What is a disciple? Often when we talk about “discipleship” in Christian circles, we mean someone who’s reached a higher level of understanding about the Christian faith. Sometimes, with the best of intentions, we set up a two-tier system of Christianity. There are “believers” who know just enough to be saved by grace, through faith, in Jesus … and then there are “disciples” who can explain covenant theology, who can give an overview of redemptive history, and have clear reasons for holding to amillennialism and supralapsarianism. Regular believers come to worship on Sunday mornings. Disciples are part of at least one Bible study during the week, serve on at least one committee, teach Sunday School classes, and get very excited about the Book of Church Order. (Just kidding about that last part. Nobody gets excited about the Book of Church Order. Well, okay … there is one guy. He’s a pastor up in Maryland and has a mustache that makes him look a lot like former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. But I digress …)
The problem with this regular Christian / disciple dichotomy is that it’s not biblical. In the New Testament, it appears that a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus. (Mark 1:17) There are no permanent levels or tiers when it comes to discipleship. Perhaps it’s warranted to distinguish between “mature” disciples and “immature disciples” (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12), but the Bible’s assumption is that “immature disciples” will become “mature disciples” in the ordinary course of things, as they learn to “observe all that [Jesus] has commanded us.” (Matthew 28:20).
A disciple is someone who has been “born again” by the power of the Holy Spirit. (John 3:1-8) A disciple is someone who believes that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6), our crucified savior (John 3:14-15), who gives “eternal life” to everyone who believes in him (John 3:16-17). Disciples are worshippers (John 4:23-24) who worship God through Jesus as our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and who worship Jesus himself, because he is God (John 10:30). A disciple is someone who has been baptized in “the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). A disciple is someone who “belongs to the family of believers,” (Galatians 6:10) through membership in a local church. A disciple is someone who serves others in the name of Jesus, following the example of Jesus (John 13:14-15, 34). A disciple is a witness, sent into the world to preach the gospel (good news) that Jesus died on the cross in our place, and that we might be reconciled to God through his saving / atoning work (Acts 1:8; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
Dr. David Schrock offers this definition, which brings together a number of biblical themes: “A disciple is a man or woman who is a new creation in Christ that no longer lives for self, but who has (1) believed on Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and (2) lives to learn, follow, and imitate Christ in all areas of life.”
Dr. Tim Keller puts it this way: “Let’s admit something to ourselves. We have no concept of discipleship left because the word disciple is the same as the word discipline, and discipline means to subjugate our present desires for the sake of future higher, nobler goals, goods, and causes. A Christian disciple is somebody who has said, ‘All other pursuits are secondary. To serve and to learn of and to know Jesus Christ, my Master, is primary.’”
It seems that a disciple is both who we are via justification (“an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God,” WSC 33) and who we’re becoming via sanctification (“a work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness,” WSC 35).
Perhaps we could say that discipleship is about becoming who we are in Christ. It’s about drawing strength from our Union with Christ, so that we can fulfill both the Great Commission (to make disciples of all nations) and the Great Commandment (to love God and our neighbors).
So let’s get practical about this. What does discipleship look like at Pinewoods Presbyterian Church? How can you grow as a disciple? How can you become (more and more) who you already are in Christ?
The short answer is that you have to follow Jesus. You have to make an effort! You have to live intentionally. You have to reach up to God in prayer and worship, you have to reach out to others in friendship and service. You have to hear the truth and you have to speak the truth. You have to receive love and give love. All of that happens in community! (1 Corinthians 12:12-31)
On August 13th, we’re going to have our Fall Kick-Off Sunday. School’s starting, we’re back from vacations, so this is your opportunity to say, “Okay, God. I’m ready. I’ve been slacking off a little bit, but it’s time to get serious! I want to grow! I want to change! I want to serve other people! I want to walk with Jesus like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus did, and I want my heart to burn within me just like theirs did!” (Luke 24:13-35) Here are some ways to get plugged-in. Here are some ways you can become a more mature disciple of Jesus, and experience the joy of eternal life … even now!
This Fall, we’re going to be starting a new sermon series on the book of James called Live it Well. Did you know that James was Jesus’ brother? (Technically, half-brother, but they grew up together.) He became a Christian after the resurrection. He has a lot to say about faith. What is true faith? How does true faith affect the way we live our lives? How does true faith affect the things we say? We’ll be answering some of those questions this Fall.
Children’s Ministry (Via our Children’s Director, Brenden Camp!)
“I am excited to announce that at the beginning of this fall semester, we are going to be kicking off a few new updates to Pinewoods’ Children’s Ministry. For Sunday school, we are moving into the new semester of our ‘Show Me Jesus’ curriculum by Great Commission Publications for all grades. Sunday school begins at 8:45 AM with assembly time, where the children sing some of the songs from our upcoming worship service before class begins. It is a sweet time to hear them worshiping Jesus together, so I encourage you to come and listen in before class starts for you! We are also introducing a brand new (to us) curriculum for Sunday Night Live: The Gospel Project for Kids! The new curriculum will walk us through the entire story of the gospel in God’s word, from Genesis to Revelation, and incorporates worship time, Bible lessons, games, and of course – our own addition – dinner! SNL runs from 5:30 – 7:30 PM every Sunday evening. Lastly, on the same Sunday that all of this begins (August 13th), if you have children through Kindergarten age please be sure to also stop by the PW Kids’ Corner in the Narthex before the service, as we will be launching our brand new Children’s Church Check-in!”
