The philosophy underpinning Maize Plant Discipleship incorporates three essential elements:
- A radical conception (definition, formulation) of messianic discipleship;
- The establishment of discipling movements
- The reality of anointed communities expressing the heart of discipleship.
The life of the Messiah is reproduced in his people through a dynamic, generational process empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Paul writes to his disciple, Timothy:
Follow the pattern of the sound teachings you have heard from me, with trust and the love which is yours in the Messiah Yeshua. Keep safe the great treasure that has been entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us… Be empowered by the grace that comes from the Messiah Yeshua. And the things you heard from me, which were supported by many witnesses, these commit to faithful people, such as will be competent to teach others ( 2 Timothy 1:13–2:2)
This passage of Scriptures reveals three key components of messianic discipleship:
- The great treasure of knowing the Messiah, Jesus.
A personal, experiential knowledge of the Messiah is more than human knowledge or philosophy. It is a great treasure, a divine relationship, founded on sound teaching, trust and love.
- The vitality of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit provides an intimate source of divine help to messianic disciples. The Spirit mediates the power of the Gospel. He safeguards the presence of the Messiah amongst his people.
- The necessity of generational formation.
Paul imparts the reality of the Messiah to his disciple, Timothy. He instructs him to keep this treasure safe by passing it on to competent, faithful people. This is generational formation in action.
Generational, messianic discipleship is how treasure is kept safe in the kingdom of God. The metaphor of seed and harvest illustrates this principle.
Seed and harvest
The sacrificial, disciplined giving of ourselves is like sowing precious seed into the ground. Instead of consuming it as food, seed is “sacrificed” for the sake of a future harvest.
In agricultural contexts, seeds are a form of wealth. They are a type of treasure. Yet seed is generally stored for only a short time before it is used. Whatever is not required for food—for daily bread—must be sown to produce another harvest.
In a similar way, God supplies spiritual life to us. This is what Paul refers to as the treasure of knowing the Messiah. Experiencing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Becoming alive to God’s presence. This is the spiritual equivalent of receiving daily bread.
Yet this personal aspect of knowing the Messiah is not the whole purpose of our relationship with him. God calls the Messianic Community to him in order for us to become his servant community. He asks us to give our lives to serving his purposes. This requires genuine sacrifice and discipline — which is what it means to be a disciple.
Only in sacrificially sharing our spiritual treasure do we discover and realise our vocation. And then, in due time, we reap a harvest of faithfulness.
Discipline and sacrifice are amongst the most significant secrets to living a messianic life. They are secrets that many people hardly discover at all. Let alone realise as life-giving principles.
Yet the illustration of seed demonstrates that there is no other way to a rich harvest. Keeping our knowledge of and communion with God to ourselves is not an option. We must share this treasure both within and beyond our own communities.
Even so, we should never waste our spiritual treasure by casting it carelessly away. Although some seed inevitably falls upon unreceptive ground, a farmer never intentionally wastes seed. Likewise, spiritual treasure is precious. We should beware of squandering it on “poor soil.” Our greatest investment should be in those who recognise the worth of this treasure. They do this when they make room for its transformative power.
People who treasure the seed that is the Word of God are those whom Jesus refers to as good soil (Matthew 13:1–23). They are those who hear the message and understand it. They go on to produce a harvest, thirty, sixty or a hundred times what was sown.
Faithful disciples, transformed through a personal knowledge and experience of the Messiah, sharing their treasure with other faithful people, who share it with other faithful people and so on and so on. Each person’s faithfulness contributing momentum to a movement of messianic discipleship.
Historically, the dynamism of messianic communities is directly linked to their functioning as a generational discipling movement. A movement that spreads across social, ethnic, linguistic, geographical and cultural boundaries.
The formation of faithful disciples was at the heart of Jesus’ life and work. Today, two millennia of history bears testimony to the significance of this strategy. His once-tiny group of disciples has spawned a worldwide movement of messianic people.
