Correcting the Scope of Discipleship
Growing up, Saturday was Chore-day. Dad would assemble us kids and then begin handing out chores: Chris, mow the lawn, Mike, wash the van, Jana… you get the picture. I remember one time I was assigned to mow the lawn, but when I went to start the lawn mower it was out of gas. When I went back to Dad and told him that the lawn mower was out of gas, he did what every good dad does and told me that I needed to fill it up. “But I don’t know where the gas can is,” I replied. Before he said a word, though, I knew what he was going to say, “Well, I guess that’s your first chore.”
In saying this, he wasn’t really giving me a new chore, he was just helping me see the full scope of the chore I had already been given. I had misunderstood the real chore. I thought that I just needed to start the lawn mower and run it over the grass. So then, when the mower wouldn’t start, I assumed I was off the hook. But I was wrong because the real chore was to cut the grass. That meant that if the gas tank was empty, it needed to be filled; if the bag was missing, it needed to be found; if the blade was dull, it needed to be sharpened. My chore wasn’t simply to start the mower and run it over the lawn, my chore was to cut the grass – no matter what it took to get it done.
I wonder sometimes if we do something similar in the church with discipleship. I think there may be an unwritten, unspoken axiom that defines discipleship as taking an immature follower of Jesus and helping them become a mature follower of Jesus. This, however, is a misunderstanding. Much like my view of mowing the lawn, it is too narrow. Discipleship is, rather, taking a non-follower of Jesus and helping them become a mature follower of Jesus.
Recently I was having a conversation with a friend who told me a story about a young man he was training to share his faith with others. It became clear early in the training that this young man was not interested in sharing his faith. At one point he turned to my friend and said, “I don’t know about all of this evangelism stuff, I really just want to make disciples.” My first thought when I heard this was, “Make disciples of whom?” I feel bad for this young man because it seems like someone gave him an incomplete picture of the Jesus life. It is true that we are to make disciples… but the only people we can make disciples of are non-disciples.
If we are to fulfill the mission of the church to make disciples, we must help people see that the scope of this work is not forming the found into the image of Jesus – it is forming the lost into the image of Jesus. This is what Jesus had in mind when He stood on a hill with His friends and told them to go and make disciples. As you teach and encourage and walk out this mindset, please know that I am here to assist you and your church in any way I can.
Together with you,
firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 647-2764