Discipleship lessons

Vantage Point: What maple tree seedpods tell us about being intentional disciple-makers

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“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go (pursue or continue on one’s journey) therefore (since this is true) and make disciples (adherents of knowledge and practice) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,’” Matt. 28:18-20 (NRSV), with additions from Strong’s Greek Lexicon.

What do we mean in our USMB vision statement by “intentional discipleship”?

We have two intentional disciple-making Deborah Maple trees in our front yard. The Deborah is a species variant of a Norway maple tree noted for its spring leaves which begin as a deep maroon but turn green in the summer before showing off a yellow fall foliage. Annually they produce the annoying helicopter-like seedpods by the billions. Incredibly, each seedpod contains the exact DNA capable of producing another Deborah maple tree. They are making disciples!

Each of our Deborah trees are constantly changing and adapting. Underground, their unique root systems go wherever they need to go to receive nutrients. If they are blocked or cut, the roots will grow around the obstruction. Above ground there are some outward differences in appearance, because when a branch breaks or is pruned, it restructures to fill the void with new growth.

The trees remind me of Jesus in Luke 9:51: “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (NIV).

Resolutely—undeterred, single focused, tenacious, sacrificial, intentional.

Our focus as a denomination is to empower local churches (groves of trees) to reach their full God given (disciple-making) ministry potential within the framework of our Evangelical Anabaptist distinctives, like a Deborah Maple.

With over 200 churches reaching multiple demographics, we have thousands of individuals in relationships with millions, daily carrying the transformational relationship of Jesus Christ. In network, we can carry one another’s burdens, strategize resources, discern teaching, glean best practices, develop leaders, encourage and celebrate!

This was Peter’s vision as well: “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Peter 1:1-8 (NIV).

Let the helicopters fly!

Rick Eshbaugh
Rick Eshbaugh serves with his wife, Esther, as the Central District Conference minister and represents the CDC on the USMB Board of Faith and Life, Leadership Board and National Strategy Team as well as the Tabor College Board of Directors. Eshbaugh is a 1985 graduate of MB Biblical Seminary, now Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, and has served as a USMB pastor in Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington, Oregon and North Dakota. He also worked for several years with Church Resource Ministries as part of the national reFocusing team.

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