Creating A Culture of Discipleship

 I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Foursquare Netherlands National Convention in Amersfoort, Netherlands, where over two hundred leaders from the Netherlands, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, South Africa, and Portugal gathered to discuss “Creating a Culture of Discipleship.”  The emphasis was on the necessity of intentional, personalized discipleship (or “intentionally doing life together discipleship” as it’s sometimes called) to most effectively fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  Such discipleship serves to complement discipleship that happens through a local church’s various structured services and ministries.

   In assessing the conference, it was agreed that two elements had equally as much impact on the conference as the content itself.

   First, I invited Giancarlo Agnoletto, a twenty-four-year-old Brazilian law student currently living in Portugal, to share the teaching times with me.  I have been mentoring Giancarlo for about two years; he volunteers as the director of continuing education for Foursquare pastors in Portugal.  He did an amazing job at the conference.  The impact?  Together we modeled intergenerational ministry and older leaders releasing and fully embracing younger leaders to lead.  Unfortunately, this is not done often within the church circles in which Giancarlo and I move.

   Secondly, I interviewed Peter Thourson, chief Technology Officer at New Hope West.   We have known each other for twelve years; the interview emphasized the “doing life together discipleship” we share.  I introduced Peter as “my third son” (I have two biological sons) and noted that his three children call me, “Grandpa Gary.”  Though raised in church and actively involved in ministry since age thirteen, Peter shared some of what he’s learned and how he’s grown through our discipleship relationship that he wouldn’t have experienced any other way.  He also shared how in the last eighteen months he’s been pouring himself into five or six teenagers at New Hope West, passing on what our mentoring relationship has developed in him.  

   Peter and I also discussed the concept of “reverse mentoring,” meaning that our discipleship relationship is not a one-way “teacher/pupil” relationship, but a mutual sharing of kingdom life and faith like Paul did with the Romans (Romans 1:11-12).  I honestly wonder at times if Peter hasn’t discipled me more than I’ve discipled him, despite being thirty-three years younger!!  

   As a former professor at NHCC and a current teaching elder at NHW, I am delighted that both the college and the church strive for and model these major principles.  Our commitment that God’s Church is intergenerational, and the generations need to strive to minister and do life together, with older Christ-followers actively investing in and releasing younger believers is evident in numerous ways, including NHW’s internship opportunities for NHCC students.  Furthermore, NHCC’s Ignite groups and the number of faculty and staff who are also committed to “intentionally doing life together discipleship” are testimonies to the core value of making disciples and training leaders at the college/church.  It is an honor to be part of New Hope.

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