Discipleship Spaghetti

A Community Group is like spaghetti. Huh?

Each person is a noodle, a life with twists and turns and messiness (or sauciness!). Pile all those noodles together and you find a big tangled plate of spaghetti.

A Christian's life is linked with Jesus and with other Christians in community. His grace and mercy affects all of the lives in that group. Each individual life now has a context that helps to put it in perspective and... with patience, straighten it out a bit. The joy and excitement of a Community Group comes from people sharing the way that the gospel changes them.

My picture of God's mercy expands every time I hear someone else's story of Jesus and how they have been changed. My appreciation of grace and God's patience deepens every time I hear about people's struggles and dependence. Left to myself, my perspective is small; but in a community I can see a bigger God, more powerful transformation, clarity of Scripture and humble reliance on grace.

Jesus wants his disciples to follow him together so that they can encourage each other on their life-long walk. That is one of the main reasons that Community Groups are so important at Grace Church. They truly are the best context for rich discipleship. Everything that a good group does -- worship, study, fellowship, service -- is a means of following Jesus with others. Each person helps and each person is helped.

Two questions: What ways do Community Groups help you to follow Jesus?
And... what do the meatballs represent?


Church Membership is a Key Path of Discipleship

A powerful aspect of discipleship is commitment to a local church body. The New Testament churches were filled with people who deliberately joined their midst. Those committed Christians were overseen by equally committed local leaders (pastors/ teachers/ elders/ shepherds).

Church membership is a foundation for a life of intentional relationships centered on Jesus. Devotion to one another inside a church, combined witha give-and-take devotion to careful leaders, provides a relational context for the Christian life.

In an era where it's assumed that people are autonomous, where it's easy to cut and run whenever things get tense or difficult, where conflicts are rarely dealt with honestly... church membership is a sign of the profound work of grace in a Christian's life.

This Sunday, a great group of people will publicly commit to vows of church membership. They are revolutionaries of committed grace-filled relationships.

From our Seven Pathways of Discipleship:
"Discipleship is facilitated at Grace Silicon Valley through membership, worship services, community groups, prayer, service opportunities, Christian education, and deliberate relationships.

1) Through Membership. This is the most basic way for the leaders of the church to know you and fulfill their call to equip and encourage you. Take advantage of this opportunity to be in relationship with the leaders by communicating with them."


The Beauty of Bay Area Fog: The Unseen Sea

You will love the glorious Bay Area fog even more after you watch this beautiful short film. Thanks Tom Oliveri for the link. Thanks to filmmaker Simon Christen.



Ephesians 4:11-16 will be the foundation of my next series of sermons about discipleship.
Click on the image for a beautiful word cloud of the passage.
Wordle: Ephesians 4:11-16


Seven paths of Discipleship

Discipleship is facilitated at Grace Silicon Valley through membership, worship services, community groups, prayer, service opportunities, Christian education, and deliberate relationships.

Here are some ways you can be discipled:

1) Through Membership. This is the most basic way for the leaders of the church to know you and fulfill their call to equip and encourage you. Take advantage of this opportunity to be in relationship with the leaders by communicating with them.

2) Through the Worship Service. Make weekly worship your top priority (even if you’re traveling). Also, come to the worship service as a worshiper, not a consumer. Pray for God to meet us there and expect He will. Come looking for opportunities to listen and love others.

3) Through Community Groups. Community Groups are the primary context for discipleship at Grace Silicon Valley. They are the place where we unpack our Sunday worship, share the means of grace, bring our joys and burdens, and come to know others and be known (confessing, confronting, supporting and encouraging one another). The pastors/elders at Grace Silicon Valley oversee, encourage and equip the Group leaders so they can encourage and equip others. Community Groups are also the “front lines” for pastoral care, and the place where the leadership learns of pastoral needs.

