Discipleship is really pretty simple, says Brian Clark, organizing pastor of a successful new church development outside Washington, D.C.
“Discipleship is about following Jesus – nothing more, nothing less,” Clark said Tuesday at the Evangelism and Church Growth Disciple Making Breakfast at the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“It’s not about following a program about discipleship. By the time we get to that Jesus has moved on,” he said.
Then Clark, pastor of Riverside Presbyterian Church/Iglesia Presbiteriana in Sterling, Virginia, told a story about “going with Jesus” into the culture.
His office is in a coffee shop, where he spends at least an hour a day. One morning he was reading when a woman interrupted him. “You know I hate it when people bother me when I’m doing ministry,” Clark quipped.
“I see you’re reading,” the woman began, “You know I come here often.”
At that point Clark had a decision to make. Looking up, meeting her eyes, gave the woman permission to tell him more of her story: her 29-year old son had killed himself recently.
“He was a barista here,” she said. Clark says he prays for the woman now.
“I let her know I see her, when she comes into the coffee shop," he said. "What if I hadn’t taken the time to engage with her because it was an inconvenience to me?”
The experiences of meeting people – building relationships with those outside of the church – have been instructive for Clark.
“Being a witness is not something we do,” he said, “it’s what we are.”
“In the New Testament, Jesus is always inviting someone to inevitable change,” he said, referencing a Dietrich Bonhoffer quote. “So invite your people into something where there is no going back.”
“As Martin Luther said, ‘Discipleship isn’t limited to what you can comprehend, it must transcend all comprehension. Bewilderment is true comprehension, not knowing where you are going is true knowledge.’”