Over the next six issues, CCMBC national director Elton DaSilva is inviting dialogue on the subject of discipleship. We invite and encourage you to comment below or submit your thoughts and opinions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: Do Mennonite Brethren have a unique view and practice of discipleship?
Discipleship is a common Christian principle that transcends denominational boundaries. From Catholics to Protestants, from Arminianists to Calvinists, we often talk and write about discipleship. Much effort goes into explaining discipleship; still, for many, the subject remains nebulous and confusing, leading many churches to disengage from discipleship outright.
Discipleship is like a box, sitting on the garage shelf, containing many things we cannot categorize. We tend to throw all our esoteric beliefs into that religious box.
Here are some of the reasons why most contemporary approaches to discipleship are ineffective:
- Most are based on cultural nuances rather than Biblical principles
- We have interchanged volunteerism with discipleship
- We place quantitative measurements over qualitative outcomes
- We equate discipleship with attendance of a program
- We tend to segregate the sacred from the secular.
- Discipleship requires more than the download of information; it involves an awakening or discovery
Some of you may know that I was not born into the MB family. I was adopted into it. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to engage in leadership at all levels. Having a broader perspective allows me to see similarities and differences between the MB approach to discipleship and that of other denominations. I have observed that our history — and theological values — have shaped our discipleship approach. In my opinion, five MB discipleship nuances set us apart:
- Discipleship happens in the community for the sake of the community.
- We disciple unto mission.
- Discipleship is Holistic.
- Discipleship carries an emphasis on peace and reconciliation.
- Discipleship is lived in simplicity.
- I will explore each of these topics in more detail over the coming months.
This exercise is a back and forth – it won’t work without your response. Here are a few questions to get us started;
- Do my opinions reflect yours?
- What other theological nuances do you feel the MBs possess?
- Do you have examples of how the above five observations are working in your context
Please send me your stories. We will publish as many comments as possible next issue.
Hello, Elton, from Oaxaca, Mexico.
I only have the experience of one MB church, from the age of 7 to now, so 50 years. As much as I would want to agree with your five observed distinctives (as in, I would wish them to be common in MB churches), I unfortunately have to say that I would be hard pressed to find any manifestation of any of the five in a way that distinguishes us from a typical Baptist church. The joke about MB meaning “mostly Baptist” didn’t come into being without some basis.
I remember first meeting David Wiebe at a Gathering held in Toronto in the early 2000s. He had invited an American speaker who enthralled us with the idea of being a healthy disciple making body. A bunch of us got together over a special lunch to delve into this further. I asked the pastor in front of me how many people he was discipling. He looked at me blankly, and David, sitting beside me, said “that may be the first time a MB pastor has been asked that.”
I experienced the true spirit of what Jesus asks us to do while serving others. It started out as a task. Then I began to see and feel Jesus working through me and others as we prayed, became friends with and served others. Food bank, and community dinners, Alpha and small groups are a wonderful way to enjoy life together. Don’t worry about numbers, that’s how the world measures. God sees our hearts. Be present with people and listen to them, pray with them and do life together. Especially during Covid, we have an opportunity here to share our hope in Jesus.