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Sermon | Discipleship

Loaf of bread, broken open with a small silver cup, on a grey cloth background

Sermon for The Point Church / Discipleship /

Reading: Matthew 28:16-20

I know as a church you have been looking at this theme of discipleship for a few weeks now, and I’ve listened back and there have been some great preaches, haven’t there? So how do we define discipleship having heard all that? It’s the question we have been tackling as preachers and each coming up with something different! It’s difficult to nail down a good description of what discipleship is.

I asked on Twitter this week – always love a bit of sermon prep via Social media!

Here are some suggestions via Twitter:

Discipleship is:

drawing ever closer to the love of Christ/God and allowing that love to manifest in your life

A commitment to a lifetime of learning from Jesus

Learning to fall, to repent, and to return.

Working through 3 questions – Who is God? Who are you? What are you going to do about it?

Following despite being challenged at every step. 

Looking for the positive in everything. 

Gratitude. Allowing yourself to be human. 

Trusting God. 

Courageous faith in adversity. 

None of this alone, but in community with others.

Essentially I think discipleship is all of those things but in a really simply way it is: 

doing what Jesus told us to do, seeking to learn from him and be like him. And to pass that on to others to make new disciples.

Which is largely (but not entirely) epitomised in Jesus’ words in today’s reading, where he is talking to his disciples.

Jesus has risen, been seen by the women – Jesus says to them – Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. So off they go and alert the other disciples who go off to Galilee and meet with Jesus as we see here.  Then we read this section, known as The Great Commission – the final instructions and sending out if you like, for the disciples.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Matthew 28:18-20

So the disciples having received their teaching from Jesus are to go out to share the good news, make new believers – and make new disciples – not just convert people, but make disciples – and Jesus reiterates this by telling them, to teach these new believers the same as they have seen and heard from him:

All that he commanded them to do.

So we might ask: ok, what did he command them? If we look a little bit further back in Matthew we read:

 As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10: 6-8

This is what they need to do and teach others to do the same


How should they be while they are doing that?

 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’

Mark 12:31

So love God, love people


I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35 (NRSV)

So be a good witness in their or in our behaviour

And finally, Luke 22 on communion, at the last supper:

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me

We can distil some of this down to:

Love God & Remember me

Love each other

Love People

Preach the gospel

Give away what you have learned and received

Heal people while you are about it

So for the disciples the message was: you have learned from me now go and teach others about me – and we know the Holy Spirit goes with them in great power as we read later on in Acts but here Jesus says as an encouragement – remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age

WE are each in that long list of disciples that have been made as a result. We have learned from someone and we have been taught to share what we have been given – the command is the same for us then:

Love God & Remember Jesus

Love each other

Love People

Preach the gospel

Give away what you have learned and received

See the HS at work – heal people++

So how do we make other disciples? how do we live out this command?

You know, we have a dog and something I have learned about having a dog is that training never ends. We have to reinforce with her each day the commands she knows – regular reinforcement and teaching, often with treats!

Sometimes people need to learn things more than once too and they learn from our actions as well as our words. And being rewarded is helpful!

Point to Passionate Life book – some of us here did the Lifeshapes course that this book is linked to. There is some really good stuff in here – by Mike Breen I don’t think anyone has mentioned it in this series so far? But I’d say best book I’ve read on discipleship. It’s an oldie but a goodie!

I’m going to share some of what he talks about in relation to disciples being taught and learning.

The Greek word used for disciple is mathitis which also means learner

So just as they were learners Jesus wants them and us to make other learners. If we are going to make disciples of others we need to know how to teach them, all that Jesus commanded/taught.

In Lifeshapes Mike Breen uses diff shapes to talk about discipleship. For learning we have the square.

He says Jesus taught the disciples in stages:

  1. Disciples are confident and incompetent!

Jesus calls come follow me, they go, full of enthusiasm but no idea what is going on or what to do really. So Jesus leads by example, he shows and teaches them by his actions. 

This is the ‘I’ll do, you watch’ stage

As we move on in their time with Jesus:

2. Disciples are now unenthusiastic and incompetent!

They start to fully realise what is going on, realise the opposition against Jesus, – the initial excitement fades to reality. They are vulnerable. 

