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Discipleship Despite Distance

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Looking for some practical ways to build your hope and spur you on in love and good deeds? Here are some ideas to grow in discipleship together, even while we’re apart.

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Recapture home as a spiritual space

For many Australians, the usual ways of gathering as church communities have changed. Whether we’re streaming services online, or not yet able to share a cuppa and shake hands after the service, the spiritual rhythms we’re familiar with have been interrupted. As Andrew Gardener (p X) shares, we’re reminded at this time not to rely solely on the church for our personal growth, but have the opportunity to take responsibility for the flourishing of our spiritual lives. Spending more time at home is also a great opportunity to take stock of habits around consumption, waste and care for creation. This is a spiritual practice too, as God has called us to be good stewards of all that he has made.

  • Incorporate a new spiritual discipline into your daily routine. Richard Foster’s ‘Celebration of Discipline’ outlines many classical disciplines to explore.
  • Nurture your home as a spiritual space through family prayer or devotional times.
  • Over a week, notice what you’re throwing away, and consider sustainable alternatives like reusables or composting. Watch Jonathan Cornford’s ‘Home Truths’ talk, exploring how we can integrate faithful stewardship and household management.
  • Work through TEAR’s ‘Less Plastic More Life’ resource with your household, or with a group of friends (over digital technology if you can’t meet!).

Diversify the voices you’re hearing

If you’re finding yourself with more time on your hands, be intentional about what – or who – is filling that time. Theologian Willie James Jennings says, ‘The crucial matter today for Christian discipleship is not what you practice but who you practice with… Whose stories, voices, wisdom, authority guidance are missing when we gather? Who is not present in giving shape to our prayers and praise, our advocacy and proclamation?’ As you reach for a new book or podcast series to get stuck into, here are some suggestions that feature a wide range of faithful voices from different ethnicities and experiences:

  • The Justice Conference Australia podcast
  • Voices of the Global Church podcast
  • ‘Healing our Broken Humanity’ by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill
  • ‘The Very Good Gospel’ by Lisa Sharon Harper
  • ‘I’m still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness’ by Austin Channing Brown
  • ‘Archbishop Romero: Memories and Reflections’ (biography of Latin American Archbishop Oscar Romero, known for his sacrificial faith and social activism) by Jon Sobrino.
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Love your neighbours – near and far

‘Restriction’, ‘distancing’ and ‘lockdown’ have become part of our everyday language, and still for many Australians, our everyday experience. While it can feel like we are held back from reaching out to others, as disciples of Jesus we can take our inspiration from Hebrews 10:24-25: ‘Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on.’ (The Message). As our world faces a crisis together, there are also unique opportunities for us to love our global neighbours through prayer and action.

  • Connect with your next door neighbours. Drop off some baking or a meal, or start a Whatsapp group with your street to share needs or offers of help.
  • Use digital technology to gather with a small group around a study guide or a book. Make a point of including a diversity of people or those who might be struggling with isolation.
  • Commit to praying for the nations most impacted by COVID-19, especially those facing multiple crises like underlying poverty and injustice. Here are some prayer points to get started.
  • Take action with the End COVID For All campaign.
  • Make a gift to support the work of TEAR’s partners as they serve communities suffering from the impacts of COVID-19.

Melody Murton is the Content Lead for TEAR Australia.