What better prayer prompt than Christ, for the week of Christmas? (When I created this schedule, I didn’t realize how this would work out. Isn’t that cool?!)
Today’s post comes from my friend and fellow writer, Andrew Rogers.
One of the most famous passages in the Bible is Matthew 28:16-20. Many people call this passage The Great Commission. It contains a post-resurrection scene in which Jesus calls his disciples to a mountain in Galilee. Then he says these words:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (v 17-20, NIV)
This has been a key passage for the church’s teaching on evangelism for centuries. But it begs the questions: What is a disciple? And how should we make them?
Jesus often gained followers after people saw him perform a miracle, or heard him speak (Luke 4:31-44). Likewise in the book of Acts, Jesus followers grew in number after people heard the apostles speak, or saw them perform miracles (2:40-42 & 5:12-16). Later on Paul led others to follow Jesus telling the story of his resurrection and fostering communities of faith among broken people (see any of his letters, but perhaps especially 1 Cor. 15:1-7).
Those were the ways disciples were gained in the Bible. Unfortunately, my first experience with evangelism didn’t involve any miracle-working and I’m not sure if the speaking was of much value.
I went on a street evangelism trip with my church’s high school youth group when I was fifteen. I was paired off with another teen and sent on a walk through Central Park. Our instructions were to sit down on park benches next to random people and strike up conversations. We were taught to steer the conversations toward “spiritual things” with leading questions which we memorized in advance. My partner also carried a Bible in her backpack, ready for the moment that our questions turned the conversations into an opportunity to “witness.”
I remember chatting with an older Jewish man and a young Puerto Rican man that day. The Jewish man listened to me read verses about Jesus’ claims to be the son of God before coldly dismissing me. The young Puerto Rican man opened up to me about his fear of God and his uncertainty about the goodness of his life. Though I told him repeatedly that Jesus could take all of his sins away, he said only, “I’ll think about it,” before he left.
Nearly two decades after this trip my views on disciple-making have grown (thankfully).
Disciple-making is a long process.
The best evangelistic conversations I’ve had are with old friends; people who have seen me at my best and my worst. People that have watched my faith grow and have seen the difference Jesus has made in my life. They may not be believers yet, but the evidence of Jesus they have seen in me can’t be ignored.
Pray about the relationships you have with non-believers. Are they deep enough that you can have honest conversations with them about your commitment to Jesus? If you don’t have relationships like that, ask that you would be blessed with some.
It’s important to be a person of the story.
The longer I follow Jesus, the more I realize how important it is to understand the whole Bible. Jesus claimed to be both the fulfillment of the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17-20) and also to be the same God revealed in the Old Testament (John 10:30). By disciplining myself in the study of the whole story of God (and not just the more easily applicable parts of the New Testament) I understand Jesus more completely.
Pray over your own study of Scripture. Do you see Jesus only in the first four books of the New Testament? Pray that God will reveal himself to you in the larger story.
I would rather err on the side of authenticity.
I think many Christians feel a strong temptation to act like they’ve got everything figured out in front of non-believers. I know I’m guilty of this sometimes. But it’s just posturing; trying to make our faith look bigger than it is. Dropping the “good Christian” act with non-believers is more helpful than perhaps we realize. The Bible is full of people stumbling in their discipleship (Abraham, David, Martha, and Peter for example) but it’s in their weakness that God’s power is most obvious, and it’s in their failures that we identify with them. The deep relationships I’ve had with non-believers have been transparent. In that transparency I’ve been able to show them both the joy and the cost of discipleship.
Pray about authenticity. Do you put on a good Christian face in front of non-believers? Do you hide your doubts, struggles, or pain? Pray that God would give you wisdom on how to cultivate relationships with people who don’t follow him, and that he would be revealed through you, even in your weakness.
I look back on my misadventure in Central Park and I’m not sure if I should laugh or cringe. Each time I think about myself coercing a stranger in conversation the word manipulation comes to mind and makes me shudder. While God can undoubtedly create a good end for someone, despite manipulation, I struggle to think that this is the best way to make disciples. Instead, we should learn from earliest believers. Tell the story of Jesus. Perform miracles for people, perhaps through everyday acts of love and forgiveness. And cultivate communities of faith.
Andy Rogers writes fiction, non-fiction, and emails that are just a bit too long. He has worked in the book industry since 2007. Andrew is a member of a writers group called The Weaklings. Together they host Jot: The GR Writers Mini-Conference. Andrew is married, a father, and lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. His work has been published in Catapult Magazine, The Write Michigan 2013 Anthology, Prodigal Son Magazine, the Upper Room, and elsewhere. He tweets at @ALRstories and blogs at tellbetterstories.wordpress.com.
Father, We desire to see the name of Christ uplifted in our community. Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, and our eternal hope. Help us build deep relationships so we can have honest conversations about our commitment to You. Give us wisdom to know how to be honest about our doubts, struggles, and pain with others so You may be revealed, even in our weaknesses. Draw us closer to You. Amen.
[tweetherder]What is a disciple? How should we make them? A few thoughts on sharing Christ with others. #PrayAtoZ[/tweetherder]
[tweetherder]3 important thoughts for sharing Christ with others. via @ALRstories #PrayAtoZ[/tweetherder]
[tweetherder]Sharing Christ with others often means building deep and lasting relationships. #PrayAtoZ[/tweetherder]
I love the acknowledgement of a long process. I think of where God has spoken through my story is through struggle, and with people I have know for a very long time. Also, new people, where community is cultivated deeply through story.