This community has developed far beyond its origins as an obscure Jewish sect. Today it is an international, inter-cultural, multi-ethnic community. A Messianic Community existing, in some form or another, in every part of the world. As it has spread, its message and way of living has impacted innumerable peoples and cultures.
The book of Acts testifies to the dynamic growth of the early messianic movement. From its beginnings in Jerusalem, it expands rapidly across the ancient world. From Israel, into Asia Minor, across Greece and finally to Rome, the seat of imperial power.
Loss of generational momentum
History demonstrates that momentum cannot be passively assumed: it must be actively maintained.
Many messianic movements began well, yet are now only historical footnotes. Some have been obliterated by fatal levels of persecution. Others continue institutionally, yet without any sense of spiritual renewal. They lack generational momentum and they lack confidence to challenge cultural and social idols.
In such cases, the church has ceased to be a movement. Invariably, it has ceased making disciples. Empty traditions have taken the place of a living, reproducing body of people. It may remain dogmatic about its creeds. Yet it no longer exhibits an authentic zeal to serve God’s purpose amongst the nations. It has ceased persuading either itself or others to forsake human idols and wholeheartedly follow the Messiah.
Establishing generational momentum
Visionary, generational discipleship must be at the heart of spirituality and practical activity. Disciples must be invited, formed and sent forth as part of a world-facing movement.
Establishing the momentum of generational discipleship requires constant visionary vigilance. It calls for a persistent dedication to missional, personal, communal, social and cultural transformation. A critical engagement with society combined with the call to turn towards the living God.
This requires more than the maintenance of congregational activity. It requires more than learning to care for one another, within local communities. It requires a practical and spiritual preparation of disciples equipped to serve God’s purposes. Equipped to work amongst a world of oppressed, pained, fearful, idol-bound populations.
Such a reality begins by gripping people’s hearts with a vision of faithfulness towards God. A faithfulness that leads to missional and ultimately social and cultural renewal. To the transformation of individuals, families, marriages, partnerships, communities, organisations, structures, workplaces and working practices. Especially where there is systemic injustice.
This kind of transformation is only possible through the formation of faithful, persistent disciples. Disciples committed to living and working interdependently with one another. Disciples active in forming other, faithful disciples.
The messianic community is a charismatic people. Disciples called into covenant relationship with the Father. United with the Son. Sent into the world. To bless the nations. In the power of the Spirit.
To make possible this high calling, messianic discipleship provides a unique ingredient. One that no other philosophy, ideology or faith provides. The dynamic of the indwelling Spirit of the Messiah.
Through the Spirit, the covenant community is transformed into a charismatic community. A group of people endowed with spiritual gifts profoundly shaped to liberate human beings from idolatry and the allegiances and falsehoods that compete against the knowledge of God.
This charismatic community is brought under God’s authority by being baptised into the Messiah. Through its baptism in the Spirit, it is anointed with the fragrant presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a body learning to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Learning to exercise its God-appointed role, under the direction of the Spirit of God.
Dying to live
God’s intention is that this messianic, charismatic, covenant community co-works in partnership with him. Using the strength, the power, the spiritual life, the anointing that he provides.
Too often, the power of the anointed-life-of-Christ-within seems to elude us. It seems out of our reach. Beyond our grasp. Indeed, it is not something to be grasped at all. The only pathway to anointed, messianic life is through dying. Yielding ourselves to God the Father, through unity with the Messiah, by the power of the Spirit. That is the message of the cross. As we die to self, we become alive to God.
The heart of discipleship
As we embrace a practical form of discipleship, dying daily to ourselves, we become alive to God. We are equipped to serve his eternal purpose. That is the heart of Maize Plant Discipleship.
Thus we end as we began. With the foundational principle of transformative discipleship. The seed sown into the ground to produce a rich harvest.
I tell you that unless a grain of wheat that falls to the ground dies, it stays just a grain. But if it dies, it produces a big harvest.
This life-giving spiritual reality represents the heart of Jesus’ life, mission, ministry and death. And this same principle forms the foundation and wellspring of Maize Plant Discipleship.