Launch of discipleship book the beginning of a new chapter of Acts
A new discipleship book encouraging readers to transform church honours three “innovative” leaders who “cultivated creative thinking” in the ministry of an Avondale alumnus.
While Dr Peter Roennfeldt’s Following Jesus: Disciple-making and Movement-building explores Jesus’ disciple-making on earth, as reflected in the Gospels, Following the Spirit: Disciple-making, Church-planting and Movement-building Today explores His movement-building from heaven through His disciples on earth, as reflected in Acts.
The publication of the books is supported by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific’s Discipleship Ministries Team. This has helped ensure wide appreciation for and application of Following Jesus, but the book is popular because of its practical focus on the life and ministry of Jesus. “He is so strategic in training disciples who became leaders who change the world,” said President Pr Glenn Townend during the launch (February 7) of Following the Spirit at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia’s Empower Ministerial Convention. “Following the Spirit focuses on the next phase, where Jesus clears the way for the Holy Spirit to come and work with these disciples.”
Reading about how these disciples connected with those in their community and planted churches in their homes “is the kind of thing we are looking for today,” said Pr Nick Kross, the Adventist Youth Ministries liaison on the Discipleship Ministries Team. “The Adventist Church began with passionate people wrestling all night with Scripture. But somehow, over the past 160 or so years, some of us have lost that passion. We slid back into a comfortable church-attendance-and-membership mode and that’s not what Jesus is looking for, that’s not what we’re looking for. What we’re looking for are people prepared to invest their life in being a disciple of Jesus and Acts is our text.”
Following the Spirit is not a call to return to “an imagined glorious past,” says Roennfeldt in an interview with Signs Publishing Book Editor Nathan Brown. “We are to make disciples and plant churches in a pagan, post-Christian and next-Christendom world. This is where we are! Read Acts. Is radical change at the very core of church needed? Just as with his gospel, Luke finishes Acts with no conclusion. A new chapter is needed. Digging into Acts and exploring Jesus’ continuing mission will shape and cultivate the resilience needed for us to write the next chapter—Acts 29.”
Chapters 21 and 22 in Following the Spirit—“Paul’s good news master story” and “Paul’s idea of church”—and a “comprehensive” appendix with five Acts 29 worksheets “raise critical issues related to transforming established churches and maintenance denominations,” says Roennfeldt. The challenge: is it possible?
Roennfeldt is an experienced minister, evangelist and church planter but he found writing the book “a tough assignment.” “In Following Jesus, we’re looking at the principles and the teachings of Jesus. In Following the Spirit, we’re looking at how they apply to life.”
Life for the Christian then—in the first century—is similar to what it is now: difficult. Disciples as described in Acts are “resilient,” said Roennfeldt. They are “totally committed to Jesus, changed by His life with them, changed by His resurrection, changed by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.” They are making new disciples, planting churches and cultivating a movement in an “extremely toxic” social, cultural and political environment much like that in countries such as Australia. Acts is transformational, said Roennfeldt, because it “speaks right into our situation.” It is also inspirational because it describes creative and innovative forms of church and leadership that adapt successfully and lead to dramatic church growth.
Roennfeldt dedicates Following the Spirit to three “innovative” church leaders who “cultivated creative thinking in my ministry.” Two of the three—retired evangelist Pr David Currie and his church administrator colleague Pr Calvyn Townend—joined Roennfeldt on stage in Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church. The third, Pr Clive Barritt, a “spirit-filled leader” and the first Adventist Church conference president under which Roennfeldt served, died in June 2017. Daughters Wendy Morris, Ruth Webster and Beverley Christian also joined the prayer of dedication.
Even though Following the Spirit launched at Empower, those attending were not the first to receive the book. That privilege went to those attending the One project’s final gathering in Australia, in Sydney, the previous weekend.
Following the Spirit
Following the Spirit is available from Seventh-day Adventist bookstores in Australia and New Zealand or from www.hopeshop.com.PURCHASE