How do we help people who are not currently followers of Jesus become followers of Jesus? I ask that question admittedly making the assumption that being a follower of Jesus is the best possible way of life, holding hope for both abundant life now and eternal life in the future. I recognize that many people disagree with those assumptions. But I start with that disclaimer because in what follows, I run the risk of sounding like religion that treats people as projects, and I do not agree with that. Instead, my hope is that more people will become followers of Jesus because I genuinely believe it is in everyone’s best interest.
My guess is that there are a lot of people in our communities who are not followers of Jesus. People that you and I know and interact with every day. Think about your neighbors. In your minds imagine their homes, located around your home. Who are your neighbors? Do they follow Jesus? Now think about your family and close friends? List their names in your mind. Take a pause from reading this article. Write down their names. Do each of them follow Jesus? How about your co-workers? Are they followers of Jesus?
So far in this post, I’ve only asked you to consider the people you probably know fairly well. My guess is that there are also many other people you know as acquaintances. Friends of friends. Parents of your kids’ friends. Other parents on your kids’ or grandkids’ sports teams. The wait staff at the restaurant you frequent. Your plumber. There are plenty of people you have a connection with. Are they followers of Jesus?
I ask you to think about these names and faces because my guess is that there are at least a few people in each of our lives who are not followers of Jesus. What will it take for us to invite them to become followers of Jesus? In our study of the Gospel of John, we’ve been watching as Jesus interacts with his disciples and some other people, like the Samaritan woman at the well. They all become his followers. How did he do it
There is a starting point in their followership. There is a moment in which they make the decision to begin following him. It is the moment of belief, no matter how immature that belief is. They place a small enough measure of trust in Jesus, and off they go, following him. Does that mean Jesus’ work is done? Right after they first starting following him, are the disciples ready to take over for Jesus? Now that he followers, can he complete God’s mission for him by giving up his life, dying, rising again and ascending back to the Father? Not a chance! Why not?
Because though they are now his new disciples, this discipleship relationship has only just begun. They are only infants in their journey of learning how to follow Jesus. Jesus knows he must invest a lot more time in their lives. What will it take for the disciples and other friends of Jesus to grow to maturity so that they can take over for him?
It will take time, and lots of it. This is why Jesus packed up his thriving ministry in Judea (see John 4:1-3) and headed north to Galilee to restart ministry there, farther away from HQ and watchful eye of the Pharisees who were not thrilled about no-name preachers rising up and wooing the crowds away from the Pharisees. Jesus needed a lot more time with his friends. So he made that time, because he wanted to help the disciples become men and women who could carry on the mission when he left.
Because of this important discipleship dynamic, this coming week we’re about discipleship, and how you and I can be disciples who make disciples in 2022 and beyond. We’re not going to be single, itinerant preachers like Jesus. At least not many of us we will be. Most of us have families, jobs, bills, and are living in one place. And that’s okay; that’s normal. Though we live very different lives than Jesus’ life, he still calls us to be his disciples who make more disciples. That’s a calling for all of us. Not just the professional ministers. But how do we make disciples? Join us on the blog next week, and we’ll talk about it further.