The vision of the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Wales, Florida is to be a Christ-centered fellowship of believers devoted to true worship, personal evangelism, discipleship, and servanthood.
Here at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Wales we have a vision to “be a Christ-centered fellowship of believers devoted to true worship, personal evangelism, discipleship, and servanthood.” In saying that we are devoted to Christ-centered discipleship we mean that we are focused on making ourselves and one another more devoted followers of Christ. We believe that disciple-making is an ongoing work, not just an event or an occasion. When someone comes to faith in Christ and is baptized in the name of the Triune God they become a part of the fellowship of believers, but the disciple-making process is not complete. It has just begun.
In the Gospels when Jesus called men to follow him (to be His disciples) they left everything (Luke 5:11,28) and went after Him. They walked alongside of Him, listened to His teaching, ate with Him, observed His miracles, and witnessed His death and resurrection. So when He commanded them to go and make disciples they knew that He intended them to devote their lives to one another and to those who would come to faith in Christ. That devotion was evident in the early church of Jerusalem where the people “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” (Acts 2:42). It is that same Christ-centered disciple-making fellowship we are seeking to enhance here at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Wales.
Over the years some of the most effective discipleship in our congregation has occurred in and through the ministry of Sunday School. Each week folks gather together on Sundays at 9:45 am to devote themselves to the apostles’ model of teaching (i.e. Bible study) and fellowship. These gatherings for the study of God’s Word are core to the concept of discipleship. We study His Word because we are followers of His Son. It is in His Word that He reveals to us who He is and who we are in Him.
We gather as small groups in fellowship because we do not believe that discipleship is a solitary venture. It is something we do in connection with fellow disciples. We do so in smaller numbers because we recognize the value of the intimacy and intensity of discipleship that can be cultivated in fewer numbers (Jesus only had 12 disciples in His “small group.”). So, we study, we pray, we cry, we laugh, we eat, we rejoice, we rebuke, we encourage, and we grow together in the name and likeness of Christ. We build one another up in love using the gifts that God has given us (Ephesians 4:15-16) not only for this one hour each Sunday but in our daily lives as well. We call one another (or text) just to talk. We give showers when babies are on the way. We provide meals when they’ve come. We set up play dates for our children. We bounce ideas off of one another. We visit one another in hospitals and nursing homes. We cry together when loved ones pass on. We have Christmas parties and pumpkin carvings.
In all these common activities we care for one another as the Church. We “walk” side by side and we grow as believers. Sometimes we grow because we observe a holiness in our fellow disciple that encourages us to grow in grace. Other times we grow because we hurt one another and have to pursue the restoration of our relationship through repentance and forgiveness. In all of this we are like iron sharpening iron. We ever seek to point one another to the good news of Jesus Christ, through good and bad. It is never perfect but in all of its messiness there is a beauty to this kind of disciple-making.
Are there are other ways, besides Sunday School, in which discipleship is taking place among adults at First Presbyterian Church of Lake Wales? Yes. Women’s circles and Ekklesia classes are two other ministries that key in on some aspect of discipleship. No doubt there are other ministries and relationships where discipleship is occurring. This article is not intended to discount those other means of discipleship but to draw attention to the very intentional and intimate ministry that is available each Sunday morning (and beyond!) through adult discipleship groups.
For those of us who are currently part of one of these adult discipleship groups (i.e. Sunday School classes), we know the joy of following Christ together. But for everyone of us who have this type of fellowship there are two others in our congregation who do not. The reasons vary on why folks don’t take advantage of this core ministry but the simple fact is that the kind of discipleship that is taking place in these groups is too good not to be shared, experienced, and multiplied.
May the Lord grow in us all a desire to walk alongside one another in disciple-making. May He give us the wisdom and discernment to see the gifts we each have to use in making disciples. May He grant us the courage and humility we need to reach out to others, to teach if so gifted, or to be a part of a new small group if so called. May He increase our longing for His glory and our appreciation of the Good News. May He increase our disciple-making and in doing so may He increase our joy in Him! Amen!