The Gospel & Discipleship
In July of 2012, God began stirring my heart towards hosting my first ever discipleship conference. I had no idea what I was doing or getting myself into. I began to talk to people in my life; family, friends, and even people that I barely knew. I was asking what I needed to be doing and how I needed to be praying for what God had in store for this conference and for me. I had so many people speak into me, offering me great advice and praying for me and with me. In August of 2012, the Ordinary Discipleship Conference was born on the premise of we’re ordinary people serving and extraordinary God. We felt like we were not going for flash or big names but for substance and depth. The theme for that first discipleship conference was, “there is nothing ordinary about discipleship except the people."
That is just as true today as when I initially spoke it out then.
These conversations I was having continued and I owe a great deal of gratitude to many who were willing to put up with me, speak into me, and pray for me during this time.
Side note, that, in and of itself is a good picture of discipleship as well. All these people that I have relationships with, do life with in different ways, taking their time to pour into me and pray for me because they believe in what God was doing in and through me.
Throughout this time and the many conversations, there was one particular conversation I had with my mom that I remember well. I was sharing a little with her about how this was unpacking in my mind and in actuality. Then she paused, turned and asked me,
“is this a conference for church kids or is it more of an evangelistic event?”
Now, I knew what she meant but I had to pause for a moment to consider my answer. I knew what I wanted to say but that simple question made me stop and think, not just for a moment, but for weeks. There were a couple of things I realized. First of all, and this is something I knew deep down inside of me, too many times we, the church, separate our evangelism and discipleship. We plan events and services with either in mind and the truth of the matter is, we are wrong. That led me to my other realization; evangelism is the first step in discipleship. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot disciple someone who has not come to know Christ and in order for that to happen, the gospel has to be presented.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Romans 10:14-15
The opposite is also true, you can relationally give a lot to a person and positively influence their life, but if Christ is not in the picture, it is not discipleship.
The great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said,
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
For me, how this realization affected my ministry and the conference was very simple but extremely complex, the gospel had to be everything. Every time I teach, every conversation I have, it has to have gospel implications. The gospel has to be what we, what I, am about before discipleship can begin to occur.
I understand that every relationship looks different and the timeframe of what this may look like is different from person to person but what if I could somehow learn to live with that level of intentionality. What might my world, my ministry, or my family begin to look like around me?