Youth Ministry (High School and Jr. High) (Via our Youth Director, Samuel Armstrong!)
“This fall the Jr. and Sr. High students will be studying “A Christian Mind” by Great Commission Publications on Sunday morning starting at 8:45am. Sunday nights are a time for middle and high school students to enjoy fellowship with peers their own age and adult leaders who have a passion for investing in the lives of youth. Students can come to a safe place where they can play games, break bread [Joel’s Note: I think he means pizza.], and be challenged and transformed by the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. During the school year, we gather for both Jr and Sr High from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm. This year we will be studying the books of 1 and 2 Samuel.”
Did you know that this year marks the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation? For some of our elders, it seems like only yesterday that they were watching Martin Luther nail his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg chapel. (Just kidding, guys!) In order to commemorate that great moment in church history, we’re going to be doing not one … but two studies in our Fall Sunday School semester! The first series will be a 7-week study in the book of Galatians and the second series will be a 6-week study on the 5 Solas of the Reformation. Along the way, we’ll have special missionary speakers, testimonies, and plenty of time for food and fellowship! Sunday School starts at 8:45am, which should give you plenty of time to drop your kids off at Sunday School and then grab a cup of coffee before class begins. See you there!
We have five Life Groups meeting during the week … so I encourage you to visit pinewoodschurch.org/life-groups for more information. If you’re a parent, please note that we’ve specifically designed Life Groups and Sunday Night Youth Activities to work together. If you’re a parent, you can drop your kids off at church at 5:30pm, get to your Life Group, which starts at 6:00pm … leave your Life Group at 7:00pm … and be there in plenty of time to pick up your kids by 7:30 pm. (Pretty cool, right?) On Sunday nights, the Don’s (Treick and Roe) are hosting a Life Group on the Pinewoods Campus, in the Fellowship Hall. They start things off with a potluck dinner and then they’ll be studying the Gospel of John. Also on Sunday nights, the Steve Milstid / Frank Drew Life Group will be studying Hebrews, followed by a time of prayer and dinner. If you’re busy and can’t do Sunday nights, the West 9-Mile Life Group might be the group for you! They meet twice a month … on the first and third Thursday nights and will be studying the Psalms. (It’s family-based, so bring your kids and ask Bruce Biles to show them how to make bird-houses and ride tractors! That’s what our kids do and they love it!)
This Fall, our women will be studying the book Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George. There’s a Tuesday morning group that meets from 9:30 – 11:00am in the Education Building and a Wednesday night group that meets from 6:15 – 7:30pm, also in the Education Building. We also have a Wednesday morning Precept Studies class which meets at Sheryll Biles’ home. Also … did you know that Elizabeth Turnage’s 2017 Spring Ladies Retreat talks are available online? Check them out! (pinewoodschurch.org/ministries/womens)
Do you like waking up early? Do you like Denny’s? Do you need some advice about how to be the husband, dad, son, brother, and servant God’s called you to be? Then the Tuesday Morning Men’s Group is the group for you! They meet every Tuesday morning at Denny’s on 9-Mile Road in front of Home Depot. The guys meet at 0615 and you can easily be done by 0730 or 0800. Also, they record the time like that because they’re MEN! Real men don’t use AM or PM! Real men love Jesus and use the 24-hour clock! And they also love bacon, which is plentiful at Denny’s. What more can I say? You should come.
Are you in college? Do you have big questions about God? Do you have unbelieving friends who have questions about Jesus? Are you wondering how the gospel impacts real-world issues? Come to Jean and Mercer Sport’s house and you can explore these issues in a safe place … guided by faithful Christians who can point you in the right direction! The group meets on Tuesday nights at 7:00pm. For more information, check out pinewoodschurch.org/ministries/college-and-career.
If you love Jesus and God has given you musical gifts, singing gifts, or technical gifts … this is the place for you! The Music Team meets for practice every Wednesday night for a first run-through and again every Sunday morning for a final run-through. The great thing about the Music Team is that it’s not just about “performing.” It’s about “belonging.” It’s about laughing, and thinking, and praying together. It’s about trying to figure out where that feedback is coming from. If you’d like to be part of what our Music Team is doing, talk to Kate Treick on Sunday morning and let her know!
Well … that’s a lot … and I’m only scratching the surface! We have groups that make sandwiches and gather blankets for the homeless. We have groups that minister to prisoners. We have a group that goes down to the Waterfront Rescue Mission once a month to serve meals and mentor people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. We have a Disaster Response Team that’s just waiting to spring into action if something goes wrong and people need assistance. We have people who love babies … just like Jesus did … and love to serve Jesus by rocking those babies in the nursery!
Are you a disciple? If you’re a Christian … the answer is, “Yes! You are!” Are you a mature disciple? You can be. It takes time. It takes prayer. It takes relationships with mature Christian people. It takes service in the name of Jesus who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28) Are you ready to jump in and get onboard? The Fall Kick-Off is just around the corner! We’ll see you there!