You see, defining the word disciple can be a little tough. Jesus used this word for some who had just begun following Him. Yet, He also said things like “Unless you do _____, you cannot be my disciple.” So, is a disciple a beginner? A gospel trainee? Or a full minister?
Let me tell you a story that might help you understand. Recently, I took upon myself the task of reroofing a portion of my mother-in-law’s house. It was leaking. Now that she is a widow, I knew she had no one else to do this job for her and no money to hire a professional. So, I volunteered.
Now, there are three levels of involvement in anything. First, and most obvious, there is the what—she needed a roof. I could see the “what,” but I was missing the second part—the “how.” You see I did not know how to install a rubber roof, which is what this low-slope area needed. Yet, I had something better than the “what” and the “how”—the “why.” I was motivated because of love for my mother-in-law. My “why” or my motivation was that I want her to have a warm dry place to stay. Being that I am the senior son-in-law, I feel a sense of responsibility for her as she had no sons of her own.
Why you need a why
Remember now, I did not know how to install a rubber roof, but I had a strong desire to do this for her. So, I sat up watching “how-to” videos one night until I fell asleep with them playing. Then I bugged the salesmen to explain certain details to me on how to install the product we were buying. I read every label. Then, I got on that roof and proved I did not know what I was doing.
After putting glue on the sheet of rubber, we promptly stuck it to itself. It took four of us to pull it apart and get it stuck to the roof deck properly. Then, we put on too much glue and applied it while it was too cold and trapped air bubbles under the rubber. We had to rip the rubber off and do it over.
But, we got it done. At the end of the day (or week in this case), we achieved our purpose? Why? Yes, exactly—because of our “why.” My sons and I care about their grandma enough to get the job done so her needs are taken care of.
Now that I know how to do rubber roofing, I do not plan to ever do it again for anyone else. Sorry. Just knowing the what and the how of it is not enough. It takes a strong “why” for me to do something like that. Having a strong “why” is what motivates anyone to accomplish something significant.
The disciple has a “why” of love
My love for my mother-in-law motivated that project. Disciples also have this core similarity: love. Disciples are in love with Jesus.
Now, I know the word “love” has all kinds of offshoots that distract from its true meaning, so I must say this is not the sappy emotion-only love. This is love that endures. The best word I have found for the disciple-kind of love is “devoted.” A true disciple is devoted. I am devoted to the welfare of my widowed mother-in-law.
You see, this devotion to the Lord causes disciples to stand out. Many are followers of Jesus in the shadows, but they don’t want to take risks. A disciples starts out with a strong attraction to the Lord. As they come to know Jesus, they love Him more. He demands change in their lives. This is where the devoted stand out from the curiosity crowd. The devoted, the true disciples, make the changes. It might mean changing their whole way of life, abandoning their old identity, and picking up new behaviors in keeping with Christ’s desires.
Don’t focus on the what
As a pastor and Bible teacher, I have often become too obsessed with getting people to become the “what” of being a Christian. I like to dwell on the “how” to do the things unique to disciples (prayer, fasting, Bible study, reaching the lost, and so on). However, I have to remind myself that discipleship is a lot like that rubber roof. If a person has the right “why”—a devoted love for the Lord—he or she will learn the how’s and what’s of being a committed believer.
Early in ministry, I tried to force the “what” on people. I thought preachers were compromisers if they did not tell people right away what they had to change and how to live differently. Jesus allowed an incubation period for His disciples before putting demands on them. The disciples of John were upset because Jesus’s disciples were not following the “what” of fasting. Jesus explained He was changing the whole cloth, not just patching in pieces.
Find those with the right “why”
Why waste time arguing with those who hate God? Perhaps they will come around through tragedy or other life change. However, you are surrounded by disciples in the beginning stages. They might be catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Baptist, Mormon, or Pentecostal. Wherever you find them, help each one grow in love for the Lord as they come to know Him better. If they are turned off when you talk about Jesus, move on!
Look around you. Who is devoted to the Lord or at least searching for Him? Talk to them about Jesus. You might have the makings of a disciple. Start with where they are. Why try to argue with your brother-in-law when he has no interest in God? He might come around, but first, reach for those who already love the Lord. Help them see the way more perfectly.
Paul found Lydia who loved God yet had not heard about Jesus. When she found out that Jesus is the God her heart was longing for, she was baptized right there at the river! Are there prayer meetings around you? Just because a church is in false doctrine does not mean there are not true seekers there. Those who love the Lord will come out and follow Him in truth. He has promised to lead them and you are one of those road signs to point them in the right direction.
The end result is just that, an end “result”
I guess my rubber roofing job was successful because it just rained for the past 12 hours and she did not have even one leak. Oh, I rebuilt the chimney, too. Another first for me. It looks awesome. It is amazing what a strong “why” can accomplish.
You see, I started with the right motivation and the results were simply that—an outgrowth of what was on the inside. If we only focus on the endgame, there will be no passion in the game itself. Our hearts must be in the right place first. Why do you want to make disciples? Are you trying to prove your ministry? That’s the wrong endgame. Are you trying to look good to others? Have insecurity you hope to cure? Wrong motives. Do you want to make disciples because you love Jesus so much and just want to help others know Him like you do? Game on! You will get the right results if you keep that right motivation.
Check your “why.” Are you just stuck doing the “what” without any deeper motivation? Or are you in a habit of “how” without the passion for the Lord you once had? Rekindle your “why.” Be devoted. Be a disciple. Then find others who will devote themselves to the Lord.