I began writing this blog for people in my congregation who had gone through the Apprentice of Jesus program under my leadership. Other readers, of course, have joined along the way. I always attempt to shine the light on the transformation that is possible when a person takes the words and actions of Jesus seriously and is focused on letting the Jesus within shine in the world around them.
This morning I met with two women who have just discovered the Apprentice Series of books by James Bryan Smith and are passionate about bring this fresh look at the life and work of Jesus to their church. I asked Cathy, someone who co-led this journey of discipleship with me for years, to come to the meeting. Both Cathy and I have left the program; I retired and she is now serving another church. I can speak for both of us when I say that this meeting was the most fun we have had in a long time.
While explaining Apprentice to these women, I couldn’t help but bring up example after example of how people’s lives changed when they personally met the real Jesus, understood who God really is, and really allowed the Holy Spirit to do the work of transformation in their hearts – and when they held themselves accountable to an authentic community of Christ-followers. I saw the yearning in the eyes of these two women for that kind relationship with Christ and with fellow Christians. We shared tears over the deadness and apathy in our churches. We rejoiced about the profound difference that learning to live as apprentices of Jesus every day can make. We planned how they could confront the apathy and bring life and joy to their church through Apprentice
As I reflected on this meeting, I was reminded of what I have learned this summer about apprentices. Apprentices of Jesus are free! They are not bound by strict legalistic theology or by denominational rules. They have left behind false narratives about God and the church. They are reading and discussing materials that would have seemed dry and even heretical before. They don’t care how they are viewed by judgmental “Christians.” They are joined together by the affirmation that “Jesus is Lord.” They want to experience a church that is alive and pulsing with the Spirit of Jesus.
They are so like the disciples in the book of Acts trying to work out how to live now that they have Jesus in their hearts instead of in their presence. If you haven’t read Acts for a while, read the book again with the mindset of a person who has lost his best friend as well as his Savior and is terrified of the repercussions he may face at the
hands of the religious leaders and the Roman government. You should be clapping and rejoicing about their faith and their bravery. The early disciples were released from fear, anxiety, jealousy, anger, vainglory – they found freedom in the safety of the Kingdom of God. And disciples in 2015 can find that same freedom.
I read this quote by Richard Rohr recently and it struck me as a good definition of how an Apprentice of Jesus approaches the life of faith:
“Faith is agreeing to live without full resolution. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures make that very clear. We are often called to walk in darkness, where God leads us to that next step which is usually not clear, predictable, or controllable by the rational mind” (in a daily meditation for August 16, 2015).
Giving up predictability and control is the journey of a disciple of Jesus, as is freedom to live without “full resolution.” I pray for this freedom for all of you.