8 November 2023
Following Jesus: An invitation to belong
Lieut-Colonel Drew McCombe
In an extract from Salvationist Radio Sunday Worship, Secretary for Mission Lieut-Colonel Drew McCombe (THQ) reflects on what it means to belong to Jesus.
As a grandad to two adopted boys, I am drawn to the ITV programme Long Lost Family presented by Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall. Lots of episodes see people seeking connection to their identity. Many of them have been adopted themselves. The programmes are often heart-warming, as people find out important information that patches together their past and the relatives they never knew. What the programme is tapping into is the human need to know we belong somewhere, that we matter to others and that we are better in relationships that mean something and give us deep connection.
Matthew 4:18–22 recalls the calling of the first disciples as Jesus started out on his public ministry and set about revealing the Kingdom of God and that is was near. And what was his first action? It was to connect others to be with him. The words recorded were short and simple: ‘Come, follow me.’ But don’t miss the depth of meaning in those three words.
First, is an invitation: ‘Come.’ That word is about inclusion and joining. It’s an opportunity to participate. It saddens me that many in our communities don’t feel those positive things. Instead they feel isolated or excluded and struggle to know where they fit in. These feelings can induce poor mental health conditions, which is alarming. So, if you are someone who feels a bit like that, I pray you might hear the strong but gentle voice of Jesus saying to you: ‘Come, you are invited. You belong.’
Did you notice in those verses any confession of faith or belief in Jesus from Peter, Andrew, James or John? Jesus says, ‘I believe in you, and you are invited, so come.’
The second word is ‘follow’. This is not a passive word: it’s a call to action, to do something. It’s not just to follow in that moment – it is a continual call to keep following. Their first step led to other steps as they witnessed Jesus’ way of living, his compassion, his miracles and his teaching about his Father God and what it meant to fully participate in the Kingdom and bring that Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. They slowly understood – and eventually were able to confess – their belief in Jesus as much as he believed in them. In following Jesus, they became identified as Jesus’ disciples and members of the Jesus movement, called the way – the Jesus way.
The third word, ‘me’, is a reminder to us all that this coming – this participation, inclusion, belonging and following – is primarily about Jesus. The first disciples’ calling was not to do and go anywhere other than to follow him. This is something all of us must return to again and again. It’s to stay close to him, to love him, to talk to him, to learn from him, to draw him into every aspect of our lives and to ensure we reflect his beauty in our words, thoughts and actions. If we want to see ourselves and our wider Salvation Army flourish and thrive, Jesus must be our first love before anything else. I can’t help but think we would be a stronger Movement in the United Kingdom and Ireland Territory if we all paid attention to following Jesus.
It is for this reason that the Membership Working Group, which I have the privilege of chairing and leading, is looking at belonging, discipleship and membership in that order. We might reimagine how we can shape discipleship that is exciting, with a radical vision of belonging to, committing to and serving the Kingdom of God. You can play your part as you pay attention to the fact that Jesus calls you to come follow him.
Loving God, we do not belong to ourselves, but to you. You call us by name; you say to us: ‘Follow me!’
You call to us in the world. You say ‘follow me’ through a lifetime of loving and giving. We pray for those who need our friendship, those who are neglected, in need and misunderstood.
You say to us ‘follow me’ into the dark places of suffering and fear. We pray for those who need our support, those who are ill, sorrowful or anxious.
You say to us ‘follow me’ into the Kingdom of light and joy and peace. We pray for those who need to hear the message of the hope to be found in Christ.
Loving God, we do not belong to ourselves, but to you. You call us by name. You say to us: ‘Follow me!’
You call to us in the world. You speak to us through the voices of prophets, politicians and poets. We pray for those who challenge us by speaking out against injustice and oppression.
You speak to us through the voices of those with whom we work, socialise and live. We pray for those whose talking with us challenges us to show your love in our everyday lives.
You speak to us through the voices of the needy, the unwanted and the dispossessed. We pray for the victims of greed and warfare who cry out to us for help.
Lieut-Colonel Drew McCombe
Secretary for Mission, THQ
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