Jesus says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As we seek to develop world-changers in our ministry, we must trust in Jesus, the vine, to produce fruit through our lives.
Many of you know that this year, InterVarsity began a new five-year strategic plan. One thing I love about the plan is that it came out of listening to God in community. Just over two years ago, senior leaders from across InterVarsity gathered to seek God and strategize for the next plan: where was he leading us from 2012-2017? God met us in that meeting, bringing a deep sense of unity around four initiatives and three integrative themes. The newest initiative in our plan is to Strengthen Discipleship in Breadth and Depth. So why is a discipleship initiative important for InterVarsity?
One reason the initiative is important is specifically because we have become more productive in recent years—thanks be to God, we have seen substantial growth in evangelism, chapter planting and overall students involved in our ministry! In the imagery in John 15, we are branches designed by God to produce such wonderful fruit. Our human temptation is to focus on the fruit itself, when our call is to deepen our focus on Jesus the vine: to abide in him. The vision to broaden and deepen discipleship in InterVarsity begins with us, the staff, faculty and student leaders. As disciples, we are invited to follow Jesus more closely and fully even (and perhaps especially) as we bear great fruit in ministry.
- How are you doing in your journey of abiding in Jesus? He longs for you to produce great fruit by abiding in him.
Another reason the discipleship initiative is crucial is because world-changers need to multiply. The early church quickly expanded across the known world by making disciples who made disciples. As we preach the gospel, we are called to help each new disciple to discern her or his vocation and embrace it. As they live out their calling, disciples are all called to reach others with the gospel and nurture those others into growing disciples who also make disciples of Jesus. We long to see our staff, faculty and students become fluent in the best processes of disciple-making.
- How are you growing as a disciple who makes disciples?
Finally, the discipleship initiative is critical for us specifically because it is one of our historic strengths. InterVarsity has always been good at forming students and faculty through engagement with the Word, with spiritual disciplines and with mission to others. Because these have been our strengths, the quality of our work in these areas needs extra attention. For example, one of the gifts of InterVarsity is Bible study; we are people of the Book! But how are we really doing in that area, and how can we improve? The discipleship initiative gives us a chance to study how well we are doing in Scripture engagement among faculty, staff and students. Through this study, we hope to launch strategies to improve our work in inductive Bible study, Bible teaching and theological formation. Through the initiative, we also hope to improve our work in other areas of discipleship including devotional life, sexuality and relational health, cross-cultural engagement and vocational discipleship.
- What are areas of strength for you that God may be inviting you to continue developing?
Please pray for the discipleship steering committee as we endeavor to be a community of growing disciples working to broaden and deepen discipleship in InterVarsity!
Pictured above is the Discipleship Steering Committee (left to right): Kim Winkleman, Lindsay Olesberg, Lynn Gill, Jason Jensen, Scott Bessenecker, Al Hsu, Jon Huerta Ball, Paula Fuller.