I was going to write an article about the underlying theory of our new Christian Education program called Akaloo (which comes from the Greek word, akolutheo, “to follow”). But I found that the introductory paragraphs from the Akaloo Guidebook did a pretty good job of laying it out for us, so I’m going to let it speak for itself. I hope that you will respond in some new way to Jesus’ call to follow him here at Bethlehem. In the months ahead we will be focusing on what it means to be a follower of Jesus and I invite you, whatever your age or experience, to become a disciple of Jesus (from the Latin word discipulus, “student”). Learn about him and from him. To aid in this, we will be offering several different educational experiences: “The Catechumenate” for those new to faith or wanting to go back to the basics, “Discipleship” for those who want to move beyond the basics into a deeper life of faith, and “Club Akaloo” for kids and teens in kindergarten through 8th grade (see the schedule elsewhere in this newsletter). I hope you will come and join us.
The Theology of Akaloo (from the Akaloo Guidebook, pg 6-7)
“It is well-known that Christ consistently used the expression ‘follower.’ He never asks for admirers, worshipers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.” Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard’s claim has a deep rooted biblical basis: Jesus came across two fishers casting their nets from the seashore, two ordinary people doing their ordinary jobs, and he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). That simple invitation—or, rather, the person who issued it—would change those fishers’ lives forever. With a few words they became disciples of Jesus Christ. Not admirers (though they surely admired him) and not adherents (though they surely agreed with his teachings), but followers. And a follower is something altogether different.
Whatever the disciples eventually became and however they lived out the rest of their days (they all grew into zealous spreaders of the gospel, many of them martyred for its sake) they owe to the fact that Jesus chose them to be his disciples. Walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus strolled into their everyday surroundings as they went about their everyday work and called them to follow him.
It’s noteworthy that Jesus’ disciples struggled mightily with the task of following him. In fact, they were often lousy at it. They peppered Jesus constantly with questions (often trivial ones), they bickered with one another about which of them was the best, they panicked when the seas rose around them, and in the end they abandoned him and hid like cowards. It seems that whatever of Jesus’ attributes the disciples acquired through all of this, they only did so not by studiously listening to his words or emulating his actions, but through the good fortune of close proximity to him. They didn’t become his disciples through their own effort or will, but simply by experiencing Jesus first hand. They were present when he healed the lame, fed the hungry, and raised the dead. Those experiences could make a disciple out of anyone.
Jesus’ invitation—“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Matthew 4:19)—is an invitation to become an inviter. In fact, the Great Commission is a self-replicating invitation, an invitation to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples, and so on (and luckily so, or there’d have been no Christians beyond the original 12). While the life of discipleship is driven by the disciplines of faith—prayer, service, obedience, worship, study, and stewardship—the one that often gets short shrift is inviting others to join the circle.
Discipleship’s ultimate objective is to bring newcomers into the important conversations, to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ to our neighbor and say, “Come, follow him with me.” The call to discipleship is the act of sinful, imperfect beings inviting other sinful, imperfect beings, not to become perfect or sinless, but to follow the one who is. Discipleship means to gather in as close proximity to Jesus as we can as often as we can and experience him, the Word of God made flesh in all his healing, feeding, resurrecting glory, until he comes again.