Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’

Follow Me, He Said

October 5, 2016

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1)

Someone jarred my thinking the other day. He asked if we try to “make someone into a Christian.” That is a phrase I have heard often in evangelical circles.

So, you meet someone who is seeking; someone who has questions about purpose and life; someone not sure where they are going. What is your response?

Granted that these four men were prepared. We know that at least Andrew was with John the Baptist from other stories. But Jesus just said, “Follow me.”

And many other times in the stories, Jesus just offered an invitation, “Follow me.”

Jesus, in fact, never used the term Christian. It was first used a few years later by outsiders referring to the group in almost derogatory terms.

Jesus? He just offered invitations.

Shouldn’t we copy that? That’s what disciples of a teacher or master do–copy the teacher. He’s like the pattern and we try to form ourselves to it. And so, when we meet people rather than dumping a whole bunch of Bible verses on them we just offer a simple invitation. Follow him.

And what about us? Are we more concerned with following the law (and making sure everyone else follows the law, for we are mostly concerned about others)? Or do we simply follow.

Jesus told us to know the scriptures. Jesus told us to pray. Jesus told us to have faith.

Why do we make things so complicated and authoritarian? We follow and invite others to follow along with us. An invitation to a party is much more attractive than a command to behave.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

April 29, 2016

This week witnessed the annual reunion of the world’s largest manufacturing trade show. Many of the brightest minds in manufacturing technology gathered. These were people who are changing the way we’ll be doing manufacturing in the future.

I know many of them. It’s exciting to meet with all these people and share ideas, learn, grow.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet people changing the face of how we do mission work, how we serve the poor, how we bring other people to discipleship.

God meant for all of us to change the world around us for good. There are numerous stories of developing and using whatever talents we were born with.

While I was pondering this on the 9-hour plane ride home yesterday, I thought about all the people who sell themselves short.

While I was in the Customs line entering the country (30 minutes before I learned I had been accepted into the Global Entry program and could have avoided the queue, sigh), I saw a small group of maybe three older couples. All their faces were shaped into pictures of bitterness, sadness, negativity. Same with body language. My heart ached for such loss of life before their loss of life.

How many people do you know who blame other people for their lack of success? It’s never their fault, right? “They” are always against them. The “breaks” never came their way.

Can these people be reached with hope? The self-help gurus of the 80s and 90s certainly tried by using preaching skills. Get you all fired up and ready to take charge–until you got home and reality set in again.

Then read the New Testament and stories of the first and second century Christians. Here were ordinary men and women who turned their lives around and did extraordinary things.

It is so important that we reach people early in life with the message of hope. The message that despite any adversity they, too, can change the world around them. That’s called leadership on a personal level. Or mentoring. Or making disciples.

Let’s Just Hate Them All (Not)

December 8, 2015

I am so saddened. A news alert just came across my iPhone. Presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for barring all Muslim people (I doubt that he calls them people) from entering the country.

OK. OK. I know that he is running for office and is on one of those populist platforms that plays to a segment of the American population. William Jennings Bryan (yes the guy who defended the creation-in-seven-24-hour-days lawsuit) ran for president four times as a Democrat on a free silver platform appealing to the lower middle classes of his day. He lost all by huge margins. We have a history of populist candidates.

I know better. I shut out most of that sort of news. Most politics are just not interesting to me anymore. I did spend a year in a Master’s level political science program back when it was hard to get into grad school. I got something like a 99-percentile on the Graduate Record Exam in Politics. I’m not ignorant–just not engaged.

From a spiritual discipline point of view, however, I am so sad that someone feels he can appeal to a large segment of a “Christian” nation by pandering to the lowest of fears and emotions. Judging by my Facebook news thread, many people who call themselves Christian are eating this up.

I have many friends who follow Islam. Also Buddhists and Hindus. Just as my Christian and sort-of-Christian friends, they are all good people. They were created in God’s image. God loves them. I am commanded by my master to love them. I need to show them as a Jesus-follower that we are not all Crusaders bent on wiping out all “non-Christian” peoples.

Yes, we need to deal with evil people. But to paint everyone as evil because of a few is a travesty.

Lord, guide me to following the spiritual disciplines of prayer and seeking wisdom. And so for my fellow citizens of my country. And every country.

Moral Obligation To Justice

September 2, 2015

I hate blatant misrepresentation of Scripture.

Hate is a strong word, and I am a person of few, if any, hates. But when someone twists a story told by Jesus to wring all meaning from it save some sort of self-serving, political interpretation–well, I hate it. That sort of thing makes disciples look bad all over the globe.

A friend of mine posted one of the pictures that is the dominant theme of Facebook these days (both right and left, religious and pagan). His “picture” was of Pope Francis with a saying about the moral imperative of economic justice.

Someone whom I assume is a friend of my friend ripped the thought and suggested the Pope should read Matthew 20 (OK, arrogance knows no bounds). This is a story about a vineyard owner who decided to pay the laborers who worked 1 hour the same as those who worked all day.

