“Gee whiz I told this guy about Jesus and even handed him a little mini-Bible and he didn’t accept Christ right there on the spot. Sadly, he will burn in hell.” Really? Is this how the plan to make disciples of all nations was supposed to work?
The making of disciples is not an event, it is a relationship. My earliest disciple-maker was the same as most people, probably. My mom. We were at church every Sunday with our little baggies of Cheerios to keep us occupied and quiet. I didn’t realize until later how challenging it must have been for a single mom working full time to get to church every week. But while I was growing up, it was never even considered an option. I honestly don’t remember ever missing church. Ever. My dad was also a huge part of my disciple-making process but in a much quieter way. My parents divorced when I was about five so I would see my dad on weekends. My lessons from my dad were silent. He wasn’t much for telling me what to do. He was more for leading the way and teaching by example, quietly. And I look back on his life and am thankful for those silent lessons.
About 15 years ago our church took us in and I remember very distinctly that Pastor Gary remembered us a couple of weeks after we first visited. Remembered us by name. He had only met us once for a few seconds at best when we shook hands leaving the sanctuary. But he remembered our names. Since then I’ve had conversations with dozens of church members who had the same experience. I have no idea how he does it, but it made us feel at home. This church was also where I went through “Christ Renews His Parish”, a weekend men’s retreat. That was now three years ago, and I just last night traded emails with that group of men as we still stay close in touch, pray for each other and even get together a couple of times a month.
That is just the tip of the iceberg in getting me where I am today. Look at that process above. Look at the people involved. The time involved. And the time still needed. I’m not done when it comes to becoming a disciple. There are friends that I have that seem so amazingly more mature in their growth and it’s exciting to see what I can still become. But getting me where I am now has taken decades, not minutes.
Some of you reading this have a calling to walk up to perfect strangers and invite them to accept Christ. I’m not in any way asking you to stop doing that. You are planting a seed. But that seed needs to grow. While you may only be in the lives of these people for a few seconds or minutes, you need to be prepared to enter into long term relationships with at least some people in your life and help them to foster a relationship with God. It takes time.
But it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. I remember I was in a men’s group meeting at church one night and one of the members was sitting there and you could tell he was thinking about something. He rarely spoke. He was a listener. He finally spoke up and said he’d never been baptized. And he wanted to be. I am almost brought to tears today remembering the church service a few weeks later where he was baptized as an adult. It was an amazing day. I also remember a close family member calling me to tell me he was returning to the church after decades away from it. I remember seeing his kids baptized and then watching their marriage affirmed by the church. These were inspiring times but they were years or decades in the making.
I don’t get “credit” for either of those. Remember my story and the number of people involved in bringing me to where I am today. I was just one of the people along the way that invested time and prayer into those lives. My encouragement to you today is to ask who you need to be investing your time into. Who can you be patient with the same way the people in my life are patient with me? Who can you pray for the same way my disciple-makers have prayed for me? Who would you LOVE to get that phone call from, with that beautiful phrase, “So, I’ve been thinking about getting baptized.”
I can tell you that it’s an amazing thing. And I encourage you today to begin that process. That long long process of disciple making. God bless each of you.
We were built to be heroes.
Sometimes that means one act of heroism.
Sometimes it means a lifetime of it.