Jesus surprising strategy for making disciples (The Discipling Funnel) – Part 2

My last post introduced the Discipleship Funnel and took us down to number 3 – Jesus “Taught Believers”.  What next?

SOME COMMIT TO FOLLOW JESUS

After Jesus teaches those who have already expressed faith in the Good News of God’s kingdom come to earth and have responded by repenting (changing their minds and redirecting their hearts) and believing this Good News, some commit to following him.  (My purpose in this post is not to resolve the issue of exactly when regeneration occurs during this process, we will leave that question for another day.)  What does it mean to commit to following Jesus?

In Luke 9:23 Jesus answers this question by saying, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  A disciple does three things:

  • A disciple denies himself (“turn from your selfish ways” – NLT)
  • A disciple takes up his cross everyday (“Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.” – The Message)
  • A disciple follows Jesus (“Follow me and I’ll show you how.” – The Message)
There were many who liked Jesus’ preaching and teaching, but were unwilling to make a personal commitment to follow him as a disciple, a learner, or an apprentice.  This kind of commitment only follows on the heels of deep humility, a complete reorientation of what is truly valuable in life, and a willingness to suffer loss in exchange for relationship with the risen Savior.  And what produces this?  The seed of God’s word implanted in a heart prepared by the Holy Spirit.  It’s all grace, from beginning to end.
JESUS TRAINS THE COMMITTED
Imagine these two scenarios:
  1. Scenario 1: A student arrives in class, takes out pen and paper, and begins taking notes during a lecture on organic chemistry.
  2. Scenario 2: An athlete meets her personal trainer at the gym.  The trainer demonstrates a new exercise for the session and watches and coaches the athlete as she works out.
The big difference?  The student in the first scenario is learning information that she may or may not ever use in the real world.  The athlete getting trained in the gym is watching and imitating actual skills – and getting feedback and coaching along the way, not to mention accountability.
Jesus did teach, but he also trained.  But his training was reserved for those who made it to the gym at 6 a.m. and were willing to sweat…
JESUS SENDS THE TRAINED
“…As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” – John 20:21
Starting in Luke 9 we see Jesus sending his disciples into the surrounding villages “preaching the Good News and healing the sick”.  Again, in Luke 10 he sends out an even larger number of disciples.  In Matthew 28 and Acts 1 Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples and bear witness to him globally.
  • The Father sent the Son
  • The Son sent the Spirit
  • The Spirit sends the church
As we read the book of Acts we see what the church is sent to do; meet needs, preach the Good News, teach kingdom living, train the committed, and send those who are faithful.  Sound familiar?
Reflections
  1. Many of us who grew up in the evangelical tradition only received preaching and teaching.  The “Social Gospel” espoused by the “Liberal Church” focused on meeting human need, but due to a low view of Scripture lacked a transformative message to communicate to the crowds.  In reaction, the “Conservative Church” focused almost exclusively on the preaching and teaching of God’s word.  Meeting human need was a legitimate overseas missionary endeavor, but was relegated to an afterthought domestically in most contexts.  And no one in either camp did much training outside of formal settings such as bible schools and seminaries – which usually involved an exclusive focus on information transfer.
  2. Jesus always involved those he was training in meeting needs.  He took those at the bottom of the funnel and circulated them to the top.  A crucial part of the training was hands on experience in meeting the needs of people in the power and love of God.  And make no mistake, when Jesus and his disciples met human need it was always done with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.  And this, quite frankly, unnerves many of us who grew up fearing the charismatic wing of the church…
  3. Confession: I have gotten out of the habit of meeting the needs of spiritual explorers.  Correspondingly, I have had only moderate success training the committed in my local setting.  Over the past few months God has been redirecting my heart toward the needs of the family and friends of alcoholics or substance abusers.  My first step was to join an Al Anon group and begin building relationships with people who, like me, still walk with a limp because of these fractured, co-dependent relationships.  And at over 60 million strong in the US, there are plenty of needs to be met in the love and authority of Christ – the fields truly are white unto harvest.

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