Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
The Definition of Discipleship
And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casing a net in the sea; for they were fisherman. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with hired servants, and followed Him. Mark 1: 16-20
Good morning Prayer Team!
We’ve spent several weeks introducing this topic of “Engaged: The Call to Be Disciples.” And as we have now entered the period of Great Lent, it is time to “ramp up” our discussion on discipleship. The first section of our discussion is about “Called to Be Disciples and the Awe of the Lord” and will last for the next several days. As we begin this discussion, it is helpful to go back to the definition of discipleship. Here are a few thoughts:
All of us are in a different place when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. Some of us have a solid relationship. Others perhaps hardly know Christ at all. The common denominator or everyone reading this message is that we have a desire to grow in the relationship, however solid or weak it may be at this moment.
Something else that we all have in common is that we are all called by Christ to be His disciples. When we think of the disciples, we think of Peter and Andrew, James and John, Paul, Timothy, Titus and James. However, it’s not only these Biblical figures that Jesus has called to follow and become disciples. He’s called everyone who has ever lived to be His disciples. In fact, in the 21st century, you and I all share that call.
When we study the Scriptures closely, we will come to understand that the Lord loved Andrew and Peter. He cherished His friendship with them. We will also come to find that Andrew and Peter and the others were rather ordinary people, doing rather ordinary things. Jesus did not go to the rabbinical schools to find His disciples. He went to the docks and found mediocre fishermen. He went to the tax office and found Matthew. He found Philp under a tree. And to this day, He calls all of us, from where we are, to follow Him.
The word “Disciple”, as have discussed previously, is from the Latin “Discipuli” which means “learner.” The Greek word for “disciple” is “Mathitis”. While this word also means “pupil” or “student,” it is a little broader than this—“Mathitis” refers to the mental effort needed to think something through.
The ultimate goal that Christ set for us was to go out and make Disciples of all nations. The person who makes disciples is called an “Apostle.” “Apostle” comes from the Greek “Apostello” which means to “send out.” But before one can be sent out to bring people to Christ, one has to know Christ. In other words, before one can be an Apostle, one has to be a good Disciple.
Before one can commit his or her life to Christ, one has to learn who Christ is. So, the first job of the disciple is to be a good student, to desire to learn who Christ is.
“Discipleship” refers to the process of making other disciples. This word is generally not used in Orthodox circles. Some will say that it is “Protestant” and a little off-putting. However, the “Great Commission” to make disciples of all nations extends to everyone who has ever lived. When it comes to Discipleship, this is a role we’re all called to play, a job for which we will all bear responsibility.
Unlike so many things in contemporary society that are solved with some “quick fix” becoming a “Disciple,” and hopefully later on an “Apostle”, takes time. It takes time to learn, it takes desire to grow, and it takes commitment to follow. The first step in becoming a disciple is to commit some time to learn about Jesus Christ, so that one day, the disciple is able to not only know but to tell others about what he or she knows.
We come to know Christ primarily through prayer, worship, the Scriptures and acts of service. When we start to build our lives around these things, we will begin to learn what it means to follow Christ and we’ll be on our way to becoming His disciples and later on apostles.
Let us bless the honorable disciples! They were the eye-witnesses of the incarnate Word. They shine upon the world like flashed of lightning; as spiritual giants they bring sweetness to our souls. They are rivers of paradise, flowing with living water for the refreshment of the churches. (Stichera from Vespers, Feast of Holy Apostles, June 30, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Spend time in prayer and scripture reading today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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