What is the NALC Life-to-Life Discipleship Initiative?
“This life is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness; not health, but healing; not being but becoming; not rest, but exercise; we are not yet what we will be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished, but it is going on; this is not the end but it is the road; all does not gleam with glory, but all is being purified.” Martin Luther, In Defense of All the Articles, 1521
The North American Lutheran Church is committed to moving away from a solely institutional understanding of the Church, to the biblical commission to be a community of followers of Jesus who focus on being disciples and making disciples. We have developed an initiative or strategy we call “Life-to-Life Discipleship”!
At its core, Life-to-Life Discipleship is about movement! The Christian life is not about stagnation and it’s certainly not about decline! Martin Luther talks about this in the quote above, where he says the Christian life is not about “being, but becoming; …we are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it…” Baptism is not about having arrived at the Christ-like life; it is about beginning the life shaped and formed in Christ, which is completed when we are raised to new life in Him after death. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is about movement. A pastor who is exhausted, frustrated and feeling trapped will not be able to lead the flock forward in faith. A congregation that is burned out and “stuck” will not grow in faith OR numbers, falling into a mindset of simply wanting to maintain the church as institution, service organization, or social club existing for the fellowship and fun of its current members.
What, then, is Life-to-Life Discipleship? First, it is taking our “marching orders” from our Lord in his Great Commission, when he commands, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.” See Matthew 28. Because we are committed to being disciples and making disciples, we look to Jesus to see what disciple-making is all about, and we see that it is about investing in others—life to life, person to person. Life-to-Life Discipleship is about pastors investing in other pastors, pastors investing in individuals in their congregations, and individual disciples in the congregation investing in the lives of others, whether in the congregation, in their home or family, in their neighborhood, friendships or acquaintances.
As our Lord gave Himself for our sake, we give ourselves for others. As Jesus is with us always, emptying Himself to walk alongside us through life, we respond by walking alongside others. This is Life-to-Life Discipleship and disciple-making. It’s about loving others as Christ loves us, caring for others so that we do not see people as “potential church members” able to help us pay for the roof, cover the bills, maintain the organization. Rather, we see every person we meet as a child of God, redeemed by Christ, worthy of our time, energy and effort. Jesus made disciples by calling people to follow and then walking alongside them. We make disciples when we introduce them to Jesus, and then walk with them in good times and bad, in joys and sorrows, as together we seek to follow Jesus.
Second, Life-to-Life Discipleship is about being people and a community in the NALC committed to and immersed in the Word of God. It’s interesting that every congregation in the NALC joined the NALC because of our shared commitment to the truth and authority of God’s Word, yet, by and large, Lutherans are unfamiliar with Scripture. Many of our folks continue to think that reading the Bible is difficult and confusing, so the family Bible remains on a shelf collecting dust. There would have been no Reformation 500 years ago were it not for the Word of God and Martin Luther’s commitment to the truth of that Word! In his famous words, Luther said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God!” Most Lutherans today are not familiar enough with the Word of God to live by it, let alone be captive to it. We need a reformation, today, in Lutheranism—and it will begin by a renewal of the Word of God in our lives and in our congregations!
Life-to-Life Discipleship is about inviting more and more of our pastors and members into a relationship with Jesus Christ that is immersed in, shaped by and living the Word of God as it comes to us in the Bible. Being a disciple of Jesus is about knowing Him, and following Him, and hearing His words, and obeying His words as we seek to live Christ-like lives. How can we live a Christ-like life, when we don’t know Holy Scripture? Congregations and pastors who are reading, studying and engaging in deep and prayerful interaction with God and His Word will grow as disciples of Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, they will want to walk alongside others in love and care. A congregation filled with folks who are in God’s Word and living all that Jesus has commanded us will find that new disciples are being welcomed into their midst. Folks outside the church are not interested, generally, in joining another organization. They are drawn to the community of disciples who are following Jesus, committed to God’s Word and seeking to lead faithful, prayerful lives. That’s what the Church is to be—and is called to be today: a community where, through Word and Sacrament, disciples are being fed and nourished for the Christ-like life, as new disciples are coming to Christ through life-to-life relationships with other followers of Jesus.
What does this look like in congregations?
Without going into great detail, the NALC Life-to-Life Discipleship initiative encourages pastors to be involved in discipleship shepherding/coaching/mentoring that helps them to reflect upon and assess their lives and ministries, setting goals that help them move forward intentionally and with accountability. Does your pastor seem stuck, stagnant, burned-out, unhealthy? Encourage your pastor to contact a member of the Life-to-Life Discipleship Rapid Response Group or leadership team to learn more, find a discipleship shepherd and begin a discipleship coaching relationship. The “Core4” coaching focuses the pastor on four important areas: Life Plan, Vision Plan, Ministry Plan and Priority Management. Pastors once again experience “movement” in life, vision and ministry, developing passion and excitement for ministry.
Congregationally, the Life-to-Life Discipleship initiative focuses on “Growing intentional Disciple-making Cultures (GiDC). This is a three-year involvement agreement that helps congregations develop and sustain a plan to equip leaders and members in being disciples and making disciples, as commanded in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), with the long-term goal of helping every person become mature as a disciple of Jesus (Colossians 1:28-29). Simply put, it begins by training the pastor and key persons to be a Leadership Core, which then assists the congregation in developing a discipleship culture, which finally sends disciples out into the world to make new disciples. It is the Great Commission plan of our Lord! It’s not something “new and improved” but a process that is tried and true. It is “back to the basics.” It is getting to the essence of what it means to be the Body of Christ!
The strategy is for every pastor, every seminarian, every congregation and every person in the NALC to be involved in Life-to-Life Discipleship! It is the goal and aim of the NALC, as we seek to be responding to our Lord’s Great Commission. We invite you to be informed and involved! Life-to-Life Discipleship may very well transform the life of your congregation and your pastor!
For more information, please contact a member of the Rapid Response Group for a quick response in getting information and getting started. You will also find leadership team members and contact emails on the NALC website, under Resources/Life-to-Life Discipleship.
Want to get more information or get started? Contact the Life-to-Life Rapid Response Group!
The North American Lutheran Church is committed to Life-to-Life Discipleship! Our initiative provides for the discipleship shepherding of pastors, as well as congregational processes for renewal, strength and growth called, “Growing Intentional Disciple-making Communities” (GIDC). For more information and/or to get started, the Life-to-Life Discipleship Team has a Rapid Response Group (RRG) ready to answer your questions and point you in the right direction! To contact the RRG, please email the following info to one of the team members listed below:
Contact info (email address and phone numbers)
Pastor or congregation name
How can we help?
• I want to know more
• I want to get involved in pastoral discipleship shepherding
• Our congregation would like someone to visit and provide an introductory presentation
• Our congregation is ready to get involved—how do we start?
|Pr. Tom Brodbeck
|Pr. Brack East
|Pr. Dave Keener