Sunday, November 21, 2010

Discipling is Messy

zen of grandson's dirty dishes
Jesus did not just cast out words for the sake of lofty ideas. His intention was to make disciples. Not only was he charged with speaking truth from the Father, he had the added challenge of gathering a group of men that would follow him around, learn from him, become like him, and carry his message.

Unfortunately many of us are satisfied with being biblical philosophers casting out pearls of wisdom without intentionally planning to be a discipler. Discipling gets messy. Discipling means having people hanging around, and constantly asking questions or challenging us. Having people always watching our lives doesn’t fit well with our culture of individuality and comfort! We want our space and it should include privacy as much as possible! Our natural tendency is to put up fences so people don’t come too close or stay too long. But, that is not how Jesus did discipling.

Jesus sought people who wanted to be like him and intentionally shouldered this huge responsibility of discipling. Jesus wanted disciples who would follow him everywhere he went so they’d observe how he responded to lepers, tax collectors, and arrogant leaders. He wanted followers who would savor his every word and question his assumptions. Jesus’ teaching content was not just his wonderfully delivered sermons, it included his life. He didn’t just depend on being an excellent word monger. He depended upon being an excellent model that others would want to shape their lives to.

In the end, the sign of Jesus’ success was not just having crowds of eager learners around him, but having men and women who would duplicate his compassion, his boldness, his humility, his profound devotion to the Father, and his willingness to set aside his own aspirations to serve others. Only such men and women were qualified to carry his Good News message.

If we are serious about imitating Jesus, we also must be serious about making disciples - nurturing Jesus Wannabes. I’ve made a short check-list to help me be more intentional:

1. Be a radical disciple of Jesus: There’s no way I can create Jesus-disciples if I am not radically committed to be like Jesus in my attitudes, behavior, speech, and actions.

I wanna teach like Jesus
I wanna love like Jesus
I wanna lay down my life like Jesus
I wanna speak truth like Jesus
I wanna forgive like Jesus
I wanna suffer like Jesus
I wanna be meek like Jesus

I can’t pick and choose – I have to want to BE like Jesus – the whole package. I have to let go of “me” to live like him. I can’t hang onto pride, selfishness, or stubbornness. There’s no room for arrogance, ambition, or defensiveness.

2. Check my measure of success: Do I measure my success by how many Jesus wannabes I inspire? It’s not just about filling my schedule with teaching and ministry. And it’s not about filling our classes, workshops, Bible studies or churches with people. We know from Jesus that crowds of followers are not the same as a handful of stout Jesus-disciples. Am I inspiring people to live like Jesus in every aspect of home, business, community, and ministry?

3. Make lifestyle changes: By nature, I’m a privacy hog. I love privacy and root it out wherever I go. That is counterproductive to discipling like Jesus! After all, discipling requires being available and visibly demonstrating Christ-likeness in all areas of life. For me “laying down my life” for the sake of others means giving up my “need” for alone time and my craving to “be invisible.”

When it comes to really imitating Jesus, discipling is messy. It can’t be neatly compacted into a six-part Tuesday evening series. Jesus-style discipling overflows into sharing everyday life with those who are eager to follow Jesus and allowing them to learn from me how to do it. But that is Jesus’ way to produce messengers who carry his message by their lives.

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