I began attending Grace as a back-pew visitor in 1995, and joined Grace as a member a year or so later. Karen and I were married here in the Chapel in 2000 and Grace has been our home for ~26 years. I have been a member of the Covenant Sunday School Class and have participated in Lent in the Living Room, Bible Studies and numerous other courses and small groups initiated by Grace. And I have enjoyed the opportunities that I have had to serve.
A little over a year ago I was approached to join a Disciple Group --- to participate in an eight session discussion about a book, “Essential Guide to Becoming a Disciple”, written by Greg Ogden. I was encouraged by the invitation to meet with a group of 3-5 men, most of whom were from my Sunday school class. Willing to make an 8 week commitment, I agreed to join.
At the end of 8 weeks I realized that I was just beginning to understand who a fully formed disciple was. My group discerned and agreed that we wanted to continue our meetings by taking on Ogden’s original 25-session Discipleship Essentials book, which we are close to finishing. My individual study and our weekly discussions provoked me to dive deeper, which began challenging the depth of my faith. After working through the first few chapters in our second book, I realized I was someone who had grown into a comfortable faith --- with an absolute fear of what total surrender to Jesus Christ meant to me. As we met more and more, I began to see the faith barriers that I had allowed to build around me. Barriers that I needed to begin breaking down. Barriers that would hinder me from moving forward as a fully formed disciple.
My awakened awareness didn’t just come from the book, it was meeting weekly with a small group of men, each with a willingness and commitment to prepare, discuss and share personal thoughts and meaning about the chapter we were studying. We did not follow a strict agenda, but we did stick to a one hour commitment. We found that each section differed in significance, and we allowed more time (several weeks) to cover as needed. A few times we met and didn’t discuss the book because we had other matters on our minds and/or hearts that deserved separate discussion, discernment, accountability and/or prayer.
Grace is intentional about inviting people to become part of a disciple group. As Christians we are called to be disciples-followers of Jesus. What I gained from my experience is an awakened desire to become a more fully formed disciple. The books helped me connect some faith dots, and begin addressing the gaps I allowed to form with regard to my faith.
For example, recently as we studied a section explaining spiritual gifts, I realized how vitally important it is for me to unlock and exercise the unique gifts that God created specifically in me, as one part, one of many parts, of the body which is the church. I actually reflected back through the study of this book and it made me take note of how the author organized the subject matter for each section, as if on a journey.
It has been an honor and blessing to be associated and involved with this group of men. As we finish our second book, we will be discerning our next steps-we may still meet together, or we may decide to start new groups. This is the hope of joining a disciple group, that as we become fully formed disciples in an existing group, we are able to joyfully seek to form new groups, and continue to make disciples who make disciples.
I want to encourage you to find and join a disciple group. Reach out to people in the church --- even consider friends who are outside of the church, your golf buddy, fishing buddie, hunting buddy, whatever buddy, or maybe someone in your neighborhood, workplace, etc. I think Ogden’s 8 week book was a very good place to start. Please contact Chris French to get started.