I am more and more aware that the Spirit of God is stirring the church to rethink its obedience to the command of Jesus to make disciples of all peoples.
The electronic bulletin board at a local church asks: “What does it mean to be a Disciple of Jesus?” One of my country’s most famous preachers has several YouTube videos on the same subject. In missionary circles everyone is talking about it. Trendy groups are creating snappy cartoon style videos to ask the question. I am thrilled by all of this.
But I have noticed a familiar chasm once I do a little investigating, at least where I live and can follow up on the facts. That chasm is the ancient one of talking without doing what we are talking about. It is not a new problem, as all who have read the gospels know. Jesus constantly addressed it. It is not those who hear but those who obey who are blessed. It is not those who tell others what to do, but those who do what they themselves ought to do who are praised.
Yesterday I was asked by a friend to read the text of a sermon on discipleship, preached by a mutual friend. I went immediately, and with some excitement. But I was disappointed. The words were all good. But what was lacking, so far as I could tell, was the clearest of connections between hearing about the subject and beginning to do something about it. The sermon made good reading, even emotionally inspiring reading, but it gave me no clue how to begin to be a disciple in any practical way.
The first of the simple things Jesus did to disciple men was ask them to spend time with him. To paraphrase, He said: ‘If you want to learn from me, you have to come and spend time with me.’ Or this: ‘If you want to learn to fish from me, come along as I go fishing.’
Unfortunately, most church leaders (myself included for many years) have for too long thought we could tell people what Jesus said and did, and call them to obey it. Then, we get on with our ordinary lives expecting that those who heard us will become faithful disciples. But most of them cannot.
Jesus did not leave Andrew and John on their own. He said: “Come and see.” Then to the next man (Peter) he said: “Follow me.” Then to the first five who were prepared to follow him he said: ‘I am going [to walk] to Galilee.’ And all five went with him (see John 1: 35ff). By my calculations, these five men probably spent somewhere between 80 and 100 hours with Jesus in the first week or two of BEGINNING TO LEARN to be his disciples.
There are no shortcuts to making a disciple. Are you spending quality time with those you are discipling? Are you? Or are you only talking about it?
New Blog Series Fall 2016 – 1/5
— Jon Shuler