4) Through Prayer. The entire Christian life intersects with prayer. Our hearts and minds are shaped through prayer. Our relationships deepen as we rejoice over answered prayers and present one another’s needs to God. Vision for Kingdom work is inspired and triggered in prayer. And, the strength of God’s Spirit comes to us in prayer. We pray before and during worship, in Community Groups, in ministry teams and in special times set aside just for prayer.

5) Through Service. Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats, and also the book of James, teach that when we face the Lord, He won’t need to test us on our theology. He’ll simply look at our deeds, which serve as the true story of our theology. Discipleship which only occurs over conversation and books pretends that we are disembodied minds and is a commitment to a theoretical life only (not whole-life). Jesus opposed this kind of religion. Through serving one another and our city the life of Jesus is at work in us.

6) Through Education. We are not opposed to discipleship of the mind! It is critical. Here are some of the ways you can grow in knowledge at Grace Silicon Valley:

  • · GraceU Course Offerings, Seminars, Weekend Conferences
  • · Annual Church Retreat
  • · Missions Presentations and Prayer
  • · Arts/culture: Movies at Grace, book discussions, arts
  • · Resources: recommended reading, sermons, and study guides
  • · Vocational discussion groups/mentoring

7) Through Deliberate Relationships. Many people benefit from a small, close group of reliable friends who are willing to honestly care for each other. These friendships can be open-ended (ex: ‘how is God working in your life now?’), guided (ex: with a specific curriculum), or issue-specific (ex: helping with a sin pattern or struggle). The key is consistent, regular, dependable meeting together.


Discipleship at Grace Silicon Valley

Beginning this Fall, Grace Church is entering into a year-long focus on Discipleship. To fulfill our mission in Silicon Valley, we recognize that as a church we need to grow closer to Christ and deeper in our lives as Jesus’ follower.

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
A disciple worships and imitates Jesus in all areas of life. Three words come to mind when we think of discipleship: worshiper, apprentice and follower.

It’s not enough simply to imitate Jesus—we must find ourselves, like the disciple Thomas, falling to our knees and exclaiming, “My Lord and My God!” And yet worship from the Bible’s point of view is always a whole-life event—expressed in and through every aspect of our lives: vocations, relationships, art, citizenship, etc.

Like an apprentice is shaped by his master, a disciple is being renewed with the mind and life of Christ in every way. Christ’s agenda becomes our agenda. This call to worship and imitate Jesus is a call to lay down our lives, yet the reward is beyond measure.

These two aspects join in the idea of being a follower of Jesus. Jesus asks us “to come follow him,” to walk in his footsteps. A follower acknowledges the leadership of Jesus and acknowledges the goodness of Jesus. Disciples grow to love the one that they follow and recognize that their own joy is tied to their delight in their master.

Where does Discipleship occur?
The current trend is for Christians to walk away from the church and focus on their private Christian life. Yet biblically, discipleship occurs in the Church. The Church is where disciples are made.

The church is God’s incarnation today. The church is Jesus’ body on earth. The church is the temple of the Spirit. The church is not a helpful thing for just an individual spiritual journey. The church is the journey. The church is not a collection of “soul-winners” all seeking to tell unbelievers “the Way” to God. The church is the way to God. To be part of the church is to be part of God—to be part of God’s Communion and to be part of God’s ministry. To belong to the people of God is to enjoy relationship with God and live out the purposes of God. The church is God’s present-day word and witness to an unbelieving world. And, most importantly, the church is the only true means to be transformed into the likeness of God. —Todd Bolsinger, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian

The Church doesn’t have everything all perfect, just like none of us have everything all perfect. Yet Jesus placed priority on his Church and so we must. This is not to exclude our individual relationships with God—if neglected we will feel like an acquaintance of God, rather than a beloved son or daughter. But, as the Church is the Body and Temple of Christ, and discipleship entails being shaped by Him, we must be engaged in the Church to become like Him. This includes being engaged in the mission of the Church. A disciple participates in Jesus’ worldwide mission to gather people from every tongue, tribe and nation.

