Last week I wrote about discipleship and the influence that people at my home church had in my life. I specifically mentioned my youth pastor, Jeff Turner, because of the way he taught me how to live a life of obedience to God. Jeff was always taking time out of his schedule to spend one-on-one time with students. He would show up to games and other school activities just to be a voice of encouragement among his students. Some pastors have a set office schedule, however Jeff’s office was school campuses, coffee shops, a gas station eating area, or anywhere else people would congregate. He would have his Bible, yellow legal pad which was kept in his Orlando Magics portfolio, and a copy of USA Today. He would watch people. He would engage in a conversation with them. He wanted to know what made them tick. He also brought up issues about faith in non-threatening ways. In my eyes, he was living out what he believed and he did it because of his love for Jesus.
When I was around Jeff, I wanted to be like him. I saw his love for God and wanted that in my life. He was not a perfect man however he was an example of Philippians 2:12-13;
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
He let God work through him to fulfill His purpose. And because of that, Jeff taught me how to live the same way. Through the fun times and the hard times, Jeff was their correcting, teaching, encouraging, and loving me like Jesus.
If I can fault the body of Christ, specifically evangelicals, about anything it is the lack of authentic discipleship. We have a great grasp on reaching people for Christ but we miss the “doing life together” thing and we’re left to wonder why there is no spiritual growth in the body. I’ve been studying this idea for a few years now. I am no expert compared to people who have made it a life-long journey writing and teaching about discipleship. However, I can say that I have a pretty good grasp on what authentic, Jesus-style discipleship looks like. One word can sum it up: Relationships. I was led to Christ and discipled because of other Christians building a relationship with me. I was called into ministry because of a youth pastor who SHOWED me how to discern God’s will. All of this begins with a relationship.
Christians need to understand that discipleship flows out of the salvation we received from Jesus. Just as Jesus surrendered to the will of the Father (death on the cross for the redemption of man) so should we surrender to the command of making disciples of all nations. This is one of first act of obedience to the great cause (commission) that has been commanded of us by Jesus. However, true discipleship has gotten lost in translation. For most “making disciples” has consisted in presenting the gospel and enrolling people into a Sunday school class. Some churches may take it a few steps further by enrolling people in a “discipleship “classes. Although the intention might be good, this is not discipleship. In scripture we read that Jesus called people to follow Him, not to enroll in a class at the Synagogue. The scripture reads in Matthew 4:18-22:
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
The call of discipleship is a call to follow a teacher. In this case, the teacher was Jesus. In the life of a believer, the call to make disciples is not simply a call to evangelize. It goes well beyond that. It’s a call to tell, lead, and guide people to and in Christ. The Christian culture has failed in this command. The evidence can be seen through the action of those who claim to be evangelical Christians. Does this sound familiar:
“Bring back prayer in school!”
“Don’t take our guns away!”
“Eat at Chick-fil-a to fight against the gays!”
“Keep the 10 Commandments in the court rooms!”
“Boycott Disney World!”
These are just a few samplings of what has been observed. Each point that is made is not necessarily bad, in and of itself. What has to be asked is the motivation behind these actions. Why would someone demonstrate their faith in a way that does not make disciples? In other words, disciple making is not a legislative thing; it a self-sacrificial lifestyle. Christians spend more time trying to legislate morality than making disciples. What I mean by that is many Christians have viewed other Christians demonstrating their faith in such a way that they have believed this is how a Christian behaves in popular culture. Or, un-matured believers are pouring into new believers a message that is not of Jesus’ teachings (Westboro Baptist anyone?). So, discipleship has become more of a movement of self preference that a revolution of Jesus. I know that being a Christian is counter-cultural however Jesus engaged people of popular and not so popular culture of His time. Jesus did not teach boycotting, picketing, protesting or any other sub-cultural ways of communicating our dislikes about the world. Jesus taught love, forgiveness, repentance, obedience, and righteousness. Just like Jesus, Jeff engaged in mine and several other students’ lives in order to teach what Jesus taught His disciples and lived out in front of them. Jeff is all about engaging people of this culture and teaching them how Jesus can turn their life around.
In part 3 of this blog, we will look at Matthew 28:16-20 and see the model of disciple making Jesus has set forth for His followers.