In Memory of Steve Smith

I have a saying, “Discipleship is everything and everything is discipleship.” If we define discipleship as the process we undertake in order to become like Jesus, then it would sound more like this; “Following Jesus is everything and everything should be about following Jesus. To me, that’s sums up the whole of life. A religious leader tried to challenge me once on this. He had obviously been thinking of his retort for some time when he approached me with, “Ok, I got one for you, a funeral. How does that have anything to do with discipleship?” I immediately replied, “Everything man! That’s the graduation ceremony, baby!” Death (or the day of Christ’s return) is the day our discipleship will be completed and we will be perfectly conformed to the image of Christ. It is the crescendo of our existence and reveals the glory of God in us.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1.6)

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; (Rom 8.28-29)

Today, I greave the passing of our friend and fellow disciple-maker, Steve Smith. But I’m also celebrating the fact that he has graduated! He is with Jesus, perfectly conformed to the image of God, having become everything he was meant to be. We will miss Steve and yet we keep our hands to the plow in anticipation of our own transformation completed and unwavering obedience to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Please pray for Steve’s wife Laura, and three grown sons for comfort and peace in the days to come.

Question: How do we disciple a Couple?

A friend recently asked this question; “How do we disciple a couple?” Here’s my response…

“Actually, it’s pretty easy and the same as with a single person. You’ll have a lot of fun if the couple wants to follow Jesus.

Keep Jesus the center of discipleship – Read Colossians 1 and time how long it takes to read out loud. Now count the number of times Paul refers to Jesus. Follow his example. Talk about Jesus! Get them in the Word and reading Jesus daily. Help them pray and talk to Jesus daily. When you teach something, start with Jesus. When they ask you a question, start with Jesus. When there is an obstacle or struggle to overcome, start with Jesus. (Notice I started with Jesus) This is a learned skill and a discipline.

Pray for them – This would seem like a no brainer but I’m amazed on how we treat prayer as the last resort and not our first resort even in discipleship. I recently watched this video and it reminds me of what I think about my ministry when I am not declaring my absolute dependence on God in prayer. Real transformation is a miracle of God. We need to be asking Jesus for the real deal in our lives and the lives of others.

Love them – Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. (John 15.13) The trick is to LIVE while DYING. I’ve heard it said, “Its easier to die for Jesus than to live for Him.” Don’t know if that’s completely true but there’s a kernel of truth in that. I think the same goes for the couple that you’re discipling. You need to die to yourself and live for them. If at the end of the day they say, “we feel loved by Ryan and Chelsea,” you completed a huge part of the task.

Spend lots of time together – at least twice a week, four is optimal. Multiply your time together by doing life together; church, harvest, coffee, going to the store, take trips together, have fun, etc… Jesus probably spent 10,000 hours with His D’s in the span of 2.5-3 years. It would take us almost 30 years to do the same with 2 hours a week. He chose 12 so that they would be with Him (Mark 3.14). Side note: Jesus did most of His discipleship in the harvest. Food for thought.

Get close – Proximity increases time. If you live less than a 10min drive is optimal. 20min is doable. 40min…they might as well live in a different state 🙂 Again, Jesus got His closest guys close (Mark 3.14).

Look for influence – If they are learners and doers, you have influence. If they are not, you’re just tickling the ears. Sounds like they are asking for your leadership. The rub comes when they have to make a choice of following you or the pastor, speaker, teacher, parent, etc… It’s ok for people to have multiple leaders in their lives but if it becomes a competition for time, goals, focus, and vision (and it will) they may need to make a choice on where they are going to have to throw in 99%. People are way too busy and spread way too thin in the American context to have the kind of focused and concentrated relationship that Jesus had with the 12. The tricky part of this is to warn them of this danger without demanding their allegiance or compliance. This is why I think Hebrews 13.7 comes before Hebrews 13.17. Ultimately, you want Jesus to call the shots in their life. He is the primary discipler. Your job is to facilitate that. 

Cast vision – Jesus started with “follow Me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” (Mat 4.19) He ended with “There’s the world, sic ’em” (Chuck’s version of the Great Commission, Mat 28.18-20). Keep casting the vision for reproduction, multiplication, generations, and the ultimate goal of reaching the world for Jesus.

