Multiply New Disciples (identity magazine)

Worship at Elevate: Lutheran Brethren Youth Convention
This article is from our Fall 2022 issue of Identity Magazine, a CLB resource for teens and young adults.
I will never forget the day that Gordon MacDonald spoke to our graduating class. Gordon is a renowned writer, pastor, and leader in the evangelical world, especially in New England where I come from. I was finishing my doctorate at Denver Seminary, and the day before graduation my classmates and our spouses gathered for a reception.

I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something like this: “Up till now, much of your life and ministry has been marked by people pouring into you, building you up, teaching you. Now this marks the point in your life where that changes. Now the Church calls you to give back, to invest in others who come after you. Up till now, others have poured into you. Now you will pour into others.”

I remember how exciting that moment was, realizing what this call to serve meant. It gave me a clearer sense of purpose and brought meaning to the work that had come before it. I knew I was working on this for ministry service, but there was something about that invitation—that call—to be about the growth of others, that stuck in my mind.
Sometimes we start doing something because we can see a benefit to ourselves, especially with education and vocation. But even while we aren’t yet thinking of those around us, God shapes us, equips us, and prepares us for a ministry to others.

All the articles in this issue of identity—about the call to follow, about partnering in mission, and unleashing new leaders—lead you to action. But it’s not for yourself. It’s for those God is calling you to serve. Let me paint a picture of what that could mean for you:

  1. Multiply disciples. Wherever you wind up, be a part of multiplying disciples. This means investing your time in helping others to grow in their walk with Christ and training them to help others do the same. You might do this with one person at a time or perhaps with a small group of three or four people. These might be people who are a few years younger than you, but it could also be with those who are your age or older. One form of discipleship relationship is called a “spiritual friendship,” where two peers at the same stage of spiritual maturity help each other to nurture and grow in following Christ. If you’ve never had someone mentor or train you in discipleship, seek that out. There are many people out there who would love to help you with this, but they are just waiting to be asked. And at the same time, seek out someone that you can train, that you can teach what you’ve been taught. If you’re hesitant because you think you need to have every bit of theology and biblical knowledge worked out first, that’s not how this works! Take what’s been entrusted to you—no matter how much or how little—and begin to share that with someone else. Start now. Here’s the big secret—spiritual maturity as a disciple doesn’t really begin in your own life until you’re giving back and pouring into someone else.
  2. Multiply churches. When I talk with people who have been a part of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLB) for many years, they are always excited to talk about times when they have been a part of starting new churches. Instead of picking your next city and church based on where you plan to work or go to school, pick it based on where you could be a part of a new CLB church! Right now we are starting new churches in Boston, MA; Denver, CO; Red Deer, AB; Regina, SK; and just outside Bismarck, ND. All those cities have post-secondary education opportunities. And soon we will be starting other churches near Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix, Florida, New England, and other places. Our goal is to plant ten churches over the next five years, and after that to plant three churches per year. Every church plant needs a leading church planter, but they also need ten or more other people to serve in leadership roles—that could be you!
  3. Multiply missionaries. Every church in North America and every global mission field needs missionaries. You could be a missionary by deploying to one of our global mission fields in Asia or Africa. You could also be a missionary neighbor wherever you live. You can be a part of an established church and bring vitality to the church by helping connect it to God’s mission. Our churches are meant to be mission outposts—places where we gather for worship, receive God’s grace through Word and Sacrament, and are equipped and renewed for going back out into our neighborhoods and building relationships with the people God puts in our lives.

Our opportunities to invest in others begins for a disciple on day one! You can do this now! Jesus told his followers, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). It’s scary, but it’s exciting! The CLB is called to multiply—in North America and around the world. God is calling us to join him in mission, and you’re invited to be a part of that!
RYAN NILSEN serves as Associate Director of North American Mission for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.

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