As we conclude the Growing Up Challenge series, we examine what you miss out on by not making disciples. Sign up for the Growing Up Challenge.
It was the summer of 1986. I was 9 years old. My sister Lori was 7. And after seeing the movie Space Camp, we were determined to go to there for a week. We begged Mom and Dad the entire way home to send us. There was only 1 problem. Space camp wasn’t cheap. But I was passionate and persistent, even at 9. Some way, I negotiated with my parents to send us to space camp, on 1 condition: we both had to make the honor roll next school year. They key word was both. This was an easy task for my sister, who made the honor roll every period. Me, on the other hand, making the honor roll would be miraculous. But I was motivated. Who wouldn’t be?
In the months leading up to the end of the year, my sister would ask me, “Robby, do you think you’re going to make the honor roll? I can’t wait to go to space camp.” “Lori, don’t worry about a thing.” Well, the day of reckoning came in may of 1987. I tiptoed nervously to the mailbox that day, while my sister skipped ahead. She ripped open her packet: all A’s, as usual. I, on the other hand, slowly opened my report card to reveal 1 A, in P.E.. Unfortunately, 1 A wasn’t enough to blast off to the moon. Even though that happened almost 30 years, I still remember my sisters face when she found out we couldn’t go.
I’m sure you can remember things in your life that you missed out on for one reason or another. Maybe it was a relationship, a job opportunity, a trip, or an investment. You look back today and wish you could have done things differently.
For some, that’s how you look at discipleship. You see the joy of others who are leading groups and growing in their faith and think to yourself: “i want that. I want more from this life.” It’s never too late to start: we have a 91-year-old man in our Church who started his 1st discipleship group. He said, “I’m not too old to learn.” We also have 81 year old woman who is memorizing scripture for the first time. She has memorized 12 so far.
Years ago, I missed out on learning about the planets, the stars, and our solar system by not going to space camp. I want to talk about what you will miss out on by not making disciples.
1. Rich fellowship with other believers
Community is often synonymous with the word “fellowship,” or “koinonia” in the greek language. It is developed when men and women unite around a common interest. Community is common unity with another person. This can happen as a result of an interest in athletics, hobbies, teams, or goals. Biblically, it’s unifying over the gospel.
21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every Church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Paul and Barnabas spent time in Lystra preaching the gospel & making many disciples. Notice what they did: (1) they strengthened the disciples. (2) they exhorted them to continue in the faith. (3) they reminded them of the inevitability of tribulations. & (4) they prayed for the believers.
How do you strengthen someone’s soul? You come along side of them. You live life together.
One man desired community so much that he went to great lengths to find it. Danny Wallace was between jobs—having recently left a position as a producer for BBC-TV in London—when he learned his great-uncle, Gallus Breitenmoser, had passed away at the age of 90. Danny went to Switzerland for the funeral, and while there heard about the crazy idea his great-uncle had dreamt up. Following WW2, Gallus had grown tired of living in his city, where there was much gossip and slandering, and wanted to do life with others who would work and live together out of respect for one another. He owned some land, so he decided to start a community farm, hoping to attract 100 others to live with him.
He got only 3. After a week, He gave it up. But for the rest his life, his family talked about Gallus and his crazy idea. They were still laughing about it at his funeral. This was the first Danny had heard of his great-uncle’s quest for community. And the more he thought about it, the more Danny wanted to see if he could collect people together today.
In a tribute to Gallus, Danny placed a small ad in a London newspaper. It read: “join me. Send one passport-sized photo to this address.” A few days later, Danny received a letter from Christian Jones, who included a photo of himself as well as a menu from an indian restaurant in his part of London.
Danny had his first joinee. He put up a web site, and in a short time had 101 joinees, surpassing his great-uncle’s goal. Why had people joined? There were no meetings planned, no tasks to accomplish. So far, people had just been asked to send in a photo. They signed up for a group for no other reason than to belong. Danny was astounded.
His joinees now expected him to give meaning to this community. But it had no purpose… until Danny came up with one. He sent an e-mail revealing his plans. They would be called the Karma Army, in which their purpose was to undertake one random act of kindness every Friday, which became known as “good fridays”.
A joinee would buy a sandwich and give it to a stranger on a bench. Others bought newspapers and gave them to those sitting in the park. Lunches were bought, groceries were carried, and lawns were mowed: all done freely because they were part of the Karma Army. Join-me.co.uk is now the web site where people can go to become part of the karma army. It continues to grow worldwide in spite of the fact that there are no club dues, no regularly scheduled meetings, no rules and regulations to follow. How different should our lives be? Blood-bought believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, focused on telling the world about a risen Savior through making disciples.
In a discipleship group, you have a place to belong. You have a sense of unity. You live life together. Not for karma but for Christ. Not for the hear and now, but for the things that last for eternity.
D. A. Carson says,
[the Church] is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been saved by Jesus Christ. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake. Christian community is distinctively different.
