Disciple // shift

In the month of June, The Story will make a pretty big shift, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, from Israel to Jesus, from mighty and stubborn kings to the suffering servant, from the great kingdom[s] of the Promised Land to a common stable in the little town of Bethlehem and the promised King.

I was recently blessed to attend a conference in Orlando, FL, thanks to the Church and our district, who sent 6 pastors and aspiring pastors from the Madison area. My father attended the conference with me and we had a great time discussing what we heard and how it might apply in our contexts. This installment of the year-ly Exponential Conference was called “Discipleshift.” If you hadn’t already guessed it, the conference was based on the idea that ministry needs to shift, from attracting people to our churches, to making disciples who make disciples [2 Timothy 2:2.] Discipleship seems to be one of the newer buzztopics in the evangelical community, and many churches have begun to see a trend where church goers are simply shifting between churches, instead of new people being reached for Christ. There were 5 parts to the conference, each represented by a proposed shift in ministry.

1. From Reaching to Making
2. From Leading to Being Led
3. From Teaching to Modeling
4. From Assimilating to Creating Community
5. From Attracting to Deploying

Obviously these are all related, but the one I want to ask you to focus on, today, and this month, is the second shift, from leading to being led. As a disciple of Jesus, what does it look like if you’re focused on leading, and being a good leader? For those you’re leading, what will they see that they need before they can lead others? Now, as a disciple of Jesus, what does it look like if you’re focused on being led, and being a good follower? For those you have invited to follow Jesus with you, what will they see that they need before they can lead others? In each scenario, where are the eyes of each person focused?

What is the difference between the Old Testament, and the New Testament? Is God different? Is one part Law and the other part Gospel? We’ve been reading and hearing about God’s upper story, and seeing how He has always been pursuing His people, always redeeming them back to Himself, and how His people always end up turning away. We hear about God’s grace and His pursuit every week. This verse from last week’s [for me, Israel: Battle Between Gods] sermon is sticking with me right now: 1 Kings 18:37 “Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” So that they will know that you are God, and so that they will know that You are turning their hearts back again. God is always the one reaching to us. Jesus is the line between the Old and New Testaments. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega [beginning and end] of God’s creative and re-creative action. He is the focus of the Story.

So if our focus on leading has people looking at us, instead of Christ, what story are they getting? God is the one who changes hearts. This discipleship thing isn’t nearly as difficult as we’re trying to make it. Let’s be 23 Disciples [2 Timothy 2:2.] Let’s be followers of Jesus, who make followers of Jesus, who then make more followers of Jesus. You don’t even have to be a leader to make a follower of someone else, unless you’re trying to get them to follow you.

Take a moment to pray with me.

Dear God, Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Jesus is the Word, the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by Him. Light a fire in my heart, God, make me hungry for and keep me sustained by the Word. Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and as He leads me make me dependent on Christ. Make me a visible reflection of Jesus, so that people would see Him, not me. And as I go, break my heart for what breaks Yours, grant me the missional heartbeat of God.

Matthew Wipperman
Director of Missionary Multiplication