“This shows that I can do with my money whatever I want,” the guy proclaimed.

Unless we missed the message that God has returned to Earth physically and inhabits the body of this guy, we need to take another look at the passage.

The meaning has nothing whatsoever to do with me and my money. It is a parable about God. God is the owner of the vineyard. “For the kingdom of heaven is like….” If God wishes to save people at the very end of their lives the same as those who have been disciples their entire lives, well, God can do what God wants to do. After all, he is, er, God.

Jesus really only gave us two commandments. Unfortunately for us, they are not easy to live out every day. Love God. Love our neighbor.

Which of those two tell us that we can do whatever we wish with our money? Or even says that it is our money to begin with?

So, I’m reading Proverbs 26 this week. Which of these am I doing?

Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself.

Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes.

Call Me When I Care

July 20, 2015

In Memory Of

When I Cared

He needed to pass German to complete his BA and officially get the job waiting for him. The professor recommended he get me to tutor him. Why? I’ll never know.

He passed German. But that’s not the story. This was the beginning years of defining the Baby Boomers as the “Me Generation.” I remarked about having some empathy for the German professor who left Vienna and wound up in Ada, Ohio.

“I don’t care. I don’t have time to think about others,” he replied.

That conversation returns to me at times.

It does seem to mark the majority of Boomers (fortunately not all).

But the remark popped back into my consciousness when I saw a middle-aged woman entering Tim Horton’s the other day with a T-shirt with the phrase printed above.

I’m affected deeply by such lost people who don’t care—and are proud of it. How can you go through life so self-centered that caring is hard work? I have trouble understanding. When I care about spiritual formation and see such void, I’m sad.

But Jesus understood.

He told the story of four men. One man was robbed and beaten and left bleeding by the side of the road. Two religious men walked by (even worse than driving by protected by the steel shell of a car). And they kept on walking.

The fourth man walked the road. He stopped. We know nothing about his spiritual life. We do know that he was not part of the “official” religion of the area. Regardless, he stopped and helped. In a word, he cared.

I am saddened by seeing so many people who do not care. But then I meet or read about people who do and see the difference that they make in the world around them—and I still hope.

I Am A Disciple-Or At Least Try To Be

July 15, 2015

Reading my Facebook stream trying to understand “Christian” would leave you puzzled. In fact, I bet that you could read your own Facebook stream of news and be puzzled.

Some whom you know to call themselves Christian seem like the most loving, gracious people. Some, on the other hand, seem to be disputatious, quarrelsome, judgmental, cynical, in other words, someone whom you would not really care to hang out with. Or—even to be labeled the same.

That has been a problem for many years.

For example, did you know that there was a preacher/politician named John Calhoun in the early 19th Century in America who wrote books “proving” that black people (the slaves at the time) were not really human beings. And he used the Bible to prove it.

Andy Stanley addresses this problem in his latest Your Move series. He points out that Jesus and his followers used a much more specific term—disciple. We know what a disciple is. The definition of Christian is open to debate. But a disciple is a follower of a teacher who tries to emulate everything about the teacher.

That is one reason I like to develop spiritual practices in my life and try to lead others to develop these practices. The correct spiritual practices help us try to become a true disciple of Jesus.

You know, Jesus, the one who told his disciples (John 13:34), “I give you a new commandment, to love one another.”

There are people who may self-identify as a “Christian” but who certainly do not appear to be living out Jesus’ last commandment.

So, I have preferred the term “follower” or the term “disciple” for most of the past 45 years. Like many, I shy away from describing myself as Christian.

Maybe if more of us followed this advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we wouldn’t be so ashamed of the term:

Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.

Business As Mission

June 16, 2015

I’ve been gone for several days. The schedule was packed and my daily habits were upended.

Bev and I went to Colorado Springs to attend a conference where the speakers introduced ways they were using business to further God’s Kingdom. I had no knowledge of YWAM, Emerge, or Sustainable Communities Worldwide until just a couple of weeks ago. Prior to that I had heard of Business as Mission, but knew only a little about that movement. 

I studied the plight of farmers in developing countries for many years. I used to give talks as a representative of Bread for the World in the 80s. But that organization focused on political action. We’ve learned that government aid, indeed most efforts at just giving money, are almost always detrimental to the intended recipients.

For exmple, we can give big lots of shoes to people in an area–and in so doing drive all the local sellers of shoes out of business. By providing temporary help to some people, we cost others their livelihoods.

Often farmers are caught in a cycle of debt to bankers for short term loans such that they are actually the same as indentured servants. Many years ago it was pineapple and sugar. Large companies come in, bribe the local officials. Grow products to ship back to the US and western Europe. The local farmers become the same as slave laborers. Plus they lose their land and can no longer grow their own food. A terrible viscious circle.

