Over the next few days I will share with you some of my thoughts regarding how we prepare young people to serve God. I believe that the most effective leaders are not the ones who are taught, but the ones who are discipled. Jesus knew what he was doing when he took twelve disciples to follow and serve with him for three years rather than opening a school offering classes on theology.
Perhaps the crux of discipleship that Jesus employed with his 12 disciples was responding to events, circumstances, questions and persecution.
In living life together you face everything together. When things happened to Jesus, the disciples were right there with him. When things happened to the disciples, Jesus was right there with them. How Jesus would respond to such events became some of the most crucial and memorable teaching moments of his time with the twelve disciples. In fact, in reading the Gospels, the bulk of the narrative about Jesus and his disciples is in describing how Jesus responded to events and questions that arose in the course of their lives together. These instances became the most critical lessons the disciples learned. And one could argue that these lessons were learned much better than any other thing they were taught.
When the people brought children to Jesus and the disciples balked, Jesus taught them about their importance to God. (Matthew 19:13-15)
When Jesus saw the widow offer her two pennies to the temple treasury, he pointed it out and taught his disciples about giving their all. (Luke 21:1-4)
When Jesus observed the condition of self-righteousness in the religious leaders, he told a parable to his disciples about a tax-collector begging for mercy and humbling himself before God. (Luke 18:9-14)
When a rich young man approached Jesus and asked him how to be saved, Jesus taught about sacrifice. (Matthew 19:16-30)
When Jesus saw a crowd of hungry people he responded by miraculously feeding them. (John 6:1-13)
When the Pharisees opposed Jesus and complained about his disciples “unlawfully” eating the heads of grain on the Sabbath, Jesus taught from the Old Testament about the meaning of the Sabbath. (Mark 2:23-27)
When friends of a paralyzed man lowered him through a roof in front of Jesus, Jesus forgave his sins and healed him. (Mark 2:1-12)
So many more examples could be raised. And one thing is true--had the disciples not been living together with Jesus 24/7, most of these opportunities would have been lost. But this demonstrates the power of the witness of a godly person who puts himself in contact with society and responds in godly ways to events, circumstances, needs, questions and persecutions.
We would do well to simply follow Jesus’ example and do away with religious “programs” all together. Instead of planning an event and inviting people to it, Jesus went out among the general population and did effective ministry by responding to events that arose in everyday life. And then he used those situations and responses to teach and train his disciples. After seeing how Jesus performed among society, the disciples would have a good basis for doing likewise on their own.
One of the most exciting parts of our discipleship training here in our location is that several times a week our interns visit people in the adjoining village. They go out with no agenda other than to spend time with the people, get to know them and to be sensitive to ways in which they can serve those they meet. In the course of doing this they have helped people prepare their crops for the market, repaired their houses and participated in many conversations about God and the Bible. Responding to real events and real people becomes one of the most effective forms of ministry we can do.
Five post summary:
1. Jesus’ life was already an ongoing example of effective ministry, of which he later included them, before he called them and before he sent them out to do ministry on their own.
2. After spending time in prayer Jesus chose specific people to be his disciples, to live with him and follow him for about three years. He chose a limited number of people and poured himself into them rather than trying to get as many as he could.
3. Jesus didn’t simply make scheduled teaching appearances with his disciples but invited them to live with him 24/7. They did not only hear what he was about, they saw it every day.
4. Jesus spent time teaching his disciples important concepts and truths so they would have understanding. He taught them in ways that were not available for those in the general public who followed him.
5. Jesus responded to events, circumstances, questions and persecution in society and used these as a context to teach and train his disciples.