What an Avondale alumnus learned about following Jesus by walking in His footsteps
Dr Peter Roennfeldt drew on his ministry, evangelism, church-planting and teaching experience, much of it across cultures, to write his new book. But his close study of the life and ministry of Jesus may have influenced him even more. He talked with Signs Publishing Book Editor Nathan Brown about Following Jesus.
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.
How has visiting Israel affected your understanding of Jesus and His ministry?
Walking in Israel confronts you with Jesus’ humanness. I’ve 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. His life became the frame for evangelism and church-planting, for my disciple-making and movement thinking.
Where and how has the content in Following Jesus already been used?
The practical methods of Jesus work in all cultures. This content has been used as the platform for major training events in east central Africa—Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi. It’s also been my 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 of the book was translated into Finnish where Following Jesus is used in groups to share faith, as well as in equipping leadership teams. It’s also used extensively in Britain. Over the past three years, it has been a pleasure to work with leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific running practical weeklong 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. 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 positive, with many leaders wanting to share Following Jesus with those in their networks.
What still surprises you about Jesus?
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 across the South Pacific?
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!
Learn how to become a disciple of Jesus
Dr Peter Roennfeldt’s book Following Jesus is available from Adventist Book Centres in Australia and New Zealand. Visit the website for more information and to access the “Following Jesus” video clips that support the study guides in the book.LEARN MORE
the One project: Avondale 1:1
Dr Peter Roennfeldt is one of the speakers at the One project Avondale 1:1 on August 12. This focused one-day gathering explores what it meant and what it means to follow Jesus. Reflection sessions will revisit the story of Jesus and discover how His disciple-making shapes our life and mission as His disciples now. Recalibration sessions and a response session will help participants apply the messages to their lives by encouraging conversation through discussion and questions. Gathering limited to the first 150 people who register. Register by May 26 and receive free entry to two post-gathering events: Tell Me A Story and Just Disciples.REGISTER!