This post outlines an approach to teaching someone how to follow Jesus. Notice that this is absolutely NOT an introduction to Christian faith. Frankly, a lot of introductions to Christianity end up discouraging someone from following Jesus, or at least makes that a secondary or optional goal.
I'm not going to bother supporting that claim with evidence now. I'll leave it to you to compare the content of the following posts with other stuff out there and draw your own conclusions.
For this purpose, I am not gong to engage in criticism of the gospel texts. Instead, by and large I am going to accept the gospel writers' traditions about Jesus's ministry as a platform for developing a way of life. I will be attempting to deal with a notable inconsistency between the life settings of the earliest Christian communities as presented by the letters of Paul and Acts and the life setting of the disciples in the gospels. The early Christian communities consisted of large numbers of people who were tied to a specific community/locale and a much smaller group of itinerants who traveled between the communities, usually in a leadership capacity. The gospels focus attention on an itinerant Jesus and the disciples who travel with him. Much of the teaching given to the disciples fits this type of life setting. What does this mean for the life of non-itinerant Christians? I hope to include answers to this question.
OK, here's a basic approach:
Examine the kingdom of God and the role of Jesus's ministry in it drawing near.
Learning about the kingdom from Mark 1:
1. The kingdom fulfills God's promise of salvation for his people found in prophets. 1:1-3
2. As predicted by the prophets, John the Baptist prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus by calling on the people to repent of their sins and be baptized to receive forgiveness. 1:1-6
3. Jesus will baptize the people with the Holy Spirit. 1:7-8
4. When John baptizes Jesus, God announces to Jesus that he is pleased with him as his son. 1:9-11
5. Unlike the wilderness generation, Jesus passes the test in the wilderness. 1:12-13
6. Jesus announces the good news that the kingdom is near and calls on the people to repent and believe the good news about the kingdom. 1:14-15
7. Jesus calls some men to follow him and become "fishers of men." 1:16-20
8. Jesus teaches the people about the kingdom with "authority." 1:21-22
9. Jesus casts out a demon and news about him spreads. 1:23-28
10. Jesus heals many people. 1:29-34.
11. Jesus begins an itinerant teaching/healing ministry, saying "that is why I have come." 1:35-38
12. Jesus heals a man with leprosy out of compassion for him and does so by touching him. The news of the man's healing draws large crowds to Jesus and he has to stay out of the towns. 1:40-45.
This quick survey highlights several features of Mark's presentation of Jesus:
1. He draws people's attention by the "authority" of his words and actions. This has been interpreted by many as "the kingdom is present because the king is present."
2. Despite his attempts to keep a low profile, people from all over are hearing about his deeds and are coming to receive the benefit of healing. In other words, the kingdom of God is attractive to people in trouble. It is something that draws people in to find help for their problems.
3. Jesus started out his public ministry calling out specific individuals to become "fishers of men."
4. Jesus is a healer who dedicates time, energy, and emotion to bringing relief to the distressed.
2. What Jesus's followers did:
- traveled with him
- assisted him in carrying out teaching ministry
- listened to his teaching and asked him questions when they didn't get it
- went out to preach about the kingdom and heal the sick
- faced many uncomfortable moments being confronted with their own incomprehension and even resistance to Jesus's plans for them.
3. Living in the kingdom
- Repent and believe the good news.
- Leave the old life behind and start a new one.
- Proclaim the good news that the kingdom of God is near.
- Heal the sick.
- Serve your fellow disciples.
4. Kingdom relationships
- with those outside
- with your mentors
- with your peers
- with your "disciples"
This is a work in progress. Expect this outline to expand.