Disciples making disciples
Spine tingling! Awesome! Changed my life! Amazing! Blew my mind! The guys were absolutely exhausted but totally wired up as they piled into the vans and SUV’s for the overnight drive to our homes seven hours north. Even a midnight traffic stoppage for bridge construction couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm. As we drove through the night, one by one the guys dozed off until I was left alone with my thoughts and reflections. If you’re awake, night driving on a nearly deserted interstate can be pretty cool, especially when you’re fresh from an experience like nothing you’ve ever had before.
That was May of 1994 at Anaheim Stadium. About 40 of us from our church in suburban Sacramento had traveled to Promise Keepers on Friday morning, not sure what to expect. It really was amazing... and all those other things. The music was indescribable with more than 64,000 men moved by the Holy Spirit singing... loudly! Even the timid guys were belting it out! It was cool, but the stuff I continued to mull over on that quiet overnight drive were the messages. Some of that teaching was so crucial it still influences my thinking today. Some of it really didn’t connect. And some went into a file for later... in some cases way later! Like 20+ years later. Like the teaching on ‘The Three Essential Men for Every Man to Fulfill His Mission’, which came rattling back through my brain a few weeks ago.
The Three-Others were, in simple terms, a Peer to walk with us, a Mentor who disciples us, and another believer to whom we are a Mentor. Being a men’s conference, the teachers used a men from the Bible to help us process it, but the principles apply to everyone.
As we’ve embraced Jesus’ call to become a church that intentionally makes disciples who make disciples, this simple principle found it’s way back into my thought process. It makes so much sense, and can be put into action by anyone of any age from JH students to Super Citizens. Not to dwell on “what if’s”, but I’ve been pondering how much more I might have grown and influenced others if I had been more intentional in the intervening years... But wait, there’s more!
Last week, as I was ruminating on this blog entry, I ended up on the phone with my friend, Sean Thome. Sean heads up the church planting and pastor mentoring ministry, NWCEA, in the Willamette Valley and is coming to teach here at FCC on May 27 & June 3. As we were discussing his insights into the process of disciple-making, I mentioned that I was preparing to write on this Three-Others principle, and he responded that it really should be Five-Others, not just Three. Intrigued, I asked him to elaborate and I loved what he said.
He noted that there was a missing element at both ends of the original three. Starting with the obvious, he said every Christian must start with a solid relationship with God! (Insert forehead smack: Duh... why didn’t I see that!?). Rightly he noted that the richness we intend for the other relationships are a direct reflection of how closely we walk with God. If we’re tight with the Father, we will walk in humble teachability and wisdom. With that, Sean moved to the other end, the fifth relationship every one of us need: Someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus. In keeping with the other three, he represented this person with the biblical character of Zacchaeus, a man who was not a follower, but had a genuine interest in what Jesus was about.
It’s a fact that people like Zacchaeus are often the most overlooked folks by those who are already believers. I won’t imagine what all the reasons would be, but I’ll highlight one: The perception that folks aren’t ready for discipling until they make the commitment to follow Jesus. Using Zacchaeus as an example, we realize that his interest in Jesus predated his conversion by quite some time. He clearly knew of Jesus and had likely even heard his teaching or witnessed miracles some time previous to his actual conversion. He was probably a friend of the Matthew, a fellow tax-collector who had left to became a disciple of Jesus. Regardless, God’s Spirit had clearly working in his life prior to his commitment. His eagerness to surrender his life to Jesus was already in play by the time Jesus came back through town. Just like the Spirit will be working on our friends and family members... way ahead of us!
Give it some thought. Five key relationships. But go the next step. Begin making plans, in deliberate prayer and action, to put these folks in place in your life. Go and get it started... and then watch your life change!