How to be a radical disciple.
A few weeks ago, it was wonderful to have Jarrod Cooper with us to speak at our Foundation event for leaders. We were so blessed by Jarrod’s ministry, and I have asked him to share a few thoughts this week as a guest blog. I hope this encourages you to be radical in your discipleship.
God did not ask us to make ‘church members’, count ‘decisions’, or even have people say ‘the sinner’s prayer’ (not that I’m against any of those things necessarily). He actually told us to make disciples.
‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me!”’ Matt 16:24
A church member in some of today’s circles is more like the member of any social club. Some want to go to a certain church because it’s cool, big, glitzy or because it’s small, comfortable, not too demanding. All this has little to do with the real walk of faith and the real JESUS. In the gospels, we find that Jesus-followers entered into a deeply life-changing arrangement.
The disciples had to be…
Busy people gave up their jobs and plans to follow Jesus after a single request. Would you or I? He may not require everyone to give up their careers, but all will have to make space for the learning and mission of being a disciple.
Jesus told them ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ It was clear He was going to teach them. A disciple, by inference, has a teacher. If you are the leader, that’s you! Are we discipling our church members or filling in databases and doing hospital visits? Every church should be a training ground, and every Christian a soldier either in, or preparing for, battle.
Talented Peter went through some deep, humbling experiences. Disciples accept humility and brokenness as part of the journey. Pride is at the root of all sin and must be winkled out. God will line all of us up for some rejection, failure, and being overlooked. Are we teaching our people to handle it? Are we preaching brokenness and teaching repentance? Are we confronting sin? We’ve all got to pass that test (or keep retaking it!).
True discipleship involves some straight conversations. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, but soft, marshmallow conversations rarely change anyone deeply! Our society is so hooked on approval that often we don’t know what correction or discipline looks like any more, so we call it rejection. But correction is not rejection – it is protection. And discipline is not disapproval, it’s the removal of stuff that is going to harm you! ‘God disciplines those He loves’ (Hebrews 12:4-11) Are we raising disciples who will embrace correction and find life in it?
Jesus called His disciples ‘to be with him.’ Friendship with a more experienced man or woman of God and a group of fellow disciples is a vital part of healthy growth. Are we allowing a few to get close, to walk the walk with us, and not just listen on Sundays? You can’t be connected to everyone, but we all can disciple a few.
Another new word! Jesus ‘sent them out.’ Are we sending the troops somewhere, adventuring selflessly as part of a vision bigger than ourselves? Every true disciple is a missionary.
So are we raising disciples or gathering members? Some of us need to change the polarity of our relationship with our church members, because it should not be the leaders who are chasing around after members.
Instead, the leaders should be saying to others ‘Follow me, and I will make you…’ (Matthew 4:19). Leaders of the Church of the future won’t simply be carers and counsellors (though both are necessary), but pioneers who get a vision, make it plain for all to see, then march off to a brave new world with disciples following. In this way the Church will become more of a movement than a hospital. An army on the front line, not cadets locked in their barracks!