Last week I attended a conference that included many veteran pastors and leaders. These leaders were speaking from God's Word on various aspects of ministry. During a conversation after one of the sessions, someone said to me, "What is something you wish you could learn from these gifted, tenured, pastors?" After thinking a minute I said, "I'd love to know what they do with perceived failure and disappointment." My sentiment was this. While on stage we hear about all the successes and highlight tapes, but in practice, my day to day ministry doesn't look like that and it can be discouraging at times. We need the stories of fruitfulness to inspire us. I praise God that He allows us to see and hear the incredible things He is doing through the ministry of others. We need those stories to keep our vision focused and fervent. But we also need the stories that aren't so glamorous. I don't know about you, but I need to hear some stories about how hard it is, and when it didn't work out, the emotions of doubting if it's even worth it, and where to go with all of that. Growing up, my friends used a phrase to describe sharing the messy details of a situation. That phrase was "real talk". I want to give some "real talk" about disciple making that hopefully can give you some encouragement that you are not alone when things get hard.
Jesus told us it wouldn't be pretty- In Matthew 10 Jesus describes the assignment of disciple making to his disciples by saying, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matt. 10:16) If you have ever watched National Geographic, you know that an animal of prey amid a pack of predators is not a pretty scene. It's not comfortable. It's not polite. It's not nice. It's in fact very ugly to watch. Jesus uses this imagery to describe the mission of making disciples in a lost and broken world. Thankfully, He says a whole lot more about being with us and empowering us, (Matthew 28:20; Acts 1:8) but this truth keeps things in perspective. It's helpful to know that just because I'm engaged in the call to make disciples, it doesn't mean it's always going to go well. In fact, if it does, I'm probably not sharing the same message of the cross that Paul calls a stumbling block and an offense. Messy doesn't mean you are doing it wrong; it just means you are doing it.
In my experience the gospel is rejected more than accepted- I can't speak for other disciple makerss, but for me, I get rejected more often than not. Most of the time people hear the things I say about the gospel and want nothing to do with it. Sure, many of the people I meet in Louisville, Kentucky are polite and cordial during spiritual conversations. But by and large I watch people day in and day out hear the offer of the gospel and walk away either not understanding it or rejecting it's demands to repent and believe in Jesus. Jesus said this in Matthew 7, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matt. 7:13-14) If this is true, then we will probably see more people say no than yes. Just this weekend my neighbor politely asked me to no longer bring up Jesus or spiritual topics in our conversations. It's the nicest way I've been rejected, but certainly not the first. When you are practicing disciple making you will see this. I will go so far as to say, you could go years attempting to share the gospel and make disciples without seeing one convert. I've never heard anyone say that from a conference stage, but let that sink in. Go back and re-read that sentence. I am not sharing this to make you feel like there is no point in trying, but rather to remind you that rejection at times should be expected, but it shouldn't derail you from the mission.
It personally hurts when people walk away. - I have had several guys walk away from discipleship over the years. Guys that I was close to. Guys that I poured everything into. Guys that I sacrificed for and helped. Guys that I loved. I have had guys like that, up and walk away from our discipleship relationship and what appears to be their faith altogether. I just want to be honest; it hurts bad. Every single time it feels personal. It feels like I did the wrong thing or didn't do enough. It makes me feel like I'm ineffective in the Great Commission and makes me wonder if I'm wasting my time. Because we are human and tend to make this whole thing too much about us, we struggle when this happens. Jesus had people walk away from him too, but he seemed to handle it as though it comes with the calling. (John 6:66-68)
Here's what I've come to realize that I hope will encourage us all. In disciple making, faithfulness is the measure of success. Fruit is great and we want fruitfulness. Pray for fruitfulness. Plead with God for conversions and work hard at becoming more skilled in investing in others. But the only failure in the Great Commission is disobedience or abandoning the mission. By leaning on the power of the Holy Spirit and wearing our knees out in prayer, we push through these non-glamorous realities and just keep going. Keep digging. Keep building relationships. Keep sharing with the lost. Keep discipling those who respond. Knowing that God is somehow using everything you are doing for His ultimate purpose in his perfect timing. The mission of God isn't always glamorous, it's just consistency to know Him and make Him known. That's "real talk."
6 Tips for Sharing the Gospel
Disciple Makers are always looking for ways to get into gospel conversations and get to sharing Jesus with the lost. Check out this article from Verge Network with tips for sharing the gospel.
Grace & Peace, Scott
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