5 things I wish I’d known…

By Dave Swan

After 8 years of struggling to plant a church that truly engaged with the local population in south Aberdeen, I went on study leave to the north of England to visit various forms of ‘Fresh Expressions’ of church.  I was in a sense living with the mission question many leaders live with – “How do we bring people to Jesus?”  

Seeing many encouraging situations and Christian communities engaged in mission, I felt even more frustrated as I couldn’t really see how the principles would translate into my context.  At the end of my study leave time I attended a 3dm seminar in Norwich, and a church leader said a couple of things that I would have called “Ah-ha” moments then, but now see them as “kairos” moments.  “Why don’t we make disciples the way Jesus made disciples?”  We are called to follow him – do the things he did the way he did them, and since he calls us to make disciples, should we not make disciples the way he did – spending time teaching and learning, doing mission together, going on retreats and just hanging out and engaging in a positive way with the folk around us?

The other statement that was a kairos moment for me was – we should do our job, what we are told to do – make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and stop trying to do Jesus’s job. He said HE would build his church (Matthew 16:18).  It made me, in an instant, see that I had been asking the wrong question for the whole of my study leave. I was asking the mission question and trying to resource mission with volunteers.   I should have been asking the discipleship question – “How do we make disciples?”  The church seems stuck and embarrassed that we don’t know the answer to that question.  Could it be as simple (and as difficult) as just doing as Jesus did!  If we did our job as first priority of making disciples we would just get the church as a natural result. (or super-natural as Jesus is involved!) When we insist on trying to do Jesus’ job for him, we end up with neither disciples nor a growing church.

A verse that has been very important to me throughout my life is Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Yes the original context is that material provision will be given as well when we seek God’s rule and reign in our life and the righteousness he gives through Jesus.  But what is God’s rule and reign in our life? – is it not to follow Jesus – to do his will and make disciples that make disciples?  When we express God’s rule and reign in our discipleship relationships, we will see that the fruit of mission and a kingdom movement will be added to this. Seeking to do mission before seeing God’s rule in our discipleship relationships is getting the cart before the horse.

Some questions to consider:

  • What is God’s calling in your life?  
  • Where does discipleship fit in?
  • What is your mission?  How is it going?  
  • What do you need to do God’s will?


Grace and Peace on the journey.  David Swan





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