Discipleship Transforming the World: A Coptic Orthodox Perspective

By Tawfik, Wedad A. | International Review of Mission, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Discipleship Transforming the World: A Coptic Orthodox Perspective


Tawfik, Wedad A., International Review of Mission


"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing... teaching them" (Matt. 28: 19) 

Discipleship is the core of Christianity practised by the church since the Pentecost in fulfilment of the Lord's command to his disciples after his glorious resurrection. The Lord linked it with baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and with teaching his commandments.

A disciple in Christianity is a follower of Christ, who upholds his teaching, walks in his way, witnesses to him, and teaches others about him. A disciple witnesses to Christ the Saviour, the Redeemer, the lover of humankind, the compassionate, who wants salvation for everybody. For this purpose mainly he incarnated and shed his own precious blood for them.

Discipleship needs the work of the Holy Spirit within those in charge of teaching and evangelizing. As His Holiness late Pope Shenouda III says,

It was the Holy Spirit who gave the power necessary for evangelizing ... Without Him the apostles would not have been able to work... He calls and chooses and sends... Before the Lord's Ascension He commanded his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they receive power on high, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1: 8)... Therefore to be filled with the Holy Spirit became a precondition for all church ministers. (1) 

The Holy Spirit gives understanding, transforms, gives heavenly wisdom, and gives gifts for ministry. He alone teaches and guides: "Nobody can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3) and "No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus Accursed" (1 Cor. 12:3). He teaches us what to say: "For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you" (Matt. 10:20). On the contrary, relying only on the human mind and knowledge of books without seeking the Spirit may bring about words of human wisdom that cannot yield the required fruit. He is a fiery Spirit that inflames the minister. With one sermon St Peter, inflamed with the Holy Spirit, attracted three thousand to faith. With this Spirit the church can transform the whole world and bring it to the knowledge of the truth.

Discipleship is privilege and responsibility, and the call is for everyone. God wants that all people be saved, and the only way he set for salvation is through the church. This is realized by accepting faith and accepting the redemption of Christ.

Following the way he drew for us enables us to enjoy the deserts of his blood which he shed for us. Thus in the early days of the church, "The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47) As H. H. Pope Shenouda III says, "The world is full of numerous missions, but the greatest of them is working for the salvation of people." (2)

The role of the church toward making disciples of all nations

Since its foundation, the church kept preaching the good news all over the world. The early church fathers knew well the message and fulfilled it diligently and faithfully, which fruit we enjoy at present. Without their and their successors' efforts there would have been no Christianity in the world today. The mission continued, and will continue unto the end of ages, when as announced by the seventh angel in the Revelation, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Rev. 11:15). Therefore, it is our role to give this knowledge to everybody so that all people may believe and be saved.

This may be possible at certain times and in certain places, but at other times or in other places this might be difficult, and the disciples have to suffer for carrying out the holy mission. In these present days in particular it is so difficult, if not impossible in certain places, to speak about Christ or about God because of the increasing tendency toward atheism, denial of the existence of God, or denial of Christ as Saviour and Redeemer. …

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