The Simple Practices of Missional Discipleship
“Discover life with God for the good of the world,” is the mission statement of Grace Chapel, where Tim Ghali serves as the Pastor of Group Life. The church has embraced the call to make disciples, nurture disciples, and equip them to live on mission in their everyday lives. “We want to invite people to see the deeper way of Jesus,” he says.
Tim knows that people are approaching discipleship from different places. Some people are already sold on it and are excited and living it out, and some are resistant to the Gospel interfering with their life. Others, though, have “caught the vision but need to be encouraged and helped to identify obstacles of why they can’t live it out.” Tim says that for this group, it isn’t merely an issue of apathy or selfishness, particularly in a culture where “we’re pulled in many directions” at once. For this group, the main issue is margin. He asks, “Have you created any margin in your life in order to serve others and live generously and sacrificially?”
What this faithful, missional discipleship looks like in everyday life will vary from person to person. It’s not about “cookie cutter Christianity,” Tim says. “We want people to sense that God is calling them to something and they get to be invited into whatever that specific calling might be that God has for them, in their particular context.”
Equipping and encouraging people to live out their discipleship may require a paradigm shift. “They used to think if they started a Bible study at their work that they were doing the work of the Kingdom,” Tim says, “But the reality is the only people going to a work Bible study are other Christians. One of the most missional things you can do is set yourself up as the ‘office chaplain’ and be the person that’s listening and praying and following up, to be the person who has a one-on-one conversation with a coworker.” He has seen how important it is for people at his church to see this approach as valuable Kingdom work.
As a pastor, Tim says, he needs to focus on “equipping people and helping to cast some vision and fire up some imagination” of what whole-life discipleship might look like in their lives. Tim says, “For a lot of people, ‘missional’ feels like extra credit homework assignment that they can do if they have enough extra time.” But in most cases, faithful discipleship comes in the form of simple practices.
During the last Lenten season, Tim’s church used Dave Ferguson’s B.L.E.S.S. model to help people creatively think about what these simple practices might be. He explains, “Can you pray for someone in your neighborhood and listen to their needs? Can you invite them to dinner or lunch or have them over? Can you find ways to serve? And can you tell a story of how Jesus is at work, not that makes you the hero, but that might move, encourage, help, or inspire them?”
There are many people who are already living faithfully in the everyday, who simply don’t realize it. Tim says, “Sometimes we don’t get the stories. I’ve had people say to me, ‘I don’t know if this counts as missional, but it’s something I’ve been doing.’ And as soon as they start to tell me that, I get excited, because they’re going to tell me something wonderfully missional. They’re just not sure if I think it will be.”
Tim has seen stories of everyday discipleship lived out in the context of his small groups, as people have creatively found ways to serve and bless other people as a small group community. In one instance, the group organized a meal train for an immigrant family whose kitchen was unusable because of flooding. In another, a man collected old iPads and distributed them to nursing and retirement home residents, with a crash course in FaceTime, so they could communicate with children and grandchildren during coronavirus quarantines.
In both cases, Tim felt like the people in his group naturally and incarnationally met a need and built relationships with people in the community, but these actions themselves weren’t the end of the story. “What we’re learning about ministry is that one conversation leads to another conversation,” he says. “If you’re faithful and attentive to what God is showing you, it usually leads to another thing.”