It isn't often I am invited to preach in churches so I have only spoken a message based around discipleship 3 times in 18 months. However I think some of it is helpful to post here for thought.
Discipleship is part of the Jewish education system - where the best of the best students (mid-late teens) would apply to well known rabbis to become the rabbi's disciple (or talmidim) with the goal of becoming just like that rabbi. Jesus chose 12 of those who weren't the best of the best but the drop-out's, those who hadn't made it - 12 mid to late teenagers (though Peter may have been early 20's) to become his disciples. This rag-tag of lads wandered around doing amazing stuff.
As I looked into this I thought that part of my role as a Christian is about discipling others - helping others to become like Jesus and to build the Kingdom of God in our communities. Discipleship isn't just for those who would call themselves Christians but is as much about those who are on a journey of becoming like Jesus helping others become like him and the life he modelled (so love your enemies, love others as self, seek justice and fairness, bring healing and comfort, seek wisdom, etc).
I then took this further and thought around the need to be purposefully intentional to those of influence within our society (seeking to disciple and pray for the model of Jesus to reflect in all they do) Interestingly some of those within this group are currently undergoing upheaval and crisis following the happenings of the last few weeks, so - these are those I would see as the most influential groups in a nation:
Political - the EU campaign seems to have reduced to scaremongering, outlandish claims (on both sides), manipulation of truth, falling apart of parties, etc, etc. I think now is a time for a new politics of respect, building up, honour for one another and one another's views, seeking what is best for the nation not the political party. The challenge for followers of Jesus is to get alongside our local and national political leaders - to pray for (and with) them but also to offer support and wisdom (and not to slag off those who have different points of view!)
Media - the media have such a strong-hold over the way people think and act. Headlines are taken as fact (and then retracted as lies on page 30 days later in small print). We should be the ones making the news not just watching the news! How can we begin to disciple those within the media - seeking reporting of facts not opinion (or worse lies) to seek manipulation.
Business - now is the time to begin to build our nation in terms of business. Shop locally is one way - get to know and support local businesses. How can we disciple those who are leading (and employed within) business who are thinking of leaving the UK? Is there a role for more chaplaincy in our town and city centres?
The other groupings of influence I see are: education; entertainment; statutory bodies (police, health, councils, etc); and religious leaders. How can we be intentional about helping disciple those within these groups? Prayer is a good but also needs action - purposefully seeking to bring Jesus / Kingdom values.
A big challenge but, I think, much needed in the weeks, months and years ahead... A lot of questions and a lot to do (alongside all the other stuff followers of Jesus do!).
Paul (pictured below with Halifax MP Holly Lynch at the Houses of Parliament)