One of the things I enjoy about hiking is the community. At any given time I can communicate online with others who have a passion for hiking and backpacking, get their advise, tips or trail suggestions. I’ve learned from them and they have learned from me. I’ve also had the opportunity to hike with some of my online hiking friends as well as meet new one’s while on a trail.
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I have yet to experience anything negative from the hiking community. No one puts anyone down or criticizes. We all come from different backgrounds, ages, and cultures. We all have our own journey as to why we enjoy hiking, and no one is excluded based on their journey or what past might have brought them on the journey to hike. And the community of hikers I’ve become a part of has spanned across the globe. And when someone new pops in they are welcome with open arms into the community.
“I’d rather be in the mountains thinking of God than in church thinking about the mountains.” – John Muir
At times I can relate to John Muir and this quote because there have been plenty of times I’ve thought the same thing. As a former youth pastor who has served in various roles from churches, camps and a consultant I’ve had my fair share of experiencing church community. And I have to say, many churches can take some lessons from the hiking community.
Within the hiking community it doesn’t take long to find help. Everyone is eager and excited to share what they know and pass it on to the “newbie” hikers. It’s one of the purposes of Hike By Faith, to teach and equip others to hike and backpack. To pass on what we know.
The church is responsible for teaching “newbies.” It’s called discipleship. But all too often I’m seeing new believers struggling as they hike a new trail in life trying to follow Jesus. They struggle to understand the trail map (God’s Word) because they don’t have anyone guiding them through it. When they trip and fall no one is there to pick them up, bandage their wounds and get them moving forward again (encouragement). At times they are left on the trail alone with no direction hiking blindly through a haze of doubt and fear (accountability). And they struggle to stay in communication with the trail boss (Jesus).
Why? Why is discipleship lacking in many churches today? There are various reasons but in my opinion it’s because the church has become too busy. Pastors are over scheduled. But I also think it’s because we, the church family, have become too busy or we think it’s not our responsibility; “it’s why we hired the pastor and teaching staff.”
As a community of believers, the church, we are ALL responsible for discipling newbies. The following verses reminds us of our role in helping newbies grow into mature believers.
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-15
Remember, life is a journey we hike by faith and as a believer you didn’t get where you are alone. You had someone come alongside you and guide you along the trail and hopefully you still do. We’re all hiking the same trail that leads to Jesus. Don’t leave newbies behind. Take an active role in their life, disciple them into mature believers. As my friend Greg Stier says and has taught me; “We’re disciples who should be making disciples who make disciples.”