But whatever type of man he may have been, we know for certain that he left successors distinguished for their purity of life, their love of God, and their loyalty to the monastic rule...they diligently followed whatever pure and devout customs they learned in the prophets, the Gospels, and the writings of the Apostles.
- Bede, on Colum Cille, Ecclesiastical History, British, 8th century
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children;
That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments…
- Psalm 78.5-7
There is not very much first-hand, contemporary information about Colum Cille, the founder of the monastic community on Iona in the middle of the 6th century. He left us a few writings – mainly poems – but nothing like what we have from Columbanus, or even Patrick. Contemporary poets celebrated his learning, piety, evangelistic zeal, and skill in training others. Later biographers recorded what they considered to be the most important aspects of his life and work.
But from his own hand, we have precious little. How is it, then, that Colum was recognized as a faithful disciple and worthy disciple-maker?
Bede, writing the history of the English Church almost 150 years after Colum, didn’t know much about him either. All he knew was that, whoever this man was, he had been a powerful influence for the Gospel. And Bede knew this by the disciples of disciples of disciples of Colum Cille who were alive and serving in his day.
Colum was known by his disciples, who, following his teaching and example, sacrificed the conveniences of this world to carry the Gospel and Christian learning to places far beyond their home base on Iona. One poet likened the disciples of Colum Cille to ladders, leaned up against the City of God, by which many found entrance to His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
We’re not making many disciples in the churches these days. Oh, we have plenty of teaching, preaching, and whatnot. But we’re not making many disciples – men and women distinguished by holiness, deep spirituality, sacrificial living, and courageous and consistent witness.
We like our Christianity on our terms – just enough to give us a sense of security about the future, plus some hope and joy for the present. But the kind of sacrificial, disciplined, others-seeking discipleship that Colum Cille exemplified, following Jesus and the apostles?
Well, we’re a little short on that at the moment. Who among us would boldly regard himself as a ladder by which many are entering the Kingdom of God?
Nor does this generation of believers appear to take the Law of God seriously as a primary source for its own Christian faith, as the psalmist indicated we should. No disciples, and little regard for the Law of God. Is it any wonder that the influence of the Church in America has waned so much over the past generation?
Making disciples is not just the work of pastors. All Christians are called both to be disciples and to make disciples. Each man in the church has the duty to submit himself for discipleship, and then to disciple his wife, children, and other men as the Lord gives him opportunity and leave. Each woman has a duty to disciple other women, as well as her children and husband. All church members should seek to edify one another, so that we might learn Jesus and grow together as His body.
Disciples are those who, like Colum Cille, sustain a lively and intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They love the Law of God and all His Word, and they diligently practice the disciplines that get them into that Word daily. They pray frequently and fervently, live joyously, work tirelessly, shed the world like a bad penny, and chat up Jesus and the Gospel at every opportunity. They have their trials and temptations, and times when they stumble and fall. But after repentance as needed, true disciples rest in the Lord and seek His pleasure and will, so that they can get on with their calling to follow Him.
True disciples are the very embodiment of the Law of God in their love for God and their neighbors. They are ladders into the Kingdom of God.
The business of the church – and our business as followers of Jesus Christ – is not just preaching, teaching, and doing good works. Our business is to make disciples, and we will not realize our full potential as the Body of Jesus Christ until we give making disciples a higher priority than at present.
1. Who are the believers you consider to be in your Personal Mission Field? How should you encourage them in their walk with and work for the Lord?
2. How do you need to grow in your discipleship? How can you begin to address that need?
Psalm 78.4-7 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
The glorious deeds of our God in His might,
and all of the works He has done in our sight,
together with all of the words of His Law,
would we on ourselves and our children bestow.
Lord, let all our children arise and declare
the truth of the Lord every day, everywhere,
and set all their hopes in God’s wonderful Word,
and never forget all the works of the Lord.
Lord, help me to grow in my own discipleship; help me today, Lord! Use me to…
Free Christmas Gifts
Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, can strengthen our faith, but only as we sing it understanding what he intended. Our book, A Mighty Fortress, walks through each stanza of Luther’s hymn to reveal the powerful testimony this song provides. Order your free copy by clicking here. Order several copies and give them to friends for Christmas. Also, our booklet, Joy to Your World!, can show you how to be more consistent in working your Personal Mission Field. Order your free copy today (click here).
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If you’re not a supporter of this ministry, won’t you please prayerfully consider making a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe? Only God can move you to do this, and we believe He intends to support this ministry from within the ranks of those who are served by it. If this includes you, please seek the Lord in this matter. You can click here to donate online with your credit card or through PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.