The Rev. Terry Hughes is good at reading people. Part of the reason for that is he takes time to get to know them and understand them – how they think, how they learn, and how they relate to others.
When he arrived at his appointment to Springville UMC and Dimock Christian Community Church in the Susquehanna Conference in July 2016, he found a group of people who wanted to be good disciples, but weren’t certain exactly what that meant.
So, he got to work teaching and training them.
My first year here, I really looked at the church and community and learned as much as I could about the area and the people – who they are, what they think, what they need, and where their interests and passions lay.
“One thing I have always done as a pastor is recognize the importance (of our United Methodist directive) of making disciples for the transformation of the world,” he said. “I look at it as changing not just the world, but where I live. My first year here, I really looked at the church and community and learned as much as I could about the area and the people – who they are, what they think, what they need, and where their interests and passions lay.”
In his second year, Hughes did a sermon series based on the United Methodist spiritual inventory. He did another sermon series based on From Membership to Discipleship by Reid Temple. He said his people learned much during that time about themselves, how they have been gifted, and what Christ expects of them.
Hughes looked for a deeper discipleship study to use in a small group and found Disciples’ Path, a four-volume study from LifeWay. Every session begins with how to get started. It gives a scripture to unpack and find out how to put it into use. There is a scripture reading each day. All the readings focus on the cost of discipleship. Through this, study members come to understand four truths: We are not exempt; We must deny ourselves; We are to take up our cross daily; We are called to follow Jesus.
“It’s scriptural and personal,” Hughes said.
“We go for a session, then take a break, then do another session. We spend a full year going through the study. We go into depth in the study and the questions. Now we are in a session studying The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It says discipleship calls for sacrifice. We look at quotes from Bonhoeffer and ask which ones make the greatest impact on each of us. I get a good idea in these stories of where the people are in their spiritual journey.
People who aren’t involved in the discipleship studies also have opportunities to learn and be encouraged in their discipleship walk. Each Wednesday night, Hughes leads a question/answer session where people can ask questions about spiritual matters.
Hughes said he sees discipleship not as a sprint or a marathon, but as a relay.
I encourage everyone involved in a discipleship study to come out of it ready to lead his or her own group of five people. I believe you must take what you have learned and pass that on to someone else.
“Discipleship is not something you do alone,” he said. “It just can’t be done apart from other people. I encourage everyone involved in a discipleship study to come out of it ready to lead his or her own group of five people. I believe you must take what you have learned and pass that on to someone else. Even now, the two men and nine women in the discipleship study are using what they are learning. They have become passionate about inviting people to church and sharing Christ with them.”
“One of the men in the group has a gift of being able to recognize people who are hurting and need encouragement,” Hughes said. “He was at Walmart not long ago and saw a person who was hurting and sad. He is so attuned to Christ’s spirit that he went up to the person and gave him a word of encouragement.”
The churches are committed to reaching out to the community.
“They do a free supper once a month,” he said. “The discipleship group members help. We work with another church on a soup kitchen. We have made the church at Springville accessible for people with mobility issues. All these things are done because we love people and want them to feel that.”
The disciples at Springville and Dimock understand that the reason to do the good deeds is because it is what disciples do as they become more Christ-like.
Disciples don’t just stay inside the church and study ... Nor do they just do good deeds and help people. They do both.
“Disciples don’t just stay inside the church and study,” Hughes said. “Nor do they just do good deeds and help people. They do both.”
Whether you use Disciples’ Path from LifeWay, Developing an Intentional Discipleship System by Junius Dotson, or some other resource, help the disciples in your church or ministry setting by bringing clarity to the why, what, and how of discipleship, equipping them to go be disciples!