As a pastor, on a Sunday morning I have to be at church at least an hour before our service starts. It's not unusual for me to show up early with one or all three of my young girls in tow. If I were to leave our house an hour or more before my wife and have her get all the kids ready for church, she would have my head!
Our girls love coming to church early. I know it won't always be that way, so even though it makes my morning a little crazier, I welcome it. They like to come early mostly for the donuts, but they also love the opportunity to help get things ready for the morning.
A few weeks back, I had all three kids with me and remembered as we walked through the doors that we had Communion that morning. We have a team of people who help get the Communion tables ready, but we arrived at church a few minutes before they did and I immediately put my kids to work.
We went to the back room, and I pulled down the trays for the Communion cups, and I had my kids fill all the slots with the tiny plastic cups. They loved it!
Later on that afternoon, I was reflecting on the morning and started to realize that giving my kids that job wasn't just a way to occupy them, but it was a way to disciple them.
Often we think that discipleship happens in a classroom setting where we are passing along information about Jesus and the Bible. Discipleship certainly includes learning, but if it's limited to a classroom context, it is an incomplete vision for discipleship.
As I observe the life of Jesus, I see that much of his discipleship efforts involve bringing people into His ministry as co-laborers. He calls people to be partners with Him, not merely classroom learners.
One of my favorite moments in the gospels is when Jesus feeds 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6). He ends up teaching this crowd all day, and at the end of the day, the disciples come to him and say, "Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages to buy themselves something to eat.”
Without hesitation, Jesus responds saying, "You give them something to eat."
He has His disciples feel the weight of His ministry. He includes them in the moment. He expects that they will have a hands-on role to play in the work that He is doing. He views discipleship as partnership with Him.
I recognize that with my kids, putting plastic cups into little holes isn't very spiritual. It doesn't necessarily teach them anything about the nature of God. I didn't share with them anything about the meaning of Communion while they were doing their task. I actually left them alone and went and did other things. But what it does do is bring them into my life in a way that they get to share in the work of their father.
I have no idea if these sorts of moments with them will last. I have no clue as to whether or not it will open doors for me to teach them about who Jesus is and what He's all about. But it does enlarge my vision for what discipleship should look like with them and other people in my life. It should be an intentional invitation into ministry partnership.
This leads me to ask you a couple questions.
1) Do you view your relationship with Jesus in terms of partnership in ministry?
2) What ministry are you currently doing and with whom are you currently partnering?