This morning I remembered a conversation with a coworker that took place not long before surrendering my life to Christ. It was in CA, late 2009. Through a series of life events and the work of the Holy Spirit, I was seeking to know more and I was questioning EveryThing. I did believe in God and I said I believed that the Bible was true, but I wasn’t 100% sold. I hadn’t yet made the choice to do things God’s way. There were some hard things in God’s Word that I was still wrestling with. There were lots of whys, hows and what ifs. At that time I was only beginning to ask the right questions that would finally reveal the answers I sought.
So back to that conversation. Needless to say, because of my stage of spiritual development it was not more than a very brief, painful exchange. Let’s just say I was way in over my head. My coworker was a smart guy, a good likeable guy, but an intellectual agnostic and he’d had conversations like this before. He asked me why I believed the Bible was true, and exactly on what I based my faith claims. He was prepared for whatever I might wield as a defense. I was about as effective as a cardboard tube against his sword.
Boy oh boy, and ouch. I was seriously ill equipped.
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
So much has happened in my walk with the lord since that day. I finally yielded my will to His, late in life, in February 2010. I’ve been a faithful follower of Jesus ever since. And yet, as much spiritual and personal growth as I’ve already experienced in 8 years, as much as I’ve grown deeper in love with Him and His church, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I still hunger for more.
Over the years, I’ve learned about spiritual gifts and have embraced serving others. I went on a few short term mission trips and God used each one to further shape and teach me. And now I find myself in a different season of preparation and service. The Who and Why is eternal, never changing … but the what and how IS and DOES, as my capacity for understanding grows.
We humans are pretty good at identifying and labeling things. We inspect, poke and prod, give it a name, come up with conclusions, defining things a certain way. For example, the word “evangelism” can create a strong response in us. Some folks would be all in with the preaching, teaching and apologetics aspect of their faith, others prefer to leave that stuff to the pastors, because they’re better (and are more comfortable) demonstrating Gods love through acts of service and compassion. Do I see raised hands? Truth be told, the word “evangelism” makes me tremble and squirm . Likewise, the word “mission” can conjure up images of beautiful children in less advantaged countries, and hearts begin to thump in anticipation of GOing! But mission, or good works, without sharing the good news of Jesus is so incomplete. How is simply serving sharing the hope that I have? That one is on me for sure, and the conviction stings.
The word “disciple” simply means follower, a learner. Discipleship, simply put, a process of learning and following, and beyond that helping others learn to follow. Even that word though can seem intimidating, when it’s simply following in His footsteps.
Lord, we complicate it all so much and raise objections when it’s really simple. Lord, you showed us what that looks like. Not EASY, but simple.
Our friend and former Pastor, Jeff Hickman likes to put it this way “live like Jesus lived, love how Jesus loved, leave what Jesus left behind”. Guess what Jesus left behind. Disciples (learners and followers) who discipled others, who discipled others, and so on.
In my own life I can see how God used others to help me grow spiritually, to disciple me, to help me become the person that I was created to be. He’s not done with me yet! It’s a lifelong pursuit.
Discipleship the way I see it : Jesus started out with a willing group of men and women who He took time to personally invest in. He trained, equipped, encouraged and challenged them. He spent time with them, they did life together. He modeled a life of service. He showed them what a healthy prayer life looks like. He prayed for them. He was a leader. He taught them corporately and privately. He proclaimed the gospel and kingdom of God everywhere. He went outside the temple, where the people were and ministered to them. He fed. He healed. He comforted. He sent His followers, His disciples, His learners out to do the same. The disciples obeyed and applied all they had learned. Multiplication happened. More people believed and began to follow Jesus.
It doesn’t end there. That’s us, you and me, right here and now. Disciples. Missionaries. Evangelists. Worshippers. Loving people towards new life in Christ. Loving enough to serve and to teach, model, train and equip. We can’t let these words or concepts be so big and scary that each of us aren’t striving to become better learners and followers every day of our lives.
I am convinced that mission and evangelism for the Christ follower must go hand in hand. Good works without the good news is a just a humanitarian effort. I know this, Lord help me live it. Likewise, learning and the pursuit of knowledge as it’s own end without applying what we’ve been taught reaches no one.
Praying that any barriers holding us back from becoming effective disciples be removed, and praying that we always stay hungry for the things of God and His kingdom.