But if we’re not careful, our Christianity can become an isolated experience. Even the terminology we use promotes individualism. When I say, “ask Jesus into your heart.” “give your life to Jesus.” “make Jesus Lord of your life,” does this sound individualistic or corporate? Singular or plural? We think of salvation as a personal plan about how God came for me, and how i can respond. While that is true, its more than that.
The hearers of Jesus’ day would have never thought of salvation as singular and individualist. It was always corporate and plural. Here is the slippery slope that we skate on when we adopt this exclusivism: we can get so singularly focused on a personal salvation that we eliminate the story of israel as a nation and the life of Jesus from the meta-narrative of redemption.
Remember, the story of Jesus is not an isolated event in history like the book of mormon. The gospel of our Lord is linked together with one chosen nation, one God, and one man. The nation of israel was a community. Jesus came and invested his life in a community of people, small group of 12 men. He then laid down his life for the Church? He loved the Church.
Sadly, there are believers who are detached from a local church. They claim to read the word, pray, and worship, but they don’t have any affiliation with a Church. They say, “I’m just not into the Church. I’m not into organized gatherings.” That’s like someone coming up to me and saying, “Robby, we love you man. We’re tight. You’re my closest friend in the world. But I hate your wife. But were best friends.” That ain’t gonna work. You can’t love me and not my wife. Jesus doesn’t just love the Church. He gave his life for her. Don’t be discipled by someone who is not involved in a local Church. Look for Godly men and women who are connected to a local Church. Discipleship comes through the Church, not separate from the Church. Someone once said, “the Church may look like shrek at times, but she is still the bride of Christ.”
What does this have to do with discipleship? Deitrich Bonhoeffer said it best, “sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.” Are you struggling with sin? I bet you’re battling it alone? I bet you don’t have anyone speaking truth in your life? Why do you think the internet is a gateway for immorality? Because you can view it alone and isolated. You miss:
1. Rich fellowship with other believers
2. Accountability for personal growth
This element is what separates discipleship from a class, a sunday school, or even a Bible study as important as those are. Chuck Swindoll described accountability as “opening one’s life to a few carefully selected, trusted, loyal confidants who speak the truth—who have the right to examine, to question, to approve, and to give counsel.”
At this point, you may be thinking, “I will be accountable to no one.” That, however, is not the case. Everyone is accountable to someone in some form or fashion. When you spot a policeman, with radar gun in hand, you are likely to slow down and travel at the speed limit. When friends are coming for dinner, you clean up your house. If you are called upon to teach a small group lesson, you will study your Bible in preparation. You produce better work when you are supervised.
Why is accountability important? Accountability forces us to be our best. When Igot saved, Ileft behind a $180-a-day heroine and cocaine addiction. My counselor suggested that Iattend an alcoholics anonymous meeting every day for 90 days. Not only are you forced to learn accountability by consistently going to the meetings, but more than that, you learn accountability by connecting with a sponsor. A sponsor is a former alcoholic or addict who has experienced an extended period of sobriety. He is further along on the journey than you.
Have you ever wondered why AA has been around for so long? I researched and found one of the last interviews from co-founder Bob Smith. He made some impressive statements about the Bible:
in the early days . . . our stories didn’t amount to anything to speak of. When we started in on Bill D. [Bill Dotson was the third participant of the program], we had no twelve steps either; we had no traditions. But we were convinced that the answer to our problems was in the good book…. It wasn’t until 1938 that the teachings and efforts and studies that had been going on were crystallized in the form of the twelve steps. I didn’t write the twelve steps. I had nothing to do with the writing of them…. We already had the basic ideas, though not in terse and tangible form. We got them, as i said, as a result of our study of the Bible.
Let me say, the contemporary AA is not what it used to be. Political coercion from activists groups, seduced by the government, removed the name of God and substituted it with the words “higher power.
We can identify two reasons for AA’s longevity:
First, the entire plan is built on an accountability group. You are expected to show up for the weekly, bi-weekly, or daily meetings. You are held accountable by friends so that you are never alone on the journey.
Second, every person who works in the program is assigned a qualified sponsor. Each group provides coaching and support through a life-on-life model. The sponsor is there to direct, equip, support, and delegate. Sound familiar? Jesus was the sponsor and the twelve were in his accountability group. We see this in Luke 9 and 10, after he sent his disciples out on 2 missionary endeavors.
Accountability is the difference that makes the difference.
I was heartbroken a few years ago when Iheard a man say to me about my hear book, “your book was good, but men won’t read it because men don’t read!” Although I understood his supposition, I was heartbroken. He was in essence saying, “men don’t read the Bible either!” I retorted, “men don’t read if they aren’t expected to read. But if you hold them accountable each week, they will!” You may not like the hassle of shaving everyday. In addition to the time it takes, there are the dry skin, cuts, bumps, and occasional bleeding. But if your job has a policy that states you will be fired for walking in unshaven, you’re shaving, whether you want to or not.
Without accountability, one’s spiritual development is dwarfed in comparison to what it could be. Sin will derail your spiritual development before you realize the effects of it. You should have someone whom you have entrusted with the task of edifying, encouraging, and confronting areas in your life that are out of balance is essential.
