I wasn’t sure whether to look for a church during an extended business trip to the USA at the end of July. I’m glad I did. I wanted to visit a Harvest Bible Chapel and was pleased to discover that there was one in North Miami, although it would have been more convenient geographically if the church had been located in South Miami!
I talked briefly about the blessing of worshipping with the folks at Harvest Bible Chapel Miami in a previous post. My first impression was that the service followed a simple format – one I remember from growing up in which we worshipped God through singing, prayer, a Bible reading, an offering, a sermon, and a final hymn/song. I also noted an excellence in worship, which is how it should be; we should bring our very best to God. There was no weird stuff; you know what I mean – the sort of stuff that will prompt those exploring the Christian faith to never enter a church again.
While simple, excellent, and normal/non-scary seemed to be the formula, Harvest Bible Chapel is about much more than the service format. I had a good conversation with one of the congregation after the service. He explained some of what I already knew from reading the book ‘Vertical Church.’ Harvest Bible Chapel recognises that effective evangelism can only take place through those who are truly disciples of Jesus. Too many of us take comfort in the fact that as Christians we have arrived at a place of forgiveness, but far too few of us follow Jesus in the way that the first disciples did.
The way that Jesus taught discipleship is documented for us in the Gospels. The problem is that discipleship is not just about being up there on the mountaintop. Discipleship is fraught with difficulty and danger. It means complete surrender to Jesus. It means following Jesus wherever He may take us. It means following the example of Jesus as we live out our days. It means daily dying to self and daily growing in Him. It means being quiet in His presence so that we can listen to His voice.
The above list of what being a disciple means is not exhaustive, but if we look carefully at what happened in the lives of the early disciples before Pentecost we see a journey of constant learning, and a sacrificial obedience to Jesus from the moment He said: “Follow Me.” Post Pentecost we see the change that occurred in ordinary men and women when they were filled with the Holy Spirit of God and allowed Him to direct their steps. The name Christian did not exist in those days, and the disciples and others like them were known as followers of Jesus. Why? Because the further and longer they followed the more they became like Jesus. Why would we be content to call ourselves Christians, rather than be known as followers of Jesus. And known as followers because those around us can see Jesus in us? Could it be time for Christians to put everything else down and simply follow Jesus?
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4: 18-22 NIV)