There are many things to talk about in this series of blogs, but the purpose of this series is to share about an observation we made. During our time in the Northwest we became increasingly aware how the Holy Spirit is mobilizing and redirecting lives to live out the mission Jesus gave us. It is about an awakening that creates awareness, which results in purposeful actions of grace and love.
Conversation after conversation we discuss the same basic message in different ways. Some may say it is because our story directs the conversation and there is no doubt that it does impact the course our talks will take. But I think that there is something even greater at work. In sharing our story we find that others tell us their stories. We talk about leaving everything familiar behind to follow the call of Jesus to be a missionary to the university district villages of America. Others tell their exciting stories of great courage and desire to live out the call to the same mission. Our tales are about different tribes and locations with the familiar aspects of developing community and making disciples.
These conversations revolve around the importance of living out the gospel mission, which starts long before a person ever believes in Jesus and continues for a lifetime once they do believe. That is discipleship, a word that I have found scares some people because of the abusive ways it has been used. While at the same time this same word stirs the heart of another who has loving embraced its truth.
Let me tell you about a young man that I meant on our trip. Sam and I were tracking very well together as we shared about life. The things we shared resonated within us. He was amazed at our story of loving Jesus and laying everything down to serve in this mission. And I was enjoying his story and journey to Jesus.
Then Sam said to me, “I could never do what you are doing. I could never be a missionary.” My heart sank; this young man who has an incredible story didn’t understand that he was a missionary. He didn’t realize that he was living his life as a missionary every single day. Why do I say this? This young man was living his faith out in a beautiful way every day where he worked and lived. Sam prayed with people, shared his faith in Jesus with others when it was appropriate, and most importantly he was loving them by meeting their needs. But Sam didn’t understand what it meant to be a missionary because he didn’t understand what it meant to be a disciple.
As we continued to talk and I was encouraging him that he was living such a life. I shared that we have all been given the same mission, to go and make disciples. At which point Sam interrupted me and said, “That’s it, I can’t do that . . . Make disciples, you can’t make anybody do anything or be anything. So I can’t live the mission because I can’t do that to people. I just don’t think it is right to try and make someone do anything.”
Once again my heart sank as I realized this young man was making more disciples than many other Christians do and he didn’t understand that he was doing it. Why? Because he didn’t understand what it means to make a disciple. He just did it, and I think that is cool, but could be even better if he did it with understanding. So we explored the idea a little bit more and began to discuss about what it means to make disciples. That it isn’t about forcing people to do anything, but rather creating opportunity for them to make better more informed decisions.
His eyes lit up as we developed a working definition of what it means to make disciples. Here is what we tooled out in that short bit of time together: Discipleship, the process by which disciples of Jesus are matured as we become more and more like Jesus. It is about learning the truth of the Gospel and then figuring out how to live the Gospel. We have been given a purpose that is so much more than making converts to a religious system or institution. Jesus gave us the job to go the distance with others as we both mature as His disciple, constantly learning, and disciple others to maturity along the journey.
Don’t know if I will ever see Sam again and enjoy some more time with him. But what I do know if for that brief 2 hours together sitting in a pub in the Northwest we were making disciples as he sharpened my life and I had the privilege to help sharpen his.
Thank you Northwest America for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.