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Elder's Corner: Domestic Discipleship

Posted by Lee Ann Roeder on Aug 15, 2019

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”   Luke 10:38

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of discipleship. Actually, for the past 10 years, the Spirit has been gently nudging me down this path of discovery about how lives are transformed in Christ, through the work of His Spirit living in us. Yet, I think I have often made it too difficult for most of us to even see ourselves as disciples, let alone seriously engage in “discipleship-making” as a local church. We know Jesus’ last command to his disciples in Matthew’s gospel was to “go and make disciples,” yet we have trouble seeing ourselves in that role. Oh, sure, if we had been those original disciples who were lucky enough to follow Jesus around for three years, living in close proximity, sharing meals, laughing, crying, working, praying together, then we would know how it works! With our busy lives today, spending much of our time coming and going, busily rushing from one place to the next, we scarcely can even imagine where we might find the time to seriously become disciples ourselves, let alone go out and make disciples of others. Yet, the example Jesus leaves for us to follow in Scripture is found in just such lives as ours today: while Jesus called His followers from “regular” jobs as fishermen, carpenters, mothers, and tax collectors, it was not primarily in their professional occupations where spiritual growth and formation occurred. Their true selves were formed in the intimate encounters that became the relationships they had with Jesus Himself. And, if we as Jesus followers want to “go and do likewise,” we must discover and utilize the places and spaces in our everyday lives where intimate relationships are nurtured and strengthened. 

In her book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, author Rosaria Butterfield tells her own story of how God drew a “radical, committed unbeliever to Himself. It wasn’t by taking her to an evangelistic rally; or, since she had her doctorate in literature, using something in print. No, God used an invitation to dinner in a modest home, from a humble couple who lived out the gospel daily, simply, and authentically.” Butterworth uses her own story to encourage us to use this same “radical, ordinary hospitality” to bring the gospel to our lost friends and neighbors. In Luke’s gospel the story of Mary and Martha gives us many lessons we could extract and use to make discipleship more ethereal and geared to scholars, or to the wealthy, as the family of Lazarus, Martha and Mary seemed to be. However, what we cannot miss is that powerful testimony to what one writer has labeled “domestic spirituality.” It is this testimony that “the life of discipleship is lived with Jesus around the kitchen table and in the holy, ordinary rhythms of everyday life.” And this, dear sisters and brothers of Pilgrim, is something all of us can do, no matter our personal background, no matter our biblical knowledge, no matter our materials goods or lack thereof. The one thing it does require is courage and trust because many of us are terrified of what awaits us in these intimate spaces. What might God want to teach us and show us in that space? What if He wants to do something really profound in each and every one of us? Are we willing to walk into that path? 

At one of our first Congregational Life Committee meetings, Carol Dahoney asked us to go around the table and tell whether we self-identify as a “Mary” or a “Martha.” The overwhelming majority confessed, sadly, to identifying with Martha who, as we know all know, was chided by Jesus as being “distracted and worried about many things” while her sister Mary “had chosen what is better, and which would not be taken away from her.”  However, one writer, Tripp Prince, points out that it is easy to miss the fact that “Martha began with a bold step of faithful discipleship: she invited Jesus into the intimacy of her home. It meant that she was willing to allow Jesus into her most personal and private spaces, giving Him access to the parts of her life that she was tempted to hide and keep in the dark.” Are we willing to do the same?

Discipleship involves living authentic lives before others; it is not pretending that we have it all together. It is living in close relationship honestly that allows us to proclaim the good that God has done in our lives, and is continuing to do in our lives “until Christ be formed in us.” It is realizing that God is not simply seeing and affirming everything about us, leaving us just as we are. It most often includes God tenderly opening up the wounded places in our hearts, inviting us to bring our shame and sin into the light and allowing Him to heal and restore us. And it is leading others to do the same.

Susie Pike, elder