Making Apprentices of Jesus
“Loving my neighbors is more than just doing nice things for them.”
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
In Jesus exists all power and authority. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus, much like a sheriff, deputized His disciples to assume His responsibility, acting on His authority. What responsibility was He passing on to them? They were to extend the invitation into apprenticeship with Jesus. Even as He was returning to heaven, Jesus said to them, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). His Spirit would join them, and us, in this work of making disciples.
Jesus instructs His disciples that they are to baptize His new apprentices into the triune God and instruct them to be obedient to everything He commanded. This invitation for making disciples wasn’t for a select few in the church, but for all. Thanks to the obedience of Jesus’ followers, the gospel spread rapidly throughout the known world for three centuries. But when the Church limited this work to leaders, the progress of the Church in spreading the gospel was impeded and the Church itself weakened. Not being obedient to the Lord’s instruction in the Great Commission by His followers, today is one of the greatest omissions of the Church. We have lived vicariously through our leaders rather than being personally obedient to the Lord’s command.
My story is more of a confession than anything else.
Lynn and Jo Cory’s Neighborhood
Jo and I have been involved in loving our neighbors in three different neighborhoods since the 70’s. We have initiated countless activities in our neighborhoods through the years. Our home has always been open to our neighbors and we have seen God work in some amazing ways. However, from time to time God has asked me to do some things that were threatening…at least I thought they were at the time. I have experienced how He has taken me slowly, step by step, to the next thing that He has asked me to do with my neighbors. Each time I dragged my heels until I gave in to His direction and stepped out.
The Lord has made it clear to me that loving my neighbors is more than just doing nice things for them. The Great Commission, making disciples, plays an essential part in neighboring. The Lord put on my heart to start a neighborhood Bible Study. Out of fear, I put off doing what he asked me to do. I thought, “What would neighbors think if I promoted a Bible study in our neighborhood?” I supposed they might distance themselves from me if I did. I continued to grapple with it until one day I received a text from a neighbor that said something like this, “If you ever start a Bible Study, would you invite me?” I knew the Lord was speaking to me through this neighbor and I thought to myself, “How should I go about it?” Finally, I could put it off no longer, so I designed a flyer for our neighbors and this was the basic content of the invitation,
Neighborhood Discovery Bible Study
Lynn and Jo Cory’s Home
This is the first time we have ever done anything like this for our neighbors, so we would love it if you could join us. We already have some neighbors who have accepted our invitation. This group is not associated with any church…just for neighbors who desire to learn about what God says in the Bible. Each of us will have an opportunity to give our input and learn together. We are very excited to invite you. If you would like to bring a dessert item, please do. Oh yes, bring a Bible if you have one or we can supply one.
It’s going to be fun!
Much to my surprise, the Lord began to open the door to different neighbors who wanted to join us. Some I invited personally, some responded to the flyer, and one flagged me down as I was walking through my neighborhood. She pulled me aside and said, “May I talk with you about something? It’s spiritual.” We had never talked about anything spiritual prior to that. We talked at length in front of her house and after our discussion I invited her to our Discovery Bible Study that meets on Monday nights in our home. She asked, “You have a Bible Study on Monday nights right across the street?” And I responded with, “Yes, and we would love it if you would join us.” My fears were dispelled and through the Bible study God has connected us as neighbors in a very special way. These neighbors have become our close friends, not just geographically; we have genuine concern for one another, we share meals together, we help each other. The wonderful thing about a neighborhood Bible study is that everyone is just a short walk away. We are experiencing community much like the early church.
