For Marína Russell, leading people from poorer communities in discipleship is about friendship.
For many people I spend time with, discipleship is about building relationships, prayer and listening and responding to their needs. The long-term aim is always to bring people into a closer relationship with God.
English may not be a first language – and you'd be surprised how many people struggle with reading and writing – so I tend not to lead with a Bible study approach.
I often wonder, if you’ve just done a week at school, or if school was not your thing, where would you be emotionally with another study.
Instead, the starting point is friendship, bringing people into a circle of supportive friends. Often conversations at ‘Little Lambs’, our parents’ and toddlers’ group leads to other things: encouraging, teaching and praying for one another. That, I find, is a less intrusive way to walk alongside people.
Listening And Responding
My approach to discipleship is to meet with small groups of women. Some are new Christians and they may invite friends, or sometimes people invite themselves.
Recently I started taking a group of three women through the Catechism. All have made a confession of faith.
We’d start with asking ‘how was your week?’ There would often be so much to talk and pray about, and so many things to debunk that we’d not get around to the content of the course.
It happened quite a few times, and I sensed the women were feeling bad that the burdens they’d brought with them got in the way of doing the course.
Once it was apparent that there was a lot of pain to work through, I sat down with them and talked about it, and we agreed together to do the Trauma Healing course and come back to the Catechism later.
You could feel relief and see it in their faces. All the women struggled with trust issues and found it really beneficial.
Once we had dealt with those things they were ready to listen and discuss and move forwards.
Especially today, people have kicked God to one side, and one of the consequences is that they are isolated. In tough times all they can see is their own pain.
It’s not possible to just say to people who are in pain, ‘Jesus loves you!’ because their question is: how can he love me when I’m going through all of this?
Now we’ve finished the Catechism and we are looking at the book of Judges, tracking the sermons of our church.
One woman would never pray publicly. She prayed on her own, but never in front of others. Now she’s able to do that.
Where abstract study is intimidating, practical experience and action is all the more valuable.
A study-led approach might lead from the Bible to application. We start at another place, going from lived experience to see how it is reflected in the Bible.
Inspired by the film The War Room, I bought a notebook and started writing down all my prayers, then I highlighted with a green pen every time prayers were answered.
What surprised me was how quickly prayers were answered. It Reminds my soul that he is answering prayers. Now most of the book is covered in green ink.
I took it to the group and now we write down our prayers together. That really engaged them. It’s a journey I have been on, and now am taking them with me.
That speaks so powerfully. Now we’ve been through that and seen together how God is at work in our lives.