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‘Inspired’ to make disciples… 


Have you noticed that discipleship is on God’s agenda? I’ve found something amazing on this topic, says Matt Wright 


Imagine this: waking up every morning knowing you are the beloved of God, and assured of his presence. Imagine spending the day walking closely with Jesus, in a conversational relationship, through thick and thin. Imagine your heart being filled, transformed and overflowing with the presence and power of his Spirit, overcoming fear and empowering every step you take. Imagine the joy of walking with Jesus, and being guided by his Spirit, as you help others encounter the boundless love of God for themselves...
Let me introduce the Inspire Movement. We’ve all read about discipleship and done the courses but Inspire do something refreshing – they put mission and discipleship together. Influenced by John Wesley’s theology, Inspire enables Christians to live a life of ‘mission-shaped discipleship’. I believe in it almost as much as I believe in the Baptist way of being the church, and that’s quite a statement!

The great news is that Inspire is ecumenical, so Baptists can experience it too! Inspire is not a Bible study, though the Bible is used. It’s not a prayer group, though people pray. It’s not a home group, though people often meet in homes. It’s not a course, programme or discussion group – it’s a way of life. The four elements to it are:  Seeking growth, using disciplines, sharing fellowship and engaging mission, each one a calling on every Christian.

How Inspire works
Inspire uses small groups of three to four, called ‘bands’ (fellowship bands) to help Christians hear God’s voice and see him working in their lives. Bands can meet once a week or as little as once a month, so long as people commit. They work well alongside or instead of house groups. Inspire provides resources to equip those want to explore bands and they are great, also they are free, and there are tonnes. It’s powerful being part of a ‘band of brothers’ (or sisters) who have ‘got your back’ and know you’ve got theirs too (bands are mostly single gender).

Meeting with two or three takes a leaf out of Jesus’s book – he had the twelve but invested most heavily in Peter, James and John. Band fellowship involves investing in a few, and they in you. The Revd Phil Meadows, the international director of Inspire, asked who are my Peter, James and John. The result is a new band, a ‘band of brothers’ in my church.
British Christians are not real enough, at least in my part of Leeds. We wear masks on a Sunday and rarely go beyond the superficial. Sound familiar? What a way to stunt our growth! Inspire helps break this down. From the off, Inspire is about relationships – with other people, but Jesus is central. It involves encouraging one another to become more like Jesus, which works because iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). After sharing and receiving from God, we are propelled into a life of mission by the encouragement and prayers of our friends, who will then ask us how things went i.e. “How was it when you talked about Jesus with your colleague last week?”
Another thing I love is the only leader is the Holy Spirit. Ministers, be encouraged! As Baptists we believe in the priesthood of all believers and every member ministry. Bands enable this. They can work online too if geography is a challenge. Bands also enable vulnerability. It’s counter cultural but there is great strength in being vulnerable (2 Corinthians 12:9). If you’re a minister I’d encourage forming a band for you, even with colleagues from other churches, for accountability and fellowship outside church.
Inspire cannot be imposed ‘top down’ on a church - bands only work if people want them. If you are hungry for more of God and want to be more fruitful, look no further. The fruit comes from choosing to invest in the process, and those with whom you can walk through life. Reflecting together on discipleship as a way of life helps us have the kind of spiritual conversation that changes our lives and the world around us from the inside out.
Inspire can bless the newest converts to Christians of many decades. Bands enable growth through prayer and testimony, sharing what we believe the Spirit is saying, and they are a safe environment to test and grow in spiritual gifts. I haven’t even mentioned that they can help develop leaders.
Inspire is the best thing I’ve ever seen for both discipleship and mission. It’s something I hope to be part of my life for years to come. It’s early days for Inspire at Lister Hill: as an eldership team we’ve been ‘in band’ for a few months and are encouraged, and other bands are forming at present on a ‘taste and see’ basis. Some unlikely folk are having a go too, who aren’t in house groups.
I don’t know where Methodism would be today if band fellowship was a major factor, but it would look very different. John Wesley was onto something, and you can experience it! Are you hungry for more of God? Do you long to see his kingdom come and will be done here on earth as it is in heaven, in your life?

Like me, do you long to grasp missional opportunities daily but need a little nudge? Be ‘Inspired’ and have a go!

Matt Wright is minister of Lister Hill Baptist Church in Leeds and author of The Roman Road and The Lonely Zebra. If you’d like to talk to him about Inspire please email matt@lhbc.org.uk

Baptist Times, 04/10/2018
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