After many years of ministry, evangelism, church-planting and teaching in many contexts, Peter Roennfeldt’s Following Jesus draws on this experience, as well as close study of the life and ministry of Jesus. He talked with Bookshelf about his new book.
What first sparked the central idea of Following Jesus, looking at the ministry of Jesus as the model and method for disciple-making?
It was a growth process. I was fortunate to grow up in a home in which we learned the preciousness of the gospel. And I was introduced to The Desire of Ages as a biography of Jesus that follows the sequence of His life. In 1979, I first visited Israel. From sitting beside Jacob’s Well, sailing on Galilee, walking the Wadi Qelt, climbing the Mount of Olives, visiting the Temple Mount—together with sharing the gospel in thousands of homes—the realisation grew that Jesus was not only the message, He was also our example or method for disciple-making.
Walking in Israel confronts you with Jesus’ humanness. I have been there about 30 times and behind the “holy sites” is the story of Jesus: the politics, territorial jurisdictions crossed, the threats of jealous despotic rulers; the geography, culture, and religious practices of His time. In discovering Jesus’ world, favourite stories were radically revised and my view of Him was challenged, with the result that His life became the frame for evangelism and church-planting, for my disciple-making and movement thinking.
Where and how has this material already been used?
The practical methods of Jesus work in all cultures. This material has been used as the platform for major equipping events in the East Central Africa Division—Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. It has also been our frame for equipping pastors, churches and church plants in Nepal and Pakistan, throughout the Middle East and Israel, as well as across Europe. An earlier version was translated into Finnish where Following Jesus is used in groups to share faith, as well as in equipping leadership teams. It is also used extensively in the British Union. Over the past three years, it has been a pleasure to team with South Pacific Division and Union leaders conducting practical week-long training events in Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa, American Samoa and Kiribati.
Given the distinctive Adventist aspects of this study, how has Following Jesus been received in non-Adventist settings?
Disciple-making, church-planting and preparing people for God’s kingdom is a major focus for many Christians today. Jesus’ example and model attracts their attention. So I have the privilege of sharing with many Christian leaders. Distinctive Adventist insights arise naturally as we walk through the gospels. All the fundamentals are there. The feedback has been very positive, with many leaders wanting to share Following Jesus with their networks.
What still surprises you about Jesus today?
His countercultural, counterintuitive, upside-down, cruciform love and worldview. Because He is God, He became a slave and died for me, doing everything necessary for all to be in relationship with Him. And God is like Him!
How do you hope Following Jesus will be used in churches around the South Pacific Division?
I hope it will be used in small discussion groups, book clubs, and as an equipping resource for pastors and team leaders. Local church leaders, teams of pastors or leaders can share this journey. After reading and reflecting on each guide, teams could get together weekly or monthly to discuss and apply insights from Jesus’ life, ministry and movement-building to their ministry. It also provides a perfect resource for sermons and Bible teaching—exploring all 184 stories from the gospels!
Following Jesus is available from Adventist Book Centres in Australia and New Zealand. More information is available from <www.following-jesus.com>.