One of my favorite memories is when one of our neighbors in the Bible study stopped me on one of my walks and asked if I did counseling. I said, “Yes.” She responded with, “How much do you charge? I said, “Nothing.” We made arrangements to get together on a Saturday morning when Jo could join us. She shared with us and I pointed out to her that the Lord could take care of her situation if He were in her life. She expressed interest to Jo and me. So, I shared my story with her in how I came to the Lord and how I prayed with a friend and invited the Lord into my life. She said, “I would like someone to do that with me.” I asked her, “Would you like to do that right now?” And she said, “Yes.” She gave her life to the Lord and was baptized in our pool with those in our Bible study sharing in her eventful celebration. She has commented on different occasions how much the Bible Study means to her. She has gone through the book of John, Philippians, and is presently going through the book of Acts with us.
Another member of the Bible Study group reflects on her experience with us this way. “I was eager to deepen my journey toward Christ by studying the Bible in a more organized, structured way. The ideal opportunity came with an invitation from Jo and Lynn, who not only had solid academic knowledge of Scripture but an abiding and deeply personal love for the Lord. I had seen, firsthand and over many years, how they applied His word to their lives and to every relationship. When we began our study, nearly two years ago, I knew I would grow in my knowledge and understanding of the Bible – and I have. What I did not expect was how our time together with our neighbors (some of whom I knew casually, some I’d only met at the Corys’ neighborhood gatherings) would turn us not just toward the Lord but toward each other. Each week, we bring our Bibles and our open hearts, and we continue to learn about the Lord – and each other. We share private struggles and triumphs, we tease and laugh and encourage one another, and we pray together. I’ve been deeply affected. When my teen daughter was in a terrible accident last year, I texted Lynn almost immediately. I found enormous comfort in our group during the first few traumatic weeks and in the months of her subsequent recovery as I was enveloped in love and concern, and lifted by prayer. I’m grateful, too, for whatever encouragement or connection I’m able to offer the others. I’ve come to admire and love their goodness, intellectual rigor and devotion to the Lord, and I so enjoy the sheer variety of personalities and points of view! Recently I have even found the confidence to speak more readily to others about the Lord and the many rewards of my quest to know Him more fully, and that’s another unexpected and wonderful outcome of our Bible study. I continue to look forward to Monday nights at the Cory dining room table as one of my favorite weekly commitments!”
With this new little community of believers in our neighborhood, we now plan events together and share in the opportunity of handing out flyers and working together on BBQs, potlucks, welcoming new neighbors and other neighborhood gatherings.
I have been involved in small group gatherings with believers since the 70’s, but this experience with those in our neighborhood has given us a greater sense of community because of geographic proximity.
A time for reflection:
Though it took me way too long to initiate our neighborhood Bible study, there is another mistake that can be made in starting a neighborhood group…starting too soon. There are those who have jumped right in to starting a bible study with their neighbors and have found that there has been no response or even worse, they have alienated themselves from their neighbors. You should not start a group before you have devoted time in prayer about this endeavor and developed meaningful relationships with those in your neighborhood. Have you ever considered starting a Bible study with your neighbors? Here are a few things to consider before stepping out:
- Have you been praying about starting a Bible study and developing meaningful relationships with your neighbors?
- Has the Lord been prompting you about starting a Bible study?
- If you are starting the group as a couple, make it a team effort.
- Are there other believers in your neighborhood who might like to join you?
- Begin to ask the Lord to show you how He would like you to go about promoting the study. Flyers may be helpful, but give it a personal touch by talking with them about the Bible study when you hand it out to your neighbors.
- When you start a Bible study with your neighbors, you should design it so everyone participates.
- Here are the questions I used for our Neighborhood Discovery Bible Study so everyone could participate.
Discovery Bible Study*
- Start with a short prayer
- What are you thankful for?
- What is stressing or challenging you?
- Is there anything we can do to help relieve the stress? (ex. Prayer, help in some way, etc.)
- Bible Study
- Ask everyone to read a portion of the chapter in the Bible.
- Walk through the text little by little asking them what it means, observation, questions, etc.
- How can we apply this this week?
- Is there anyone who could benefit from what you have learned or want to apply?
- Close with prayer (If you sense that others are ready to pray, ask them if they would like to pray.)
* You will find that it will become more free flowing as you get to know each other better.