Haven’t been consistent in your Bible reading? Pray? Treat your wife or husband with respect? Memorize scripture? I bet you don’t have someone holding you accountable? To whom are you accountable? Or whom could you help by sharing the lessons you’ve learned through the hard knocks of life?
3. Joy of leading others in their journey
Whenever you hire a new employee, there is a process for maturity. Ken Blanchard has written over 40 books in his lifetime. The most popular is the “One Minute Manager.” He outlined 4 stages for training a new employee.
Ken Blanchard offers a stern warning, “what you never want to do is go from ‘directing’ to ‘delegating.’ When you do so, you produce disillusioned learners. And I know of no organization as notoriously guilty of producing disillusioned learners than the Church.”
Ouch. In the Church, we are good at teaching not training. We are good at educating, not equipping. Some of you don’t need another Bible study. You need to apply the Bible you already know. Here is a statistic: teaching a person, or sharing information will increase productivity by 22%. Coaching that same person will increase productivity by 88%. Training gets them moving. Coaching carries them to the finish line.
Here is something else to ponder:
Teaching information is transactional and reflecting on information is transformational. I believe I have figured out why discipleship is minimized in churches today:We have moved from directors to delegators without coaching in between. Blanchard formulated this from Jesus’ model of ministry.
First, Jesus ministered while the disciples watched. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught God’s truths, and the disciples observed, listened, and learned (Matt. 5-7). When Jesus went into the synagogue and healed the lame, cleansed the lepers, and gave hearing to the deaf, the disciples watched him (Mark 1).
Second, Jesus progressed to allowing the disciples to assist him in ministry. When Jesus fed the multitude, he broke the bread and performed the miracle. The disciples distributed the supernatural meal to the hungry crowd, and they also collected the surplus (John 6:1-13).
Third, the disciples ministered and Jesus assisted them. After his glorious transfiguration, Jesus came down from the mountain and walked into a uproar (Mark 9). The disciples were attempting to cast out a demon from a possessed boy, and they were failing miserably. In utter frustration and desperation, the boy’s father turned to Jesus and asked him to intervene. “I brought my son to your disciples but they could do nothing!” The despondent man cried. Jesus stepped in, cast out the demon, and made the boy whole. Later, Jesus rebuked the powerless disciples and instructed that “this one can only come out by fasting and prayer” (Mark 9:29).
The final step of the disciples’ training was Jesus observed as the disciples ministered to others. Jesus sent them out with the instruction to “go into the world. Cast out demons. Preach the good news of the gospel.” And they came back saying, “Jesus, it was just like you said. We cast out demons and we preached the good news. God miraculously worked through us” (Luke 10:1-17). You begin the discipleship group with the goal of growing in your faith, but you finish realizing real joy comes from helping others in the journey and seeing them grow.
Every person who dares to climb Mt. Everest faces looming probability of death whether from the surge of an avalanche or hypothermia from subzero temperatures. In May of 2006, expert Australian climber Lincoln Hall, along with a few others attained the holy grail of mountaineering as they reached the world’s highest peak. Lincoln had tried before with no success. His long-awaited dream had come true, but the celebration was short lived. At 28,000 feet above sea level, he had fallen ill to cerebral edema, or altitude sickness.
After hours of assisting Lincoln’s illness, the guides decided to abandon him on the mountain to save themselves, something that wasn’t outside for everest ethics. Over the next 24 hours, lincoln experienced hallucinations as he fluctuated from consciousness to unconsciousness. Miraculously, he navigated a 2 foot wide pathway with an 8,000 foot drop on one side and a 6,000 foot fall on the other. Unable to make sense of his surroundings, Lincoln did the unthinkable and removed his jacket, hat, gloves, and sat with his arms outstretched above his head.
A few moments later, an American everest guide Dan Mazur and his three clients approached the location where lincoln sat, just two hours from the summit. They men couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw a flash of bare flesh atop the ridge. They faced an ethical dilemma: do we continue the journey and fulfill our dreams, which they had invested so much money to achieve, or save the life of a total stranger. Daniel Mazur, the team leader, explained afterward: “you can always go back to the summit, but you only have one life to live. If we had left the man to die, that would have always been on my mind. How could you live with yourself?”
At the time Mazur reached Lincoln, the guides he was traveling with previously had already declared him dead more than 12 hours before. The climbers gave lincoln their oxygen, food, and water, which saved his life. This rescue is even more amazing, considering the fact that a climber recently died on the mountain even though 40 climbers passed by him on the way to the summit.The average cost per person of a guided climb of Mount Everest is $65,000, but what is the price of a human life? 40 people exchanged personal human achievement for the life of another human.
Everyday we walk past people whom we can stop and assist spiritually. People we could guide in the Christian life. What is the cost of a spiritual life?
Who can you invest in?
Who can you guide?
How many people have you passed by because you were focused on your personal achievement or worldly accolades? Let us stop being in a rush to serve ourselves and look around and see who needs assistance. Through a discipling relationship, you just may save someone from wasting their life.