The second Mark of Mission, like the first, flows very directly from Jesus’ Great Commission to all his followers. This is found at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28.19).
There is a clear element of going to proclaim God’s Kingdom required of all Christians: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20.21). Like Jesus, they must demonstrate and be bringers of good news, as Canon Richard Bartlett amply illustrated in his article on the first of the Marks of Mission.
What is captured in the second Mark of Mission is the very deliberate way in which Jesus chose, lived with, taught and trained his own disciples, making them into “fishers of men”. In the Great Commission Christians are asked to do the same: not to make “converts”, but to intentionally make disciples. That task is a joy – to see lives, priorities and character transformed by encounter with and understanding of Jesus Christ. Christians are called to teach, baptise and nurture new believers – none of which happen accidentally!
Furthermore, Jesus did not say “teach them (my future disciples) everything I have commanded you”, though the western academic models and mind-set tend to operate that way. Instead he says to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
This emphasis upon formation and lived out faith is a profound challenge:
- first to academic training institutions, where formation of life is difficult to assess and may end up becoming secondary and
- second, to local churches where intentionality and accountability are vital to truly forming people in Christ’s image and to help that transformation over time.
In 2016 the particular importance of a whole life discipleship that reflects all five Marks of Mission and the need for intentionality in Anglican teaching of new disciples was formally recognised by the Anglican Consultative Council. It called every province, diocese and church to a nine-year Season of Intentional Discipleship, now described as Living and Sharing Jesus Shaped Life.
In Lusaka, Zambia, where the Anglican Consultative Council met in 2016, one Church, St Peter’s, has responded to this call by creating a discipleship tool with four modules each lasting eight weeks conducted in classes of 20-30. The church leader, Robert Sihubwa, explains: “We agreed that it will be a must for all members to attend these courses before baptism, being Godparents, marriage, standing for leadership or being an active minister”.
They have had over 600 members undergoing the process at different levels, according to their involvement in the church.
In the Church of England, Setting God’s People Free is an initiative to enable the whole people of God to live out the Good News of Jesus confidently in all of life, Sunday to Saturday. It aims to facilitate a shift in culture that is seen in the two, new, primary goals my own diocese, Guildford: “that every parish have a plan for making prayerful, confident disciples in everyday life” and “together to increase the number of new Christians of all ages.”
This has shaped the vision of the parish church my wife leads: “To be followers of Jesus Christ, growing in faith and number and serving the community”; and is being worked out through well planned teaching, establishment of new life groups and last year a year-long discipleship course.
In the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC), Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is calling his people into The Way of Love and seven habits that form them in a Jesus Centred Life. This call and teaching is increasingly shaping the liturgical life of TEC, spawning many small groups and a curriculum to serve them and a re-design of their catechesis, for use with new believers especially youth and young adults, so as to emphasise formation and lived out faith.
In South Sudan, a recent consultation on Intentional Discipleship involved 60 bishops & many lay members. Afterwards, the primate, Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, reflected “we discovered that we were not doing enough in the area of discipleship.”
South Sudan is a vibrant Church active in evangelism and growing, yet the archbishop concluded that “It is now a new way for us to go: whole life discipleship, intentional discipleship: all dioceses and all our parishes, we have to go that way. . .”
God is at work across the Anglican Communion as Anglicans seek to live out the second Mark of Mission.
Read the rest of our series on the Five Marks of Mission