given to all Christ followers, to “make disciples of all nations”. This is your invitation to jump in the FLOW!