by Rev Jason Phua
Readings: Acts 15:1-35; Proverbs 10:6-7
READ (Verse chosen for meditation)
Acts 15:19-20 “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”
The apostles and elders of the early church rightly judged that they should not lay unnecessary burdens on Gentiles who turned to the Lord Jesus. However, they did lay down some issues which the Gentiles should pay attention to namely (1) abstain from anything that has to do with idol worship (2) abstain from blood and animals which had been strangled and (3) abstain from sexual immorality. Why were these three issues raised? How about other issues? These three issues were raised because these were the primary temptations which many Gentile believers struggle with, even after conversion. Many grew up in cultures where these three issues were considered the “norm”. Hence, as a form of pastoral concern and advice, Gentile believers were told to watch out in particular of these things. In other words, they were discipled in relation to their cultural context.
In reflection, how am I following up with new believers? Do I provide pastoral care and advice to what they have been struggling with the most prior to their conversion? Or do I disciple them blindly with a “fixed” program? Today’s reading reminded me that “contextual” discipleship is important. As a church, we need to be diligent at journeying with persons as persons; and not be too engrossed with mass based programs or events. Having been in ministry for some time, I begin to appreciate one-to-one discipleship more and more. It is hard work; but I believe this is the way to go. Over the years, I thought that many churches in Singapore had given up so much of such wonderful endeavours (relational discipleship / mentoring) and trade them off for programs that seemed “cool” but often do not yield long lasting fruits. One-to-one discipleship should not just take place in the church, but more importantly, at home and where possible in the workplace as well. Only then, can we help persons as persons to be rooted in the biblical community and thrive to be salt and light in this world.
Lord, help us not to shun more difficult ways of mentoring and discipling Your people. Empower us to care for and mentor Your people as the apostles and elders of the early church had done so. Amen.