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Looking back to a weekend of discipleship and community

by Brendan Danielson - posted Wednesday December 07, 2016

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This past June, I received an email asking if I’d be interested in reuniting with a bible study group I had been part of at Carleton University. I accepted, and before long I was in possession of a Bible study that essentially said “read the New Testament and answer the following questions…”

What had I gotten myself into?

Truth be told, receiving this study was not entirely unexpected. This Bible study group, called the Gospel Community, was made up of student leaders within the Carleton Navigators group who wanted to grow in faith and leadership. During our times together, we looked at biblical passages, articles and book excerpts on specific themes, delving into the content on our own and coming together once a week to discuss the applications for our lives as students and followers of Jesus.

For me, this group and these times together were crucial elements of my spiritual development as a university student.

Coming back together

On the weekend of October 14, I had the opportunity to reunite with this group once again, some of whom I hadn’t seen since graduation. Chris Barrett, our then campus leader and now the Navigators’ national director, his wife Heather and Megan Wahl, the Navigators’ Calgary city leader, headed up this time together, as they had in the past when they were leading the Gospel Community initiative in Ottawa.

Even though I hadn’t seen some of them in a couple years, we picked up where we left off, sharing stories of our lives, laughing together and talking over pizza pockets and fruit. It was like being back at the Barretts’ house all over again for a weekly Navigator meeting, like we had never left.

However, we weren’t only there to hang out, as fun and refreshing as that is. No, we were also there to learn and share some of the insights we gained from doing the preparatory Bible study. The focus of the study was to look at the life and ministry of Jesus and how his influence shaped the early church and the ministry of Paul, looking at how we can apply what we observed to the mission of the Navigators in raising up generations of disciplemakers.

In the midst of the discussions, prayer, laughter and story-sharing, there were two insights I had that I want to share with you here.

Insight #1: The effect of life-on-life discipleship

The first is the effect of “life-on-life discipleship.” This sounds like an inside Navigator-ism, but it’s a basic, universal aspect of being human. It’s the idea of sharing your life with others, giving of your time and energy to build truth into their lives that will guide and sustain them later in life. As we spent time as a group, I realized all of us were there because of the influence of Chris, Heather and Megan in our student lives. As busy as we were, they had made time to meet with us in a variety of situations and settings to help us grow in our maturity as adults and followers of Jesus.

They shared with us wisdom they had gained from the Bible and life experiences, opening our eyes to new truths, ideas and ways of thinking about faith and Jesus. Without telling us outright, they modeled for us what it means to disciple someone, giving us experiences and insights we could pass on to others.

Insight #2: The importance of community

The second is the importance of community. This gathering wasn’t simply a chance to get everyone together to hang out, share stories and have fun together, though we certainly did all that. There was a purpose to this gathering that helped us spend the limited time we had together well. In the times we spent reflecting on biblical passages, discussing them with a small group and then sharing our findings with the larger group, we could speak openly and honestly about what we were seeing and learning. Our time together as students helped us build a foundation of trust with one another that now gave us confidence to be open and vulnerable.

As we gained new insights about how to follow Jesus more closely, we were also encouraging one another and sharing our struggles. To me, this is the kind of community everyone strives for. One in which you are able to learn, gain fresh insights and be challenged, but also where you can be open about your struggles, offer encouragement and develop deeper relationships with others.

Saying good-bye

When the weekend inevitably came to a close and we were all saying goodbye, it felt like it was over too quickly. And yet, it wasn’t too hard saying good-bye again. Our time together had been short, yes, but we accomplished what we had come together for. In that knowledge, there was a sense of completeness to the weekend. With the relationships we’ve built together, it won’t be long until our paths cross again, as individuals or as a group.

Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I wouldn’t trade these people for anything.