How many people do we know have become Christians and then hit a brick wall or fallen away? 

this is a key stage – we have to get through this to move forward – we have to get through this wondering and questioning. Recognise it and work through it so if we are discipling others we need to watch out for this

Jesus is at this point: ‘I’ll do, you help’

Then side 3 of the square:

3. Disciples are now enthusiastic and growing in confidence

Jesus opens up – talks to them more, less directive more talking to them alongside him.

New believers might be starting to get a real understanding of what faith is all about and who Jesus is, we can have more in depth conversations.

It’s a period of growth

Jesus is: ‘You do, I’ll help’

Matthew 17 –   come back with questions this one only comes out by prayer and fasting

4. Jesus is ready to leave 

Learners are confident and competent (mostly!)

Caught the vision, practice it and are living it out

‘you do, I’ll watch’

I think this is really helpful picture – while not everyone learns the same it might help us as we seek to come alongside people who are new to faith – recognising that for many we will go through different stages – Jesus saw this in his disciples and walked it with them

An example from St Eds – a woman in our congregation, when I arrived I chatted to her and found that despite going to church for many years she struggled with the bible, didn’t have a deep understanding of her faith. 

I’d say at this stage she was stuck at side 2 of the square and no had had helped her through it

I suggested something really simple – the Lectio365 app – I know some of us are fans of it!

And she started using the app morning and evening and a week later she came back with a smiling face saying how much she was loving it.

A few weeks later and she was recommending it to others and saying how much it has helped her.

All of a sudden she is moving round the square. I suggested she join the prayer ministry team – so she’s moving on to side 3.

She still needs support and encouragement but she is growing.

And she is a year on a changed person, she has grown in her faith so much. She leads prayers in a really beautiful and heartfelt way. She meets with God in worship every time – if I need to be encouraged I just look at her in worship!  

She had an encounter with the HS and last week God gave her a vision this week!

Ourselves as disciples

So that’s something on how we can disciple others following Jesus way, but what about ourselves – Jesus said freely you have received, Freely give (Matthew 10). If we want to give out to others, we need to be good disciples ourselves  – we need to have received and be receiving – 

how do we live out life as a disciple of Christ? 

How are we following Jesus? 

How are we feeding ourselves?

Firstly I just want to pick up briefly on those first few verses from our passage – the disciples went to the place Jesus had told them to go – and we read – 

 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.

And I think perhaps the words that come next recognise this – this is who I am – Jesus says

 ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 

Jesus is reiterating who he is perhaps specifically to those who were doubting?

But I want to highlight this to say it’s ok to doubt – I think doubt is part of being a disciple, asking questions –  if the disciples who had been with Jesus throughout and then saw him risen could doubt, well then I think perhaps we might sometimes too. 

Doubt is not a bad thing – what is important is what we do with it – I could do a sermon on doubt alone – the key thing is to grow from it rather than shrink from it. Explore it, what’s is all about, ask questions, speak to others. So don’t knock yourself if you are dealing with doubt.

Now going back to us as disciples:

How do we feed ourselves to be good disciples, and good teachers of disciples?

In the early church we read what they did to keep themselves filled, to keep teaching and learning – Acts 2:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.

Acts 2:42-47

Fellowship – meeting together

Breaking of bread




Praising God

So they kept themselves filled as they were leading others and growing

So for us it is the same

We need to meet together, have fellowship – Josh spoke powerfully about community a couple of weeks ago – we cannot be Christians in isolation – I hear people saying ‘oh I don’t need the church’ – I worship at home – but I disagree – we at the very least need Christian community around us – to support one another to grow, and learn from one another. If we can’t get to church that might be in the people we pray with, chat with even if it’s on the phone.

Give you another example, another person in our congregation, H, arrived after a period in a hospital for her mental health. In fact she has spent years in different locked wards. She knew of St Edward’s before but began coming regularly after she was released from hospital about 18 months ago. H had a faith but in the time she has been with us, the church community has drawn around her, supporting her, embracing her and just being there. 

In that she has grown in herself, has begun healing and is growing in her faith, and wanting to know more, she is a natural evangelist and is always bringing people to church and asking me for bibles to give to people.

For her having that community around her is what has really helped her heal and grow – 

So community/ fellowship

Then… Acts 2 says:

Sharing together – being generous with what God has given us, we are one body with many parts, we have a responsibility to each other 

Praise and worship – we remember and thank God, praise God, meet with God in worship – whatever that looks like.

