A Vision for Discipleship

Today’s post from Chris Nye is part of the blog series Discipleship: Re-Imagining Our Calling From Christ. To receive future posts from the series in your inbox head HERE. Engage with the writers and community of readers using the hashtag #DiscipleshipBlog.

sinking ship

The greatest privilege in all of human life is to teach another person how to live like Jesus. Additionally, it could be argued that to instruct another in Jesus’ ways is the most important act to accomplish.

Our country and world is a collection of unfortunate circumstances and complicated situations. It is messy. So often, we do not choose the things we hear about happening: storms in the midwest, unjust court rulings, misuses of authority, sneaky politicking. When these things happen, we’re left with one thing we actually have control over: a response.

“Fixing the world” or “saving” it is perhaps a leading passion with my generation. Passive activism and the ever-failing “awareness” movements clog our news feeds within social media. Often times the world looks so bleak and difficult that we could never guess as to where we might begin in our quest to solve everything. So we “Like” a page and sign a petition at the very best. Going even further and perhaps in a more utilitarian route, we will actually change some laws through enormous effort and just the right influencers. But people remain selfish. We now realize how new rules will never change ungracious behavior. Where do we go from here?

There are many options. What about another non-profit, or new business models for existing companies? How about we plant churches or lobby for votes? All of these strategies are currently at play in our world and within the public discourse, but one thing hasn’t changed: us.

In our rabid passion to see the world change and to see justice come to our communities, we have forgotten the names of our neighbors and the birthdays of our family members. It’s been a long time since we have been thoughtful to someone we do not know, and an even longer time since we have actually known the names of several people who cannot afford groceries any given week. We take ourselves too seriously than to deal with the poor and we are obsessed with our own image. All of this is to say that we (a regrettable number of us) remain quite selfish. And this might be more of a problem than the unjust courts and a divided country that we often write about. Why?

There’s a Christian Proverb that says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” All of our lives are a result of the things we truly want, which find their home in our heart or our spirit. It is the seat of our actions. “We live from the heart,” Dallas Willard has said, and it is profoundly true.

We have suppressed Jesus’ vision for discipleship at the end of Matthew’s gospel. “Go and make disciples” has become, “talk about yourself over breakfast once a week.” The call to saturate people of all races and ethnicities in God’s triune nature and to instruct them then to obey (not just to know and memorize) the things Jesus taught us has been utterly lost. “Teach them to obey,” Jesus told us. This means we actually have to do the work of instructing people along as the Holy Spirit changes their hearts.

I have learned that the more individuals practice the ways of God’s kingdom reality, the more convinced they will become that God’s ways are best. And it is in this process that we find the great pleasure of discipleship: being involved in the process of a person’s heart changing. It’s a stunning picture; addicting, really. As we partner with God in the changing work of discipleship, we will end up teaching businessmen to be more like Jesus, we will talk with Senators who will want to learn how to obey the Sermon on the mount, and we will teach future leaders how to love their neighbor as much as they love themselves. It helps me to often remind myself how wide this vision is cast and how privileged I am to be a tiny piece of it all. To work with God, in the company of His Son Jesus, is the most remarkable thing in my life right now. His vision for discipleship is much larger than ours and we must reminded; because the world and all of its misfortunes are at stake.

Chris Nye is a pastor and writer living in Portland, OR, with his wife, Ali. Connect on Twitter: @chrisnye.