As parents, how many of us want our children to do better in life than we have? To have more money; to have nicer things; to live in a better neighborhood? Of course we do! This is part of being a parent…to leave an inheritance and to pass along what life has given to us.
In the Kingdom of God it's much the same. God has not blessed and gifted us for simply our own benefit! If we aren't passing those things along to those that follow, we're missing the true point. I don’t want to live a life that misses the point.
The Imperative of Fruitfulness
Have you ever seen a “Fruitless Orange Tree”? What’s that all about? I’m no botanist, but I’m making a new rule right now: If there are no oranges, you don’t get to call it an orange tree! The point of an orange tree…is ORANGES! I think Jesus is with me on this one… "And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away." Matthew 21:19
There is more to that account than Jesus feeling hangry. The things you find in creation that exist simply for their own benefit are called Parasites! (Not a great nickname…) God’s creative and intended purpose is not for things to live for the sole purpose of perpetuating self. God’s command to Adam and to Noah was, “Be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”
A Spiritual Transaction as Well
This same command for fruitfulness and multiplication carries over into the spiritual realm also. We find similar orders being issued to the disciples in Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…"
As well as in Paul’s words to Timothy: "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:1-2
Paul is saying, “You got it from me…now give to faithful men…who will teach others…the chain is always lengthening! God has placed that seed within all of us…we are able to reproduce the life that has been birthed in us.
The “D” Word
This transference of life… this birthing the seed of God’s life in others is a thing we call “Discipleship”. If we were to ask everyone in a crowded room who is making disciples to stand, the only accurate answer would be that no one would be left sitting. Someone once said, “People will either imitate you, or use you for an excuse.” Either way, we are making disciples!
Many picture the process of discipleship as devoted followers sitting at their feet just waiting for them to dispense pearls of great wisdom and advice. But that’s not it, is it? Discipleship is the transference of life. It is taking what God has made us and putting it into the life of another. Simply transferring information or telling people what they should and shouldn’t be doing falls far short of discipleship.
While Jesus taught and ministered to the multitudes, He discipled twelve men. These were the guys who not only heard his teaching, but walked down the road with him, saw him interact with others, and saw him under the pressures of day-to-day life.
It’s Not About Me
One of the greatest lessons I will ever learn is that it’s not all about me!
Narcissism is running rampant. Everyone with a cell phone has now become their own favorite celebrity. Taking selfies, recording the mundane details of life…Here’s a picture of my lunch! I’m going to the laundry mat now... (Who cares!?) We are our own reporters and our own paparazzi. It took the disciples years to figure this one out…Lord, which of us is greatest? If the disciples had cell phones, they would have all been snapping selfies.
Modifying Our Job Description
Our measuring stick for success in ministry is not how great we become at what it is we do, but rather, how many others are released into their destiny by our influence. Is the goal of a preacher to be regarded as the best preacher with the biggest church? Is the goal of a Bible study leader to have the largest group & the deepest teaching? Is the goal of a Worship leader to be renowned for their talent & anointing?
We can have all those things going on…nothing wrong with that…but if we are not “committing those things to faithful men that will teach others also” …if we are not making disciples and passing that life onto others, then we are living a life that is missing the point!
So, let’s modify our Job Description: Job and Priority #1 is to lengthen the chain. To reproduce in others what God has placed in us. To make disciples. Statistics that I found on-line (so they must be true…) indicate that conversion to Christianity occurs before the age of 18 about 85% of the time. Our ministry is all about looking to the next generation.
It's those of us who have walked down this road for some miles that need to pour ourselves into those that will follow. Church is not about making me happy and comfortable…it's about them!
So, what happens if we don’t embrace discipleship as our first and main calling? We are left to elbow our way into a place, a position, a title… and then begin to protect our territory. In this mindset we are willing to let others “serve” in our ministry, but only to the end of enhancing our position and advancing our agenda. We begin to view those coming behind us with suspicion and our goal becomes holding others at a safe distance and keeping them in check so that our precious position isn’t threatened.
Sadly, this style of discipleship also works… we create a generation that sees ministry as a ladder to climb, rather than a road that we walk down together. In the Kingdom of God, leadership is about stewardship, not ownership. Here’s a thought: GIVE IT AWAY! Get rid of that job you’re doing! Train up three other people who show gifting and push them in front of you. Help them become more and greater than we will ever be!
Leaders & Followers
Ultimately, everyone in the Kingdom of God is called to be both a leader and a follower. This is the picture of being roped together like mountain climbers. We all play a part in developing others and being developed by others. There should never come a point in time when I am finished with either.
As a follower, in all my years of salvation, God has always been faithful to place people in my life that are critical to the things that he is developing in me.
As disciple makers we need only be one step ahead of a disciple. In other words, we don’t have to wait until we’re an “expert” to invest in other people’s lives.
One final Question: What is it that God has wired you to love to do in his Kingdom? Do you love to pray…to worship…to teach…to labor with your hands…are you an artist…are you an athlete…are you a great cook…are you an evangelist…are you a preacher?
Whatever God has placed in you…give it away to the glory of God! Find others that are coming along with similar passions and walk down the road with them while you pour into them what God has birthed in you! Let’s undo the Kingdom of me...and let’s lengthen the chain.