Colin Stephen – Shkoder, Albania
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus is declaring that He has all authority in heaven and earth, and he sends out His followers to disciple new believers. There is no command here to evangelise. It is as though it is assumed that as He Himself will build His church, we will have those that profess faith and must be discipled.
Looking back on my upbringing in church and in a Christian family, unfortunately the method of discipleship was “sit in church and listen to the teaching”. We had many church meetings, but it was just assumed that I understood and had no questions or need for care and nurturing in my faith. I am thankful to the Lord that in my early 20’s a friend became a Christian and asked that we do bible studies together. We sat down and struggled through Romans. But he was a friend who was with me, encouraging me, together asking and answering questions about God’s word. We both grew in our faith.
As a church we are trying to implement a discipleship program that will see all new believers individually discipled. We are asking those that request baptism to follow a discipleship program. It is good to see a number being discipled regularly and growing in their faith.
Elida has been discipling a group of 8 girls (15-19 years old) for 4 years and some have now started university. We are pleased they are all still in our town of Shkoder and trust that as they learn and grow, they will commit to identifying with Christ and full commitment to Him. None in her group are as yet is baptised.
We have a number of weekends away and lunches with our youth who have been baptised, trying to encourage them to be more involved in church and serving and sharing. We are thankful that they have committed to serving in a youth camp we hope to organise for August 2022. This will mean training and building them up to serve, through witnessing, teaching, and leading small groups – something they have been part of, but never led themselves.
It would be far simpler just to use some of our own (older) Christians who already serve, teach and minister – but our youth will never learn unless we give them teaching, care, nurture and opportunities to serve.
Discipleship is a marathon, it is not a sprint. It is a call to give, to spend time, to pray for, and at times to see little (if any) growth. But given time and soaked in prayer, true long lasting fruit will be seen. It is something I wish I had received at a younger age, and one I think we have overlooked and at times wasted our opportunities in the church here in Shkoder. Therefore the desire to return to the call of our Lord Jesus – to make disciples – is one we want to commit to and encourage in the church here.