By Jess Currie
I’m doing a daily devotion at the moment through the Bible app, called “ Disciples making disciples”, developed by Francis Chan. I didn’t pick it for any particular reason other than I quite like Francis Chan, so I thought it would be interesting and easy to understand (which it is). A couple of days into it, a quote stuck out to me as Chan discussed how we look at the people in our lives, and whether or not we see them as people we can influence for Jesus: potential disciples along with us. He states, “Following Jesus means that you will be teaching other people to follow Jesus”.
I totally believe Jesus was a great leader (in fact, I wrote a whole blog post about that last year), but the reality is that while he was on earth, he wasn’t necessarily known as a great leader with a ton of followers, but rather a polarising teacher with a few hardcore disciples (Luke 5:1-11, Matthew 4:18-22).
Jesus wouldn’t have seemed successful by today’s standards. We live in a world that is all about followers. From Twitter accounts to Instagram feeds, it’s as simple as clicking an icon to show the world that you are now a follower of that person or product. Not only that, but somehow the amount of followers you have serves as a symbol of how popular or important you might be. We might think we are immune to that, or we tell ourselves “that’s not what I use social media for”, but even as I type this, I’m well aware that if I post (for example), a story on Instagram, I’m most likely going to check how many people have watched it. I’m just not convinced that’s what Jesus was about.
Jesus asked only a few to follow him, although he taught many, but he was deeply invested in those few. Those few, in turn, invested in a few more, than many more, and here we are today.
You probably know that Harry Potter is now on Netflix, and I’m one of the many who of have been watching them in order again. Maybe it’s just because I had this blog post on my mind, but it struck me how often the movies (and probably the books, I’ll confess I’ve never read them!) really analyse the relationships between and around the main hero and villain, Harry and Voldemort. Particularly in the fifth film, there’s this common thread around Harry needing to rely on his friends and mentors, whilst Voldemort gathers his supporters around him as well. We all follow someone, and someone is always following us.
When I think about my life, and why I do the things I do and say the things I say, it is largely because disciples of Jesus discipled me. That’s what disciples do: they make disciples. It sounds like some sort of pyramid scheme, I know! But the fact is, Jesus’ plan to bring the good news was to pass it on to twelve guys (and a few women), and show and teach them to do the same.
If I come back to that quote at the beginning, following Jesus means teaching others to follow him, then the daily application of this is that we intentionally look at the people in our lives as potential disciples of Jesus, and we show and teach them how to be.
In John 15 Jesus talks about his mission, and why he lives the way he does, and it boils down to this: “I love my father, therefore I love you, therefore go and love others”.
Of course that’s a fairly simplistic view, but I have always loved the analogy Jesus uses in that chapter of the vine and the branches. Jesus is connected to God the father, so he can only do what he sees the father doing (John 5:19-20). Likewise, if we remain in Jesus, branches connected to the vine, we will become more like him. This matters not only for my life, but for the sake of those around me.
The world certainly doesn’t need me to be making followers of Jess, but disciples of Jesus.
As I said, this can only happen when I’m connected to Christ. When I’m focussed on me, I’ll probably preach an easy message that I know will get good feedback, or I’ll let my daughter do whatever she wants instead of putting in the hard yards to teach her and guide her. When I’m focussed on me I won’t be generous with my money or my time, but instead become stingy and lazy. I’ll stop seeing the people around me as potential disciples of Jesus Christ, and instead I’ll tell myself that they’re fine the way they are, or that someone else will step in.
If however, I’m connected to Jesus, if I’m dwelling on his love for me, I’ll be compelled to love others as well. I’ll want to tell those who don’t know Jesus about the good news, and I’ll want to get alongside those who already do. I won’t be scared to call others out if need be, because I’ll be sharing the same grace that Jesus shows me. I’ll be happy to give what I have out of an abundance of joy in knowing that God provides. I can’t do those things because of me, I can only do them as a disciple of Jesus Christ, full of his spirit.
Paul put it this way; “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul wasn’t arrogant, he was the first to call out his own sin and recognise his questionable past, but he was so focussed on Jesus, and being his disciple, that he saw all those around him as potential followers of Jesus as well. I heard a great quote once that said, “every follower of Jesus does what he does in the way that Jesus did it”.
Disciples make disciples, because it’s what Jesus did.