‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.’ 2 Timothy 2:2

One of the things that we have been reflecting on in recent months is the importance of discipleship. Jesus spent time with his disciples; teaching, explaining and generally living alongside those followers. From Paul’s letters we see that he invested time in those who listened and responded to God’s call on their lives. And the Bible tells us what our response today should be – we are called to use Scripture to teach, correct and train in righteousness. For this to happen well, it has to happen in relationship. Christians are called to be part of a church family because, firstly, that is how God has made us to be and secondly, in family, you can really know people. You spend time with them, you know your family members’ strengths and weaknesses, you are there for people when they need you and they are there for you.

Andy and I have had the privilege of having this modelled to us in the various churches that we have been part of over the years. The fact that we are able to serve here, in Zambia, is testament to the support of our wider church family – we have had spiritual counsel, prayer support and financial giving that God has used to sustain us in our time here. While there are churches here that are demonstrating and encouraging discipleship within their church family, for the vast majority of our students, this is not something that happens in their home churches. It often means that as they finish at PIZ, they will not have people to get alongside them in their Christian walk. It is a big challenge for para-church organisations to deal with. That is why the church is so important. It is in this setting that discipleship and training can be done most effectively for the majority of people.

It has been said that in the West people have watches but in Africa, people have time. African culture is built on relationships. There is a lot the West can learn from this! That’s not to say that one culture is right and the other wrong, rather that they are different and that there is good and bad in each. There are ready-made relationship structures in Zambia that are enviable – everyone is either related to you or knows someone who is related to you. Family isn’t just your immediate family but much wider than that. People are more important than time, which means that often folks are late for appointments or to meet you because it’s chatting to the person that they have met on the way that matters, not the timing of the meeting. So, how does this translate into church relationships? And more specifically, how does this translate into discipleship? That is the question that we have been wrestling with over the last few months. Studying God’s word will always be beneficial, but there is a danger that it can become a bit like studying any other subject if it doesn’t take root. And how does it take root? Well, that’s where discipleship comes into its own. The Bible is the true story of God’s relationship with humanity and discipleship is one way in which God builds his people up.

A lot of the more meaningful conversations that we have had have been outside of the classroom. They have been sitting in the garden or in someone’s house while drinking tea. It can be challenging at times attempting to do this in a cross-cultural setting, and we are still thinking this through and making many mistakes along the way. Having the students for eight months during the year can only scratch the surface of getting to know them and them getting to know us – but it is a start. We have seen that discipleship is a real need for the church here, as it is everywhere. Here, in the prosperity-gospel churches, more mature Christians don’t often get alongside younger Christians. This is significant, as these are the fastest growing churches in Zambia and very influential. In this type of church, there is typically a revered leader who wants to maintain his/her authority and as such, discipling vast numbers is not in his/her interest. On top of that, discipleship is often seen as presenting the basics of the gospel to new Christians, not as ongoing, lifelong training like we see in Scripture.

Andy, Rachel, Haydn and Daniel

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Please pray for...

  • Pray that our students will develop a desire for discipleship – to be discipled and to disciple others.
  • Pray that they will leave PIZ with a thirst for a deeper relationship with Christ.
  • Pray for us as we continue to think through the practical implications of discipleship here in Zambia.

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