How does Discipleship occur?
Discipleship takes place with multiple persons in a variety of ways. For those who have grown up in the Church, or have been Christians for some time there may be certain models that come to mind—both formal and informal:

• Discipleship means a person [one primary mentor]…
• Discipleship means a program [book or curriculum]…
• Discipleship is just spending time together

All of these are legitimate models, yet none exclusively sufficient. If discipleship entails becoming a whole-life worshiper as well as an apprentice of Jesus, it needs to take place with multiple persons. The person who serves as a discipler/mentor for your marriage may not be the best one for your vocation. The person who brings you along theologically may not be the best one to show you God through the arts.

This releases the individual being discipled from looking to one person for everything and requires us to learn from everybody. It also frees the discipler from guilt for not being everything to everyone, as well as from an unhealthy desire for influence. No one—pastors, elders, lay leaders—can be expected to serve as the primary discipler. We look for God to use many people, understanding that Jesus himself, by way of the Holy Spirit, is the primary Discipler.

Discipleship also takes place in multiple contexts. At Grace Silicon Valley we imagine discipleship will occur in many venues: during worship services, alone with God, while discussing a film, while sharing a cup of coffee, while tutoring a child, in small groups or as we hone our talents at work. This relates to our belief that disciples are called not merely to personal worship and piety, but to engage every area of life—which only happens as we are being discipled in a whole-life manner. The multiple contexts and personalities involved in discipleship call us to be wide-eyed for God’s shaping influence.

Discipleship occurs through the “means of grace,” used corporately and individually. God tells us that there are certain means through which His powerful grace flows, by which the Spirit of Christ resides and rules in our lives: the Word which God inspired and inhabits, the Sacraments wherein Christ is present, Prayer by which we both experience and communicate with God. This is why weekly worship with the Church is so formative, for it is there that all these take place. And, as we learn to worship together publicly we’re also learning how to do it privately. These means pursued publicly and privately are used by the Spirit help us to become worshipers, apprentices and followers.

Other means of grace require relationships with people: fellowship, service and repentance. The messy community of the Church is where these are experienced. Together we spur one another to press on.

The Bible teaches us that transformation occurs by seeing the glory of God and because of the grace of God. Mechanically checking a list of chores leads nowhere. Coasting through life under the guise of ‘freedom’ leads nowhere. Discipleship is a reliance on God’s grace through diligently pursuing his means of grace. This takes discipline and intentionality. The Apostle Paul likened it to athletic or military training.


Leadership Development at Grace Church

The pastors and elders want the next two years to be focused on building up our church community as disciples. Leaders are a key part of our church and we want more time helping our leaders to grow. So, we're reviving and improving an important gathering: the leadership meeting. We trust that you will look forward to these events as a highlight of your Christian walk next year. Please feel free to invite potential leaders and apprentices so that they benefit from the support of these gatherings.

Leadership Summit
Grace Presbyterian Church

Leadership Summits are for all ministry leaders at Grace Church (especially Community Groups, ministry teams, outreach, mercy, missions). These Summits help keep our leadership community growing in Christ and close together. Are they dry, boring lectures? No! Expect music, testimonies, prayer, short talks, group exercises, food. Afterwards… continue to hang out on California Ave. We want this time to be valuable for our leaders' personal and ministry life.




September 14

Helping People Grow as Christians

What’s New at Grace Church

October 12

What Makes a Christian Leader?

Survey: Tell Us What You Need to Grow

November 16

You Decide! (results of a leadership study)

Preview of Vision Sunday

January 18

Asking Powerful Questions

Case Study: Guilt

February 15

Loving Jesus More than Everything Else

Case Study: Depression

March 15

God’s Gifts, Talents and Resources For His Kingdom

Preview of Grace Church’s 10thAnniversary

May 10

You Decide! (results of a leadership study)

Celebrate the Ministry Year

Time: 7:30-9:00 PM

Location: Grace Church offices, 2431 Park Boulevard, Palo Alto, CA