Missional discipleship…

The next post in this stream of consciousness about missional youth work is going to think mostly about discipleship, or how we get deeper into God. As I’m touring the area that I work in, I’ve been blown away at the quality of youth work that is going on. Whether the groups be large, medium, or small, all are serious about helping their young people experience something of who God is.

A way in which I’ve been thinking about discipleship in recent days is vertical/horizontal. Now, for some reason this makes sense to me, but may not to you…but bear with me!

Vertical discipleship is very much about moving us along in our relationship with God. Through this, we expose our young people to deeper and deeper thinking (and hopefully understanding) of God. They learn how to access their bibles, how to understand how God has interacted with his creation and how crucial it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus. A lot of our kids have ‘inherited faith’, in that the only reason they come to church is because their parents make them. Only much later do they get the opportunity to really explore where exactly they stand on these issues. Basically, vertical discipleship is ‘holiness’, about that crucial journey towards Christ-likeness.

But discipleship doesn’t seem to just stop there. This is where the horizontal comes in…

Not only are we in relationship with God, but we’re also in relationship with each other as a community of faith, and also as members of the human race. Horizontal discipleship equips us to live lives of faith within this context. It takes the theology and biblical studies and makes it real to the every day situations we encounter. We see how scripture was created in and for community, how our faith is defined not only by what we learn but how we live it out. We learn how important it is not to keep this good news to ourselves, but to want to show the whole world the wonderful hope we’ve discovered.

So how is discipleship missional? Well, I guess it’s the way in which we are trained and prepared for our participation in the missio Dei

It takes seriously Jesus’ command to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbours in the same way…

It’s a discipleship that prepares as much for life before death as after it (hat tip to Christian Aid for this idea)…one that isn’t about creating nice little church member clones, but about helping young people fulfil their potential as radical missionaries for Christ. Like Paul, willing to live or die for Christ, whatever it may cost…

Discipleship must always be tangible, never simply theoretical…

So this is where I’ve got to so far in this. Clearly there’s so much more that we could explore about discipleship, but I wanted to think about what our intentions were in discipling our young people. What do you think?


Graeme has very helpfully (not being sarcastic!!) pointed out that my horizontal and vertical model if taken in a mathematical way could point towards creating a false dichotomy. His blog has a great post on it taking this forward. He uses a DNA strand as an image in describing how God focused and community focused discipleship shouldn’t be separated. Perhaps another image could be a rope, which is made up of heaps of different strands which come together to make the whole rope much stronger.

What’s really important to point out here is that discipleship must hold together these two strands for it to be truly holistic and missional.

Sorry that this post has now become the longest in the world…! Ever…


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