Practical discipleship weekend emphasises following Jesus

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Dr Kayle de Waal, Avondale Seminary head and author of Mission Shift.

Attendees of the Avondale 1:1 gathering experienced a weekend of discipleship, heard from “home grown” discipleship experts and wrestled with practical discipleship issues themselves.

A combined initiative of Avondale, SPD discipleship ministries and Signs Publishing saw the one-day One Project run over the second weekend in August with supplementary events filling out the weekend.

The Avondale 1:1 gathering had the theme of “Following Jesus” and was headlined by Dr Peter Roennfeldt, author of the discipleship book that shares the same name.

Dr Kayle de Waal, head of Avondale Seminary and author of Mission shift, also presented, finishing the conference with an impassioned call and communion service.

“The weekend was very good,” said Pastor Leigh Rice, leader of discipleship ministries (DMT) at the South Pacific Division and sponsor of the event. “[It took] discussions about faith and Jesus as the centre of the Adventist message [the core of the One Project] and connected that to how we share faith. It was very practical, a real benefit.”

DMT provided both Following Jesus and Mission Shift for all those who attended.

Dr Roennfeldt also led out in a practical Bible reading session, demonstrating how easy it is for members to open the Bible and share the experience of learning from it with someone else.

Dr Lisa Clark Diller was host and presenter for Avondale 1:1.

“This weekend was very special to me personally,” said Dr Lisa Clark Diller, host and presenter, as well as exchange lecturer at Avondale College from Southern Adventist University. “The Holy Spirit really used the theme of discipleship to convict me of several next steps that I need to take in my life and with several of my friends. I especially was stretched and blessed by the practice of praying together and the Bible reading we did at the tables in groups.”

Dr Peter Roennfeldt leads attendees through a Bible reading exercise.

Presentations were followed by round table discussions, a format that facilitated the sharing of ideas and allowed attendees to practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading.

“The organisers were outstanding at providing a mix of theory and practice so that we could be inspired and then had a chance to apply what we were learning. The diversity of disciplines, ages, perspectives and cultures was especially rich,” said Dr Clark Diller.

Dr Rice agreed. “At our table there were three generations represented. We communicated really well. The nature of the program was very applicable for the Australian context—it was great adult learning, through participation. The discussions around the table brought together a variety of different perspectives. It has the potential to be useful for discipleship training across Australia.”

The “Tell me a Story” event on Saturday evening saw a number of stories told in different mediums including prose, poetry and song. The stories told ranged from humorous to deeply touching and even disturbing.

Rwandan Australian poet, Roje Ndayambaje, for example, shared poems about his survival of the Rwandan genocide, in a poem entitled “The lie that saved my life”. 

"The weekend was deeply spiritual in nature—the focus on worship, prayer, sharing communion, the blessing that was offered."

Up and coming Adventist artist, Ashrae, opened the evening with a number of songs, accompanied by her keyboard and looping pedal.

While not overtly spiritual, the evening provided acknowledged creativity and community in a way that fit perfectly within the context of the weekend.

“The gospel is a narrative, a story that is to be told and retold. And our personal stories, too, are powerful evidences of God’s activity in our life. We need lots more storytelling in church and probably less preaching,” shared Pastor Graeme Humble, Field Secretary of the South Pacific Division on his Facebook page after attending the event.

Alina van Rensburg, young adult ministries, SQld conference, presented at the College Church 7:28 program as well as during the Sabbath and Sunday programs.

Sunday’s Just Disciples event provided practical stories of how different people at all levels of the church are connecting with others. A group from Eight Mile Plains Seventh-day Adventist church in Queensland attended, and church member Dr Rebecca Dunn presented on the church’s ministry to Iranian and Syrian refugees. At least two families have been baptised and are regularly attending as a result of intentional discipleship efforts.

“The weekend was deeply spiritual in nature—the focus on worship, prayer, sharing communion, the blessing that was offered. We connected with Christ, were challenged by the call—to bless one another to go out and make disciples,” said Dr Rice.

Dr Lindsay Morton discusses the South Pacific Division’s research project on Discipleship.