BERLIN, Ohio (Mennonite Mission Network) - Next time you're in church, look at the people around you. Do you see deep friendships? Do you see people who share in their daily struggles and in their spiritual life?
It can be easy to see God is at work through these relationships. But in a culture where church attendance is on the decline, not everyone has this kind of community.
That's why there's the Missional Discipleship Initiative.
"Developing a discipling culture has to do with face-to-face relationships," said Marvin Lorenzana, the MDI director. "A lot of people don't have experience in making disciples … [The church is] reaping what we have planted," because people aren't investing in relationships.
In an effort to plant more seeds of faith, 37 churches across the United States, Honduras, and Costa Rica are participating in the initiative. Each church has several groups of three people. They meet weekly for Scripture reading, prayer, and support. Each of those leaders are discipled by the pastor. In turn, each pastor is coached by Lorenzana.
"There [is] a great deal of intentionality in the way Jesus went about his work with his disciples," said Horace McMillon. McMillon is an MDI participant and pastor of Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson, Mississippi. "There simply is no substitute for putting the time in with people desiring to follow Jesus."
Duane Maust recalls someone investing time with him as a young adult. Maust is an MDI participant and pastor from Jubilee Mennonite Church in Meridian, Mississippi. "It's amazing that one person can make that pivotal difference in life. That's what the basis of this class is about, is helping people think about discipling."
Some readily embrace the concept of discipling; others revisit the baggage it brings.
"Brother Marvin helped redeem the concept of discipleship for me, separating it from the cultural supremacy that has often come with it," said McMillon. "How do we become more like Jesus in thought, word and deed? How do we participate in the project of bringing God's universal shalom to the world? How do we equip and empower others to do the same?"
According to Lorenzana, the answer depends on his continual question, "What is your faithful next step?"
For those interested in participating in the Missional Discipleship Initiative as a church, contact Marvin Lorenzana at MarvinL@MennoniteMission.net.