God’s word – We don’t have the memories and personal stories of Jesus that the disciples shared but we have God’s word. I know I’ve said this here before as well as at St Eds but how often do you get into your bible? How much time are you spending in God’s word and really exploring it?

Julie took us deep into the word a few weeks ago – really good to get into a passage and explore it inside and out, we learn so much from doing that.

At St Ed’s we have been doing the Lectio course from Pete Greig, which is all about hearing God through the word – it’s been great at encouraging us as a church to get excited about being in The Bible. It’s been lovely after each session to see people wanting to go straight home and read some more of their bibles!

Pete Greig – says the no 1 one way we meet with God is through scripture – 

 we have found this debatable but I certainly think it is a key way God speaks to us – so if we’re not in it are we missing what god is saying?

This book (the Bible) is amazing! It is so rich, deep, funny at times, it’s empowering, I think it has something for everything we might be facing – Psalms are brilliant for prayer. And through it we get to know more about our loving heavenly God.

What else did the early church do to feed themselves as disciples?

And Prayer – Acts 2 :

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer

How are we praying? 

Building ourselves up in prayer?  Talking to God enough? By ourslves and with others?

and finally breaking bread together – communion

and I want to focus for a moment on communion as we are going to be sharing that this morning.

Communion across churches looks very different – between St Ed’s and here it’s very different – but at the heart of it, is doing what Jesus taught us – to remember him and what he did for us, through the bread and the wine.

In the tradition of St Edwards receiving communion is a really vital way people meet with God – it’s not just about tradition and liturgy -the  words – it’s that for some, coming to the table is the central part of their worship, every week.

And you know as a disciple I have learned from them in their experiences like this. I as you know am from a charsimatic background, I was very much like do we need to do this every week, can we get on with it… But for some of my folks it is so precious.

That stepping forward to the table is the epitome, right at the centre, it’s literally stepping towards Jesus, in reverence yes, but with a huge expectancy.

It’s not just another part of the service, it’s an opportunity to meet with God.

And you know that has really spoken to me – that it doesn’t matter what you believe happens to the bread and the wine, whether it becomes Christ or is symbolic of him, this is an opportunity to encounter Christ in his wounds, in the nails which we so visibly see in the crucifix behind us at St Ed‘s.

We meet with Christ in his brokenness, pain, in those wounds, in his giving of everything so that in the end he humanly had nothing left – father why have you forsaken me?

I think it is so profound that at his weakest he was at his strongest – humanly at his weakest  – his body failing finally giving up and yet, in that the strength from God overcame death itself – 

Jesus had nothing left and so when we have nothing left we can come to Christ in the same place at this table.

In fact I wonder if it isn’t when we are completely empty, weak, and with nothing to offer perhaps that’s when he meets us the most?


Discipling others, we share what we have been taught just as the disciples were:

Love God & Remember me

Love each other

Love People

Preach the gospel

Give away what you have learned and received

Heal people while you are about it

And make sure we are refilling ourselves so we can give out:

Meet together


Get into the word

Praise God

Seek miracles

Break bread together – 

Which we are going to do now…

Prep for communion…

This is our response this morning. As we come to the table I want to encourage you to come with hearts wide open, with an expectancy of meeting with God through this bread and this wine – whatever that looks like for you.

You know I think one of the most beautiful things about being a priest is putting that bread into people’s hands as they come before me. I look into their hands. Hands are so personal to us, our finger prints are unique, our hands bear the scars of our lives, our actions. I find it so moving being able to offer people that opportunity to meet with God in the simple action of coming up and receiving some bread. 

I see hands of a builder, large, gnarly, cuts on them from hard work, followed by the hands of someone deformed by arthritis; another whose hands I know work so hard for others, red and dry; the children as they come hands lifted up to me; the hands of one who just lost his wife of 46 years; the hands of one who manoeuvre their wheelchair around all day; and still they come…

As you come this morning just remember that as you come to this table, you come unique, offering a hand or hands to the Lord, saying yes Lord I want to meet you here today, in this simple action that Jesus told us to.

Let’s meet him in his wounds, in his pain, in his brokenness, with whatever we have to offer and to receive…


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