Discipleship

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Yesterday we had a guest pastor speak at our church. His arms are covered in tatoos. He sports piercings. And every day he loves on the mentally ill and other needy folks in the downtown core of our city. At his ministry center, they are known as ‘guests’.   I think he’s awesome.

I want to write about what he shared with us regarding discipleship.

Pastor Kevin defined a disciple as a learner, a student. As a disciple of Jesus, I believe it is a lifelong journey with the Lover of our soul, not a one-time prayer that I have prayed that gets me a free ticket to heaven. In the Bible, Jesus’ disciples were often called “followers of the Way”.  And we, as Jesus’ disciples, are called to disciple others, as this verse clearly shows:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”    (Matt.28:18-20)

Pastor Kevin shared that discipleship is our job. We are to point others towards the Cross.

Nowhere in the Bible does it speak about “converting” others. The thing is, the concept of “conversion” is attractive to us in this fast-paced North American culture because it sounds quick, it suggests a “one-time” event and doesn’t seem to involve a large commitment of time on our part.

Discipleship, on the other hand, implies a longer time commitment.  Pastor Kevin pointed us toward this scripture in 1 Thess.2:8 that says, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” He says that discipling is having a relationship, a friendship with someone. We share our lives with them.  It is not a one-time thing, but a journey with someone. This makes it a difficult sell to those of us who are already taxed for time, racing from one commitment to the next and ‘fully booked’ until next summer, according to our time management apps and iPhone calendars.

Who has the time to commit to someone in order to journey with them?

Hey, word up, peeps. We as Christians are supposed to have different priorities than the rest of the world. And yep, I’m cringing inside, just like you are, squirming a bit uncomfortable in my seat here. Time is such a hot commodity. It seems so scarce. How can I fit in one more thing?

What about instead of adding something more in, what about taking something out? What about creating room for this new commitment by taking out something that might not be as important. Like what? I know, I hear you….   I think that this is sort of what I was trying to get at with this post. The idea that perhaps the things that we believe to be important ‘service’ might not actually be as important to God. God wants us to be with Him and from that being in His presence, we can then better understand His priorities. And according to this verse in Matt.28, it seems that discipleship might be one of them.

If I am serious about being a disciple of Jesus, and serious about following his commandments and living life His way, then what is the implication?    Jeepers…

Other excuses surface,  “But I feel so inadequate; I mean what if I don’t have all the answers…?”. Or ” I’m not the perfect Christian, so how could I be an example to someone else?”

Pastor Kevin mentioned that we actually don’t have to have all the answers. We only have to teach others what we know. It’s not about being perfect, or better than someone else. “I’m not perfect, but I’m following”. That enables someone else to see the truth: that you don’t have to have all your ducks in a row before becoming a friend of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t expect perfection from us. If we can show others who we are, if we can be vulnerable and true, and they can see that sometimes we are messy, that sometimes we don’t make the best decisions, or are as loving as we want to be, that can actually be an encouragement to someone else.

He had three tips for starting a discipleship journey with someone: 1. we need to make time to rest (Sabbath!) and to connect with the Holy Spirit   2.  remember that it’s about sharing our lives, not just about sharing the gospel    3. make a commitment to check in with someone. He suggested that we commit to meeting with someone once a month. And he suggested making the commitment that you would normally make with your cell phone company – 3 years – to that person.

That is a big challenge.

Jesus had 12 disciples. But he had 3 really close ones; ones he kept closer to his heart than the others. So what if each of us committed to one person? One friendship? A coffee date once a month? What would happen if each one of us took one person and shared about our lives and maybe even about how Jesus is making a difference for us? What kind of amazing stories would we have after 3 years? Because you know what? Right now I’m lookin’ at how many people I have {not} discipled over the years and I think that making a commitment to one is 100% better than my current record.

Pastor Kevin said that God is already walking with people before we have any interaction with them. We just have to let them know who is walking beside them holding their hand. What a beautiful picture of Jesus. He’s walking beside everyone, it’s just that sometimes people don’t realize that He is there, or they don’t know who He is.

Discipleship takes perseverance and energy. I’ll be honest, it seems a bit scary too, this idea of a long-term commitment to someone.

But as it is written in James 2:14, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”  It is a call to action.

Who’s up for the challenge?

discipleship

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