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Engaging in Tough Discipleship Questions

  • 17 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

When you think of discipleship, what fills you with fear? 

My role as camp director of Camp Likely has given me the opportunity to meet and interact with many young adults and teens. These are teens who desire to follow Jesus with their whole hearts. They want answers to big questions as they face decisions about their futures, friendships, relationships, church, and faith. 

Some of the hardest conversations I have with them are about these big topics. These are challenging conversations because each one comes with a different perspective, sphere of influence, and specific needs. I really don’t want to give them cookie-cutter answers that I know "feel" good or are the "right" thing to say. I want to be able to engage in the conversation authentically, as Jesus did. 

This, however, has been seriously impossible. I have found that when I engage in conversations about sexuality, finances, faith, career, or relationships that I’m not sure what to say or what not to say. These are topics that are so personal, so close to the heart. I don't want to lose the relationship I already have with them by being too assertive with my views. 

My biggest fear in discipleship is being too forward. I struggle with the fine balance of listening and encouraging with correcting, or offering another way of thinking or doing. I know I limit the amount of hard conversations or questions I have because I don't want to lose the relationship. I don't want it to be overly serious. 

However, Jesus still requires me to be a disciple-maker. To be engaged. To be serious. To be fun. To be dependable. To be honest. To be faithful to His ways. 

In a world where many young people are choosing to leave their faith or live it out differently than in the past, I believe we have a call to still engage. Engage in what is going on with those who we are in relationship with. And if we can't even show up, what can we contribute? 

I truly believe that if I won't first address my fears about discipleship or my fears about the big questions or the grey areas of living for Christ, then how can I expect to be an effective disciple-maker? 

How can Jesus use your strengths and weaknesses to point people closer to Him? How can Jesus lead you to engage as He did? 

As we share some of our fears, I believe we will be able to consider what it means to truly engage in the tough questions, discover our role, and identify the obstacles that are stopping us. When I do this, I have noticed that I no longer feel stuck in my weakness but experience the joy of living in Christ's strength (Philippians 4:13).

Discipleship on Mission for Mission

  • 10 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

Josh* just graduated high school, is part of minority people-group, and lives in a not-so-desirable neighbourhood in a mid-size city. He comes from a broken and blended family with not much financial wiggle-room. His claim-to-fame is playing second-string on a two-time defending championship football team. His church is not overtly "cool" and he only started participating in middle school because his parents forced him. How do you disciple Josh?

Josh was invited by his youth leader to join her on a short-term MB Mission team. He was willing, but the obstacles were not insignificant: few guys were going, he didn’t have not enough money, he was the only racial minority participant, and he’d never even been on an airplane before. It was a miracle he even participated.

The money unexpectedly came in the week after he gave up trying and had quietly committed his needs to God in prayer. With the door now open he stepped through. He struggled through team training as the only guy, thought he was going crazy when his ears plugged on the airplane, and endured weeks of reaching out to children in a strange culture which was his least wanted ministry option.  

I met Josh while his team was debriefing its survival of four weeks "over there." He was a little shell-shocked, but as he unpacked the experience and considered where he had met Jesus, he began to see his own context differently. A new man began to emerge. He still referred to his football heroics, but he was no longer reflecting on just the game, but on the needs of his peers—young men like him. He was already beginning to think of guys he could invite next year. Listening to the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the Scriptures, and being attentive to the voices of a disciple-making community were producing a noticeable transformation. Josh was not just learning about Jesus; he was becoming more and more like Him.  

A celebration night capped off his team's debriefing days. Josh nervously paced at the back of the room dreading his turn to address the crowd. When his name was called, however, the gentle giant spoke with confidence, described the transforming power of the love of his team, and the kids he "hated" working with. And he gave voice to a heart responsive to whatever call God had on his life. Which, as was abundantly clear, would lead to a much greater life story than being a two-time defending football champion.

4 Signs You Might Be Running Away

  • 30 September 2017
  • Keith Reed

woman sitting on suitcase looking at waterI'm fascinated with the story of Jonah and it has nothing to do with the fish. Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against the fish—it plays a critical role in the story. I just find it too challenging to relate to.  

Jonah, on the other hand, is easy to relate to. He's more dramatic that I am, but I see himself in his story nonetheless. Jonah is a runaway and I too have my moments of running away from God. 

I've never boarded a ship destined to Tarshish, but I've developed other ways of turning away from God. I'm guessing you've done this too because most of us are experienced runners. Most of us can spot a runaway without much difficulty, but it's harder to see this in ourselves. Based on Jonah's story, here are a few signs that might help you discover if you've begun to wander. 

You're willing to sacrifice a lot for a questionable purpose  

Jonah flees to Tarshish which is noteworthy for two reasons: it's in the opposite direction from Nineveh and it's clear across the Mediterranean Sea. Jonah's voyage would have been very long and very expensive which signals he's willing to sacrifice a lot to avoid Nineveh (the detail about Jonah paying the fare in Jonah 1:3 helps us understand this point). 

The call to follow Jesus is intertwined with the call to live sacrificially. However, it's possible to sacrifice things that don't move us closer to Jesus. We must ensure that our sacrifices truly have God-honouring purposes before taking action. 

When you make a costly decision, do you invite others into your decision-making process or do you have a habit of doing this on your own? 

You use your feelings to justify your actions 

It's not uncommon for people to experience physiological side effects when something in their life is unhealthy. But the absence of indigestion or sleepless nights shouldn't give us complete confidence that our direction is perfectly aligned with what God is asking us to do.  

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