If you read my blog regularly, you know that I was challenged by a good friend many months ago to stop posting about politics on Facebook. My life has been better since. I recently read a blog post by Don Merrit about debate among pastors on doctrinal issues, and why the author no longer debates. His post is about winning a debate, with disastrous fallout afterward. A bitter victory. Then a couple of weeks ago I posted one of my most popular posts in this blog’s history in which I opined that the opinions of the Duck Dynasty cast on homosexuality don’t really matter. And I topped it all off with a Facebook share of an article that argued that the creeds don’t really matter either.
I feel like I’m bouncing around the same topic in a very haphazard way so I want to clarify my thoughts here. I think doctrine is important. I think the creeds are important. I think the question of whether homosexuality is a sin is important. But these questions are not part of the process of making disciples. My blog is permeated with one single thought over and over again. God gave you one tool to make disciples: Your witness. That’s all you need. And it’s all that the people around you need. I may get myself in trouble here, but I’m going to say that your witness is a more powerful tool to make disciples than the Bible itself. I’m not kidding. If you had one chance to make a disciple of a person, and you had to choose between a Bible and your witness I’d go with your witness every time. They can get a Bible anywhere. They can only get your witness from you. And your witness might be just the motivation they need to seek out and starting reading a Bible.
Why not lead with some doctrine? Why not lead by debating whether homosexuality is a sin? Why not pass out Bibles on a street corner? Because to me, and to Jesus, the process of making disciples is about forming relationships. He didn’t walk up to the fishermen and tell them what their sins were. He didn’t hand them the scriptures. He didn’t recite Mosaic law. He walked up to the fishermen and said, “Follow me.” He spent all of his time with them. He spent YEARS with them.
The people who responded harshly to me said things like, “But the question of whether homosexuality is a sin is important.” Sure it is. Once you’ve accepted Christ and you have decided to abandon your life to him, that’s an important question. Especially if you are gay. But is it an important question the first time you meet someone?
The creeds are also important. But they are not a gatekeeping device. They are a discipline building device. I would reject the argument that you cannot become a follower of Christ without reciting a creed. But I would agree that you can develop into a more mature follower of Christ by doing so. Just like I reject the premise that you cannot become a disciple without reading the Bible. But once you are, you had better get about the business of knowing it cover to cover.
The problem with the way we make disciples is that we pile up every life experience we had that got us to where we are over the course of many decades and then thrust that on people as an expectation for them to achieve in a matter of minutes. If they do not… well at least we tried. But you didn’t try. You shoved them up against the finish line and shouted, “Cross that line sinner!” and then told them you would pray for them when they had absolutely no idea what you were talking about and walked away.
Here’s the way. You meet them at the starting line. Their starting line. Wherever that is. And you become a part of their lives. You let them see how you live. You tell them stories about your witness. You let them see you are human. You let them see that you are not the gatekeeper of their salvation, and that the miracle is that the gatekeeper leaves the gate wide open for anyone to walk through. You make them a disciple by showing them that you are a disciple and giving them a life vision that is not only appealing, but attainable. You’re not on any pedestal and they don’t need to be either.
At some point the questions will come. At some point there may be a sin in their lives that, as a loving brother or sister, you need to call out. That is where creeds will help. That is where Bible study will help. That is where an eye-to-eye conversation about homosexuality will help. Followed by a hug. And a conversation. All night. And for months afterward. There is no “drive by” option for making disciples.
Stop showing up at the finish line and gasping at all the sinners that won’t cross it after eight minutes of your professional level disciple making. Think about where you started and how long it took you to get where you are today, and how far you still are from being “done”. Give these poor people you’re talking to the same opportunity to experience the PROCESS of discipleship and not the EVENT you want it to be. The time it takes to make a disciple is not measured on your watch. It’s measured on a calendar. So saddle up. This is going to take a while.
We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.