I said at the first “it’s easy”. Well, by principle. Now comes the hard part, doing it 🙂 Jesus set a high bar and to me, these are the main principles. Some is better than none, so work your way little by little into these principles as you disciple them. 

There is plenty more but you guys have the Holy Spirit, the Word, and lots of tools. You’ll have fun 🙂 If you’re looking for more specifics, shoot me another email and I’ll tell you what Deb and I think :)”

What Robinson Crusoe says about Discipleship

I’m reading “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe. What can we learn about discipleship from this small excerpt as Crusoe disciples a native he rescued from cannibals? Great Lessons!!!

“I had, God knows, more sincerity than knowledge in all the methods I took for this poor creature’s instruction, and must acknowledge, what I believe all that act upon the same principle will find, that in laying things open to him, I really informed and instructed myself in many things that either I did not know or had not fully considered before, but which occurred naturally to my mind upon searching into them, for the information of this poor savage; and I had more affection in my inquiry after things upon this occasion than ever I felt before: so that, whether this poor wild wretch was better for me or no, I had great reason to be thankful that ever he came to me; my grief sat lighter, upon me; my habitation grew comfortable to me beyond measure: and when I reflected that in this solitary life which I have been confined to, I had not only been moved to look up to heaven myself, and to seek the Hand that had brought me here, but was now to be made an instrument, under Providence, to save the life, and, for aught I knew, the soul of a poor savage, and bring him to the true knowledge of religion and of the Christian doctrine, that he might know Christ Jesus, in whom is life eternal; I say, when I reflected upon all these things, a secret joy ran through every part of My soul, and I frequently rejoiced that ever I was brought to this place, which I had so often thought the most dreadful of all afflictions that could possibly have befallen me. I continued in this thankful frame all the remainder of my time; and the conversation which employed the hours between Friday and me was such as made the three years which we lived there together perfectly and completely happy, if any such thing as complete happiness can be formed in a sublunary state. This savage was now a good Christian, a much better than I; though I have reason to hope, and bless God for it, that we were equally penitent, and comforted, restored penitents. We had here the Word of God to read, and no farther off from His Spirit to instruct than if we had been in England. I always applied myself, in reading the Scripture, to let him know, as well as I could, the meaning of what I read; and he again, by his serious inquiries and questionings, made me, as I said before, a much better scholar in the Scripture knowledge than I should ever have been by my own mere private reading. Another thing I cannot refrain from observing here also, from experience in this retired part of my life, viz. how infinite and inexpressible a blessing it is that the knowledge of God, and of the doctrine of salvation by Christ Jesus, is so plainly laid down in the Word of God, so easy to be received and understood, that, as the bare reading the Scripture made me capable of understanding enough of my duty to carry me directly on to the great work of sincere repentance for my sins, and laying hold of a Saviour for life and salvation, to a stated reformation in practice, and obedience to all God’s commands, and this without any teacher or instructor, I mean human; so the same plain instruction sufficiently served to the enlightening this savage creature, and bringing him to be such a Christian as I have known few equal to him in my life.”

Lessons Learned

“I had, God knows, more sincerity than knowledge in all the methods…” 
One of the keys in discipleship is to get started, even though you don’t feel like you know enough. (Jn 14.21, 17.7) We will never know enough. Share what you know. And in the sharing, more will come.

” …that in laying things open to him, I really informed and instructed myself in many things…”
I have found this to be true, the disciple-maker is usually the greater recipient of knowledge and joy than the disciple. (Act 20.35, 3Jn 1.4) Pour yourself into others and you will reap the harvest.

 “…I had more affection in my inquiry after things upon this occasion than ever I felt before…”
The joy of learning to serve others by researching the Word of God on their behalf. If only people knew how exhilarating and self-satisfying it is to be motivated to learn in order to make disciples. (Phil 1.21-26, Mk 10.45)

“…but was now to be made an instrument, under Providence, to save the life…and bring him to the true knowledge of religion and of the Christian doctrine,…” 
The wonders of being included in the greatest enterprise know to man, the advancement of the kingdom of God. And why wouldn’t God use angels or some other means; because He made us in His image and He wants us to become like Him as the lovers of men’s souls (Gal 5.1-2)

More coming soon…