The Four Contexts for Growing Missional Disciples

We’re continuing our discussion around our #freshquestions topic of discipleship and today we’re thinking about what missional discipleship could look like. A couple of months ago I had a conversation with Pete Atkins, Fresh Expressions Team Coordinator, about the idea of growing missional disciples. Here he breaks it down into four contexts that he sees as essential to make this happen.

#1: Focus on mission as integral to discipleship

Often in discipleship we have a focus on spiritual maturity and getting ourselves to a certain level of readiness for mission. Inevitably this can mean that mission doesn’t happen as we may never feel that we are ‘ready’.

If we flip that and instead focus our discipleship on mission then there’s no way you won’t grow as a disciple. In fact, I’d suggest that it’s the best way to grow up as a disciple; it is what Jesus does in the gospels. From the moment he called his disciples, he took them with him on his mission and ‘did life’ with them. He then trained them to do the same with others.

It makes sense to me that if we do discipleship in the same way, we would all grow as disciples.

I believe the best and God-intended environment for growing as a disciple of Jesus is in a mission context in community where the purpose and focus of discipleship is following Jesus as he reaches out to others.

As we go out and face the difficulties and challenges that being a people on mission can bring, we have the opportunity to exercise our faith and in so doing, grow deeper with God and in community.

This is particularly evident to me in two settings; firstly, with people sent out into the mission field where you see an increased growth in the maturity of their faith as they’re challenged daily in the setting they are in. Secondly, if you put a non Christian in a setting where mission is happening, it is likely to accelerate their journey towards faith.

#2: A context of prayer

To mature as a disciple, our personal and communal prayer life is key. Prayer is essential because we need to understand what God is doing and without it, we’ll miss that.

As we set out to do mission we need to be praying for resourcing, protection, connections, doors to open, the right team. The effectiveness of what we do will be affected our prayer.

A key skill for the missional disciple is the ability to discern the leading of God. And tying into mission, I believe that the more we seek Him, the more others will find Him.

#3: Having a sense of our God given purpose

There was a point where I was asking ‘How do I grow people up as disciples of Jesus?’ The answer that I heard from various voices around me was that people grew as disciples of Jesus when they pursued something that God was asking them to do. It could be a call to be a great mother. It might be a call to be a first class teacher. Whatever that call is, it will always be a call to grow the Kingdom of God in that space.

Every genuine calling is missional in effect.

Pursuing God’s call on our life will catalyse our growth as a disciple as we face the challenges that come and our need for personal transformation in order to obey God’s call.

#4: The context of community

The context of community is important to growing best as a disciple. It provides a team to go on mission with, an opportunity to play to each other’s gifts and strengths and others to learn from. Within that there also comes challenges and mistakes which in themselves force you to learn to forgive one another and to grow as disciples together. It again comes back to that idea of Jesus ‘doing life’ with his disciples; we need each other to walk alongside as we journey in doing mission.

Do any of these particularly strike or challenge you? Why?

What does being a missional disciple look like for you?




Article by Jo Edwards