This post is a summary of the message from Sunday for those who missed it (sorry for the delay).
Jesus told us to go and make disciples, but sometimes we settle for making introductions. We can mention Jesus, or invite someone to a church gathering, but how are we doing at actually making disciples? Last week Willie shared that here at WestWay we’ve had 370 baptisms in the last 10 years. That’s about 1% of our area population and should definitely be celebrated. But our average attendance this year has been about 350, so I wondered with the congregation Sunday, “Where are they?”
We have about 165 people in small groups and about 100 come to classes on Sunday morning (there is a fair amount of overlap in those numbers). I wonder, what would happen if each of those 370 had been plugged in to a discipling group or class? What if each of the 370 had been paired with a spiritual mentor to help them grow in their new faith?
Why do we not do a better job discipling?
Are we lazy? Too busy? Is our faith just too weak? Are we just not bold enough in our faith and lacking confidence in our ability to do what Jesus has told us to do? We need to be a disciple making church. We need to go beyond only making introductions to making disciples. That involves each of us learning to boldly help people in our personal lives know Jesus more deeply. But a disciple making church can be bold only because it recognizes two things: Jesus’ Authority & Jesus’ Voice.
In Matthew 28, when the disciples saw Jesus, “they worshiped Him – but some of them still doubted.” Like Peter flailing away in water he’d just walked on, they were terrified at the impossible circumstances surrounding them. Jesus had taught them about establishing a kingdom unlike any other other kingdom… a kingdom that would turn everything upside down, making princes of nobodies and brothers of enemies. And now, He was leaving and the kingdom would be in their hands. How are we supposed to handle this? How can we make it without you here with us? Their doubt was a reflection of being faced with ‘the impossible’.
But Jesus’ answer to their doubt was His authority. It’s like Jesus sees his band of followers freaking out a little bit and settles them down. “Guys, I’ve got this. You just go teach people what I’ve taught you. Go make disciples.” This is the first key to being a disciple making church: recognize Jesus’ authority. This is His church, He is building it to prevail over even Hell itself – what can stop Him?
The early church made disciples against all odds because they recognized His authority and did what He told them to do. Which begs the question: How do you know what God wants you to do?” In Galatians 2, Paul said he’d gone to Jerusalem “because God revealed to me that I should go.” How do we gain that kind of clarity? Can we learn to recognize the voice of Jesus?
We definitely CAN. In John 10, Jesus talked about how He is the Good Shepherd and His sheep hear His voice and follow. One of my favorite passages, from Romans 12, contains a clue to learning to hear His voice when it talks about letting God transform you “by changing the way you think.” We don’t normally give a whole lot of thought to just how we actually do think, so this is where I had to get a little bit nerdy.
In the planning stages, I was a little afraid of people’s eyes glazing over and a spontaneous congregational coma overcoming us all, but it was interesting to see what actually happened next. When I said the words “Reticular Activating System”, it was like the crowd got a foot taller and two feet closer all at once. People perked up and leaned in… maybe they sensed an end was near! A few mentioned later they really liked the science part.
The RAS is a really dense bundle of nerves at the top of your spinal column that sort of acts as a filter, regulating which stimuli actually get your brain’s attention. We’re bombarded with more bits of information at any given moment than our brains can handle, so the reticular activating system keeps most of it at bay so we can concentrate on what’s important. We form categories in our minds for what’s urgent or important or meaningful and deserves our attention.
And the great thing is that we can influence how our RAS categorizes our lives. By spending time with His Word and giving it importance in our lives, your mind can build a category labeled “what God wants”. When you spend time listening to His voice in the pages of Scripture, you can learn to recognize His voice in the moments of your life.
What if you can’t hear the voice of Jesus simply because you haven’t formed a category in your mind for it? What if you could actually hear God’s voice? What if His voice broke through the clutter of your day? What would He say? What would He want? What would you do?
I ended by sharing the Filter challenge that I’ve given to our students. 100 days, 100 hours of Bible reading. Transformation… Depth… Voice Recognition… (Today is Day 7 by the way if you’re tracking your reading.) Our students are learning to hear His voice. They’re learning to be a disciple making church because they’re recognizing His voice and His authority – learning that the big picture isn’t really all on their shoulders, but on His.