We recently visited a Kansas state lake, and as we hiked the trails my husband used an app on his smart phone to identify the various wildflowers. “I wonder what that is,” one of us would say, and David would take a picture and within seconds the app would provide the name and basic information for the yellow, pink and purple flowers that caught our eye. One plentiful plant we encountered more than once prompted a slightly different question: “I wonder what poison ivy looks like?” Thanks to the plant identifier app, we learned that the five-leafed plant was Virginia Creeper, a variety sometimes mistaken for poison ivy, which has three leaflets.
This issue of the CL addresses a question similar to the one we asked during our hike: What does a follower of Jesus look like? Our feature articles highlight the description given in Galatians 5. Here the apostle Paul says that when the Holy Spirit guides our lives, the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—will be evident in us (Galatians 5:16, 22-23, NLT). The nine attributes listed in Galatians are not an exhaustive list. According to Description of a Growing Disciple, a resource brochure published by the Canadian Conference of MB Churches, the New Testament alone alludes to over 600 behaviors and attitudes that describe a maturing Christian, and the MB Confession of Faith mentions more than a dozen of these descriptors.
Helping churches become communities that intentionally grow disciples is one of three core commitments USMB adopted six years ago as part of its national ministry vision. Discipleship is a life-long process that transforms our hearts. To quote from Description of a Growing Disciple, “Discipleship is choosing to be with Jesus in order to learn to be like him, in the power that he gives. Discipleship is responding to God’s work in our lives, with his initiative making our transformation possible.”
To help us think about how the fruit of the Spirit can be evident in our lives, we invited USMB pastors and others to reflect on one of the fruit, and six people responded to the invitation. My hope is that these essays will challenge and inspire us to embrace the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives so that we become mature disciples who bear fruit that draws others to Jesus.