Rural discipleship resources
Revd Eddie Green offers his experience with an innovative approach to mutual support, encouragement & faith development across a group of rural parishes
Steps is hard to define – it isn’t a home group and it isn’t a discussion group; in a sense Steps is simply just Steps, Christians supporting each other on ‘The Way’. In the past small groups, even seasonal study groups, have struggled. Typically people managed three or four sessions out of a six week course.
Steps grew out of that context. A group of people lay and ordained, who meet together once a month as they are able and commit to a simple rhythm or rule of life. The structure of the gatherings is less important that the atmosphere, but refreshments are always enjoyed, and compline is always said at 9pm in the nearest parish church. A core group of people come every month; others drop in as they are able. The commitment to the community is not so much about meetings as the rhythm or rule we explore together. This involves three key elements: pattern, presence & pilgrimage.
You can read about this home-grown approach to rural discipleship here.
Revd Sally Gaze, author of the well-respected Mission-Shaped & Rural, gives input based on experience with rural church-planting and rural cell churches
Sally talks of: Why cell (church) is good for rural discipleship, based initially on her own experience of continuing the process of discipleship for the Alpha converts and of gently coaxing more mature Christians into lay leadership. She makes the following key points about cell as an appropriate contemporary approach to discipleship in rural contexts:
- It delivers the small church from having to be all things to all people
- It widens principled choice about how to be church
- It challenges an attendance mentality
- It helps to create & sustain (small) Christian community, which is crucial to effective faith development
- It is a natural lead in from process evangelism – helping nurture & develop new Christians in the same participative style in which they found faith
- It fits with the best of rural church – local, lay-led & small
- It fits well with the release of gifts from amongst lay people
- Networking – which cells are based on – is normal in most rural communities
You can read more in two related Country Way articles, A Rural Fresh Expression of Church and The Changing Face of (Rural) Church Planting.
Fresh Expressions and Mission-Shaped Ministry
There are growing numbers of Fresh Expressions of Church in rural contexts. Many of these take very seriously the call to make disciples, and adopt a wide variety of approaches to this.
You can find out more by visiting the Fresh Expressions and Mission-Shaped Ministry websites.
Revd Barry Osborne, from the Rural Evangelism Network, offers a few thoughts on the fundamentals of discipleship from a rural perspective
Discipleship appears to be a popular theme across the denominations at the present time. But it is understood in different ways. Some see it more as the development of a deeper personal spiritual life in terms of devotion and holiness. Others see it more as commitment expressed in activity. The question this then raises is whether discipleship in a rural context is any different to that in an urban context. The former expression of discipleship will not vary but perhaps the latter would to some extent.
To these two expressions of discipleship (devotion and action) I wish to add a third. Paul expresses the life of the church as a body made up of many members, each differing to some degree in kind or manner of operation (1 Corinthians 12). Each Christian therefore has a function to fulfil that is related to God’s personalised purpose and gifting for them. An aim of discipleship should surely be seeking to work out that particular purpose God has in calling us to himself. By implication this should be lived out both in union with fellow disciples rather than individually, and through the normality of our everyday lives rather than an alternative life.
You can read Barry’s reflections on rural discipleship in two papers, Mission and discipleship in a rural context and Discipleship in today’s rural context.
You can find out more by visiting Rural Evangelism Network and Rural Mission Solutions.