Summary: As Jeremiah risked everything to buy some apparently worthless real estate in order to give a sign that the Lord would triumph, so I also asked our church to adopt a new but venturesome vision for its life.
I believe we are now at a new juncture in our history. I believe that God is calling us to rethink our life and work and to deepen it as never before. I believe this because I have seen what God is doing among us, and it is a work of grace. It is a work of gifting that calls us as a church to a new way of working. To some, what I am about to share may seem a Florida swamp, incredibly messy; or a Brooklyn Bridge, just a promise that I have no right to make. But in my heart of hearts I do not believe so. I believe it is a field of Anathoth. I believe it is a set of directions worth every ounce of our energies, every dime of our resources, and every prayer of our hearts.
Let me lay it out under four headings: Deepened Discipleship; Multiplied Ministries; Winsome Worship; and Systematic Stewardship.
I believe the time has come for us to buy the field at Anathoth by committing ourselves to deepened discipleship. We must become a people who know what our faith is about; who can speak of our faith convincingly; who can share our witness; and who know our own hearts before God.
Two or three years ago we began to use discipleship courses in a serious manner. Several got involved in something called “Experiencing God.” A little later others got involved with another course called, “The Mind of Christ”. Still more took up a rather extensive course called, “MasterLife”, and, of late, Rev. Haggray has gathered young adults and some others around one called, “Disciple”.
In addition, twice now I have begun classes in Christian Basics, creating my own curriculum and introducing people to the vast range of the Christian faith. And we have used yet another book, “Introduction to the Christian Faith” for our new members.
The point about all of these courses is that they have taken those of us who had fragmentary knowledge, odds and ends knowledge, and have helped us put it together systematically, carefully, inside ourselves. These courses go somewhere. They start with some basic concepts and they move us along the way to see some realities and focus ourselves on being effective Christians.
Discipleship courses help move us away from just coming to church and move us toward being the church. I intend to work with every responsible entity in the church to move us to the place where we will insist that if you wish to be serious about your relationship with this church, you will move through a series of discipleship courses in a careful, systematic way, so that you will know this faith, you will act on this faith, and you will have deeply planted in you the values for which we stand.
I intend to ask that we begin using a discipleship approach in a part of our Sunday School. I intend to propose that we start a new adult Sunday School class at least once every six months, more often if possible, but built on MasterLife and blending in other discipleship materials and materials which we ourselves will produce.
I intend to campaign for the expectation that anyone who wants to be in full fellowship with Takoma Park Baptist Church will enroll in deepened discipleship opportunities. We can no longer afford the luxury of half-informed Christians who just come to church and avoid being the church. Over and over again history has proved that churches which make serious demands on people grow faster and are more effective that churches which let people do their own thing. I intend to work for deepened discipleship and serious Bible knowledge.