Coffee has become the more modern equivalent. There are so many middlemen that the farmer seldom can make a living and often goes hungry for months in a year.

Direct trade coffee (not Fair Trade which may or may not actually help the farmer), cuts out several layers of distribution and offers farmers a sustainable income.

Other presenters told about how they have built businesses in cultures often unfriendly to Christians and had great influence in their communities and even brought many people into knowledge and experience of God.

They build ethical businesses practicing both good business practices and making disciples. The combination wins over local–and sometimes even national–leaders. And it leads to the spiritual development of many.

It was a great conference. We met many successful business people and some mission leaders.

Best of all, it helped to overcome my prejudice against “Christian businessmen.” Every time I have run into one of these guys in my career, I came out on the short end. They broke contracts, didn’t pay me money owed, and showed other unethical or devious behaviours. Here were a group that showed the true example of how to do business and maintain the type of ethics of which Jesus would be proud.

What If We Were All Disciples

June 8, 2015

A disciple is someone who follows a master trying to be like the master, live like the master, talk like the master.

Jesus called the people around him at the end and gave them a vision. He wanted them all to be disciples and to make disciples of others. He also said that his disciples would be known by society at large by their love.

Maybe it was when the speaker stopped teaching and started “preaching” that my mind latched on to this idea. What would the world be like–what would it have been like–if all of Jesus’ followers actually were disciples?

Suddenly my thoughts were captured by my failures as a disciple. Have I been a good one?

That is the crux of the matter. It’s not pointing fingers at others. It’s looking first at the log in my eye before helping the other remove the spec. The German writer Thomas Mann wrote, “If everyone swept their own porch, the whole world would be clean.”

I wrote that on an engineering blog several years ago. Those darn literal engneers. One wrote back that there would still be vast areas of geography that wouldn’t be clean.

That, of course, is a metaphor. Our own porch is our own life, our thoughts, our actions, our words. 

But let’s speculate. What if all people who call themselves followers were actually disciples? What if we were all known by our love instead of our politics, or our unfounded opinions, or our stubbornness, or our fears and angers?

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but that would be a great step toward actualizing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

And forgive me for my mind wandering during church 😉

Reminds me of the little boy who sat in class staring out the window. The teacher noticed and stopped talking. Eventually the little boy noticed the unusual silence and came into the present world. “What were you doing?” the teacher asked. “Thinking,” said the little boy. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to think in school?” replied the teacher.

That’s me.

And They Will Know You By How You Live

May 11, 2015

Today’s lesson concerns how we live…ethics.

I learned marketing many years ago and sometimes consult with companies about their marketing strategies (or lack of as is often the case). So, I’m always reading about the topic.

Luke writes at the end of chapter 2 while describing the explosive growth of the new movement of Jesus-followers, “having earned the goodwill of all the people.” People all around the Mediterranean rim at the time were attracted to Jesus because of the way his followers lived.

Jesus even told us that his followers would be known by the way they lived–love being an action verb.

How does that relate to marketing? How does marketing relate to our lives?

A couple of nice examples presented themselves this week.

Some marketing people, and presumably the CEO, of Keurig had a brilliant idea. The company makes household appliances including a one-cup-at-a-time coffee brewer. I have one. Love it. Just like the razor blade model or the ink jet printer model where the company makes money from the continual lock in of replacing blades or ink regularly, Keurig marketers thought they would force customers to use its coffee supplies packaged in K-cups.

Within hours, technology blogs were posted with ways to defeat this lock in so that we could still use our own coffee beans. Sales of the Keurig 2 machine–and for the company–dropped.

The CEO acknowledged the reason for the drop in sales as customers just wanted to use their own beans and so bought rivals’ products. Duh. That’s not unethical, just stupid. Not knowing one’s customers.

But stupid leads to questionable ethics.

I’m watching my granddaughter play a “game” on an Amazon tablet. She’s 5. Building necklaces for the Strawberry Shortcake character.

Strawberry says that you can add a picture of her or one of her friends to the locket. So, little girls tap one of her friends and is taken to a page where you can buy the friend package for $9.95 each. My granddaughter realizes she can’t use those pictures and just starts tapping other things. Mostly she likes taking pictures of herself or other people.

But how can a group of people sit in a conference room and discuss how to increase revenue. Well, we need “in-app” sales. How can we entice our under-10 customers to buy additional items? Let’s make it appear that they can add something only to be diverted to a page for purchasing. If an astute parent has not set blocks and controls, a considerable bill could be accumulated. Or much discord strewn in the home while little Susie whines about wanting more stuff.

Thank you marketers.

I have invested in a coffee shop (hence my Keuring example about coffee) where the fundamental value accepted by all investors and managers starts with ethics. Treat people from the farmer who grows the beans to the employees to the customer to the community with the best ethics.

Others can also decide to build companies on ethical foundation. And all of us can look for ethical companies for our purchases.

People will want to know about us by the way we live, by the way we transact business, by the way we treat all people.