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New discipleship course responds to increases in hunger and hostility to Christ

Posted on: October 30, 2017 4:54 PM
Discipleship Explored presenter Barry Cooper at a coliseum in Greece, in a scene from the new series of videos on Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Photo Credit: Christianity Explored Ministries

A new series of videos based on Paul’s letter to the Philippians will be released next March as part of an updated version of a popular discipleship programme. Discipleship Explored was first launched 10 years ago as a follow-up to the Christianity Explored – the evangelism programme that was started by All Souls’ Church in Langham Place, London, and which is now used in more than 100 countries and translated into 50 languages. The revised version features a series of eight short films directed by Stephen McCaskell, who was also responsible for the award-winning Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer.

The new Discipleship Explored course follows the same model used throughout the Christianity Explored evangelism course, the follow-on Life Explored and the existing Discipleship Explored programmes: “People hear some Bible from the front, they study in a small group together, they chat with their leaders, and they take something home to read for themselves,” the Revd Rico Tice, senior minister at All Souls with responsibility for evangelism, said in an interview with the Anglican Communion News Service.

Rico Tice, the founder of Christianity Explored Ministries, the stable from which Discipleship Explored comes, added: “At the moment, in the culture, we are seeing two things happening,” he said. “We are seeing increased hunger for Christ and increased hostility. And the great thing about using Philippians, is that it is a prison epistle. So Paul is joyful, but he is suffering. And in chapter one there are three things that he is in danger of losing: his life, his reputation and his freedom. And yet his great aim is that Christ is glorified.

“He says whether I live or die doesn’t matter; what matters is that Christ is glorified. It is amazing in terms of Christian commitment. I think that this is a wonderful grounding for people in terms of the joy, but also the cost of discipleship. We are seeing around the world, again in this culture of hostility and hunger, it is a perfect place to go.”

He said that Paul’s letter to the Philippians was “a good discipleship tool” and “incredibly helpful”. It was about what Tice called the five Ss: suffering, God’s sovereignty, salvation, the work of the Spirit, and standing together: “You don’t do discipleship on your own”, he said. “You do it with others. The exhortation in chapter 4, where Euodia and Syntyche, who both seem to be committed Christians but are at each other’s throats because of hurt feelings, and he says: I plead with you – in the sense that he is on his knees – to be of one mind in the Lord. So be unified – we need to hear this.”

He said that one of the benefits of using Paul’s letter to the Philippians as a tool for teaching discipleship is its focus on joy; and Paul rejoicing because of his relationship with Christ even though he was in prison. “That is so realistic [that] it could be tough following Christ but it is nevertheless incredibly joyful,” he said.

The new Discipleship Explored videos feature the voice of author and pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, who takes on the role of Paul. The videos were shot on location in Greece, Serbia, Jordan, Rwanda, India, Peru and the United States; and will be available from 1 March next year, ten years from the first edition of Discipleship Explored. In addition to the videos, the Discipleship Explored material includes a Leader's Kit with handbooks for leaders and guests, a DVD and free access to digital copies of the films, to make it easy to use in one-to-one settings, in larger groups, in churches or in homes.

The Discipleship Explored presenter, Barry Cooper, said that “one of the most significant changes we’ve made is to incorporate interview footage and real life stories from around the world. Our focus is still on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, but we get to see how that letter impacts believers internationally, including those who are being persecuted. Seeing the joy of these men and women is compelling, contagious, and often very moving.”

Discipleship Explored is available now for pre-order.