The simple question that changed my life...
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
by Dave Miller
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God has saved you with somebody else in mind. I will never forget the first time a great friend and mentor in my life, Beegee Brown, spoke those words over a couple of cheese enchiladas and a tall glass of southern sweet tea. I had been a pastor for 12 years and was currently on staff at a mega-church in a seminary town. I had a Masters of Divinity in pastoral ministry from a flagship North American Seminary. I could parse Greek verbs, articulate the hypostatic union, argue the finer points of reformed theology, and debate my historical pre-tribulational position on the return of Christ. I could administrate ministry programs, plan and follow up evangelistic events, lead small group ministries, and take church members around the world on mission trips, but I did not know how to personally make a disciple who could make disciples.
That’s right. I didn’t know how to make a disciple of Jesus. Embarrassing, believe me I know. Of course, I couldn’t let a little embarrassment impinge my façade, so I trusted in the methods, events, and programs I had known with zeal to see things change.Disciple-making disciples were exceptions. Frustration built because my experience in no way resembled the pattern of Acts I so longed to see. So, I asked a simple question that would radically alter the direction of my life:
What is a disciple?
I figured if I wanted to make disciples I should know the expected outcome of my disciple making.I began to mentally strip away everything that makes much of the American church machine run, things that were not available or necessary for the first century church. I found I spent all of my time planning “disciple-making” programs, instead of making disciples. Almost 20 years of “ministry,” many books, a doctorate, and a multitude of failures later, I am convinced Jesus communicated everything when he walked by the Sea of Galilee and said to Simon Peter and his brother Andrew:
Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. - Jesus
Clearly, I am a stubborn man. Yet in the midst of it all, I am still a sent one. God has saved me with someone else in mind.
Jesus, Stereotype me please!
We set out one Saturday afternoon in the spring in a little Mormon town called Duncan on the Arizona – New Mexico border. Dylan and I had just finished up a weekend training the 411of evangelism and short-term discipleship with a small number of believers from the First Baptist Church. We wanted to give the participants an opportunity to practice sharing the gospel.
My youngest son Cohen, Dot, a rancher’s wife who lived on the mountain, and Eric, a former Highway Patrol cowboy who now owned a car dealership, joined me knocking on doors. After a few houses of closed doors, some no thank you’s and a couple of prayers, we met Filipe. Filipe was an Hispanic woman in her mid-fifties. She had been divorced three times and was living alone. We asked how we could pray for her and she invited us in for the company and gave us each a bottle of water.
After Eric prayed for her arthritis, I shared the #3Circles and found out she was a follower of Jesus. We chatted for a few moments and she said, “You know I prayed a couple days ago that God would send me someone to help me find the purpose for my life.” I said, “Good because God sent us to you.” No visions, no dreams, no chariots of fire. Just a handful of believers who decided to obey Jesus and live as those sent to Duncan. We were in fact, sent by God to Filipe that day. You are in fact sent by God as you go in your life, but something is stopping you.
The greatest single hurdle to the kingdom of God is the lump in your throat just before you share the gospel. That single feeling of doubt, fear, or anxiety welling up into the insurmountable moment that stands between you and your kingdom purpose. It takes many forms. Regardless of the reasons, this moment of decision moves the kingdom forward or hinders the kingdom’s progress. We choose in that moment whether we will obey the Spirit and share the gospel or fear the world and its response. Jesus told us the gates of hell cannot prevail against us, yet there we are stuck in that moment, running through all the reasons in our mind why skipping this opportunity really won’t matter.
Let’s just get really honest.
We hate stereotypes. In a world where the greatest single cultural no-no is judgment, assuming someone’s identity rather than learning about someone’s identity is cultural suicide. We have been convinced we have the right to choose our own path, to decide our own identities, and believe our own truths. The result: we scoff at being told who we are and fear telling someone else who he or she should be.
We become the commander of our own lives, living under our own authority, driven by a deceitful and selfish heart. But in the midst of our raging independence we are dying for the affirmation of others. So, we post our independent, self-absorbed lives all over the Internet yearning for a view, like, follower, or comment to validate our self-determined existence. Ironic. Our pseudo-independence is dependent on the opinion of others. Such is the way of image-bearers. We cannot create identity we were created to receive identity.
Identity is exactly what Jesus has given to his followers. You are an ambassador with a ministry and a message. God is ready for men and women who are ready to take the identity of image-bearing ambassadors with honor. He desires men and women who go against the cultural grain and forge a kingdom movement of sent ones. I implore you, let Jesus stereotype you.
Peter and John made their way into Jerusalem not long after the day of Pentecost. 3000 believers were added in one day and quite a stir had been created in the city. The Apostles were proclaiming that Jesus was alive. The High Priestly family, who had been instrumental in Jesus death, conspired to shut down these followers of the “dead” Jesus.
A beggar sat every day at the gate called Beautiful and sought the generosity of those who passed by to survive. Peter and John had no silver or gold so in the name of Jesus they told the man to get up and walk. He did! Word spread fast. Really fast. Peter proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, 5000+ people believed, and the priests got ticked.
The Captain of the Temple along with some religious leaders rushed Peter and John while they were still speaking, arresting them and throwing them in jail. It was late, so they held them all night. The next morning the most powerful leaders in Jerusalem gathered and put Peter and John right in the middle. The accusations flew, the threats ensued, and the questions cornered. “By what power or by what name do you do these things?”
The Holy Spirit filled Peter, just as Jesus promised and he said:
Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesusis the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
These highly educated, powerful men were astonished. Peter and John should have been shaking in fear. Yet, here they are standing next to a crippled man who clearly was walking proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead! How did such common un-educated men find such boldness? The Bible tells us in Acts 4:13:
...they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
If there is anything in your life that does not fit the stereotypical New Testament Jesus follower then trash it! There is a Jesus factor that separates us from everyone else. The identity of a follower sets you apart and makes the world recognize exactly whom you serve.
Join me on this journey from Genesis to Revelation to learn who you are and what God wants you to do as His image-bearing ambassador. Let’s see what #Sentergy the Father creates when Jesus, people, practice and theology Collide!
Until there's #NoPlaceLeft...
Up Next: Chapter 1: Our Box-Busting Glocal God [Part 1]
Sentergy: When Jesus, People, Practice and Theology Collide
Chapter 1: The Glory of God
Chapter 2: The Glory of God in Jesus
Chapter 3: The Glory of God in the Gospel
Chapter 4: The Glory of God in Disciple Making
Chapter 5: If You Love Me You Will Obey What I Command
Chapter 6: Monday Morning Disciple Making
Chapter 7: Monday Morning Disciple Making Part 2
Interlude: The Father's Heart
Chapter 8: All Scripture All People All Places by Carter Cox
Conclusion: The Lump In Your Throat