In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther’s message of reformation was spreading across Europe like a wildfire. Meanwhile, he sat at his kitchen table with his students and colleagues, having informal discussions. They could ask questions about everything from doctrine to history, to current events, to the ideal form of government for the church and the country. Luther stated his beliefs freely and shared his opinions with candor. He even allowed those who spent time at his table to write out what they saw and heard. One young man did that. He captured these “divine discourses,” including the humor, wit, and prejudices of Luther, and published them in a book called Table Talk. This book provided an uncensored look into Luther’s mind and motivations.
Several years ago, I was asked to provide some discipleship training for a group of young men. They desired personal training that would assist them in their spiritual formation. Rather than meet with them individually, I gathered them all around my table. During that long, cold winter, we had many warm discussions where we talked freely about the issues perplexing them. We explored a wide range of subjects, all very helpful to their and my spiritual growth.
Since then, I have welcomed many others to my table, calling it the Discipleship Group. They have come from near and far. I have made it clear that they are not to be my disciples. I have helped them focus, instead, on the living Christ and what it is to be His disciples today.
We eventually moved the meetings to a table at church, where we could study and pray together. We limited our gathering to four days a week during certain months of the year. I developed some study notes on a number of subjects and provided them for each person to work on at his or her own pace. We began each day studying our notes in quiet, but when a question arose, a lively discussion often ensued, taking us in many different directions. Our table talks have greatly impacted me as I believe they have done other participants.
For years, I have been working on the study notes developed for our table talks, desiring to share them with those called into discipleship. I have written many studies that help point people to the Lordship of Jesus. These enable them to gain a deeper appreciation for His Word and the local church. My heart has been to work with those who are eager to acknowledge Christ in all their ways and want to learn to hear His voice, discern His will, and live in a way where pleasing Him is the priority.
In the past, people have asked for my material so they can work on various subjects on their own from home. This book was developed to help meet their request. Some people, however, continue to come to Penn Yan, New York, where they can give themselves more fully to this. They come from all over. Some stay for three, six, or even twelve months at a time. Together, we study as a group each morning, Tuesday through Friday, with the afternoons free to seek the Lord, do deeper studies, or work part-time, as need be. Furthermore, we help people find places to stay and assist them in securing part-time work in our community. We give each student opportunity to go on mission trips, here and overseas, as the Lord leads. None of this has been easy, but I believe it has been fruitful.
Initially, everyone starts with basic discipleship studies. These provide them with a solid, biblical foundation, readying them for further study. There are assignments at the end of the notes that help them do more in-depth study on their own. When they finish with these, they can choose from about fifty other topics, depending on what the Lord is dealing with them about. I also recommend they go through my book list. It contains resources that added a lot to my own spiritual formation when I was a young disciple.
Beyond this, the students receive some practical assignments in our church and community that help them grow. There are also opportunities to go on local trips and retreats.
The bottom line is this: Jesus must become our Master (Teacher), and we must become His disciples first and foremost. My role is simply to create a framework for this to take place and to challenge students to embrace it completely.
1.STUDY ON YOUR OWN
I have created a unique study program that allows you to do in-depth studies based upon what you are really interested in studying -- at your own pace. I can provide the study guides, which cover over fifty difference subjects that touch your life where you live.
The material has been written and rewritten over a thirty year period of pastoral ministry. These are not just nice theories, but each study touches people's lives where they live.
2. COME TO OUR TABLE
You can also do this at our table in Penn Yan, New York. This is not easy to do. You will have to leave your home and your job to focus on your spiritual life.
We do help people find part-time work with area employers who understand what we are trying to do. The classes run each week day morning from 8:00 am to 12:00.
We can help you find short-term housing.
Either way, the goal is to become accountable to the Lord for how you spend your time and how deep you go. The more you apply yourself the more you grown; simple.
3. START YOUR OWN PROGRAM IN YOUR CHURCH
Our program is very simple and can be replicated in your church or small group study. We will provide the materials and you work with those who are at your table. Here is what you do:
Find those you want to invest in
Invite them to your table
Help them to choose a study to work through
Discuss it with them as they seek to apply it to their lives.