About seven years ago I was in Lifeway Christian Bookstore looking for some resources. I was surprised to see a young man in there that I had known from a distance during my days playing college football. The young man was a super fan of all University of Louisville sports. His name was Michael. He was at every single game on the front row, and let's just say he took pre-game tailgating pretty seriously. At first glance, Michael would probably have an alarming presence to many who grew up in a church context. He has a large scruffy beard, his body covered with tattoos, he had a reputation in our city of drugs and violence, and his nickname in the street was Buddha. Yes, Buddha. I was more than surprised to see him in a Christian bookstore, in fact, I was shocked. I walked up to him and said, "Bro, what are you doing in Lifeway?" He laughed and said that recently he got involved in a church and he felt as though the Lord had saved him from his sins. I rejoiced with him, and we exchanged contact info. Later, he texted me asking if I knew of any Bible studies or any groups he could get involved in that would teach him how to really know God. After praying, I started connecting with him to see how serious he was. Immediately I saw a hunger for God. I saw someone who had tons of questions about God's word, mourned his sin, was ready to share the gospel with anyone who would listen, and would show up anywhere and anytime I asked him to. Michael demonstrated a person who was "F.A.T" Faithful, Available, Teachable. Because of this hunger, I prayerfully began to disciple Michael along with one other young man. We spent a lot of time together doing ministry, watching games, opening God's word, praying, and talking about life. I saw him grow exponentially to the place where he was becoming a natural leader. Imperfectly and with hiccups along the way, he started speaking in schools, preaching at events, ministering to people in the inner city of Louisville. His heart for people, and his background allowed him to walk with folks that most in the church wouldn't engage with. He has a gift for intentionally engaging with people in incredible brokenness and offer them the hope of Jesus. He became a major leader in the local church and was placed as the director of an Urban ministry in Shelby Park. He is enrolled at SBTS working on his Masters of Divinity, and recently became a husband and a father. The best thing about him is he loves Jesus in a transformative way. Below is a short testimony he recently wrote about discipleship.
"The word disciple can bring about so much emotion to my heart! The thought of knowing Jesus intimately and growing in knowledge and wisdom through community is what the Christian walk is all about! One must be a disciple and disciple others as they grow in faith and understanding of the truth that God took the punishment for our sin so that we would be reconciled back into relationship with God, who created us for communion with himself, through faith in Jesus Christ.
My journey started in mid 2011 due to continuous invites to a local church in Louisville, Ky. The invite was the jump start, but I had nothing to sustain the battery. I had nothing to teach me how be recharged. I would hear sermons and read my Bible, but I never got to be examined for character development or have questions answered about what it means to have a deeper relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ. In early 2012 I was in a Christian bookstore where I ran into a man I did not know on a personal level but knew who he was on a surface level. This man played football for the local university, and I was pretty well known as a fanatic of that team that also had a heavy appetite for Budweiser and reckless "fun". The man asked me what I was doing in the bookstore (slightly caught off guard to see me of all people in the bookstore). I replied that I had been journeying with my local church and was considering being baptized and welcomed into a new family. This gentleman invited me in to a personal relationship with him and one other brother to meet weekly and hash out life's questions and seek wisdom and insight from God himself through His word in the Scriptures. I had started to understand the weight of my sin and started turning from them. My personal walk did not get convicted of all sin at once. I was and still am a work in progress. This relationship I got invited in to was a discipleship. Due to this discipleship, I received the greatest gift I have ever received. I received a relationship with my Creator and Savior. This relationship with my new brother was not one of brash rebukes and talking over me. It was one of listening, patience and wise counsel. After two months or so of meeting weekly, we worked through the book of Ephesians and during the six weeks of working through the book, I surrendered to King Jesus. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my sin had separated me from God and putting my faith in a bloody Savior was the only way to reconcile that relationship. I served and became a member at the church I was attending and the relationship with my brother was not as close in a personal matter, but not a day goes by where I don't praise God for that interaction at Lifeway Christian Bookstore in early 2012.
I have been a disciple of Jesus for 6 years now and I have two young men in my neighborhood whom God has put in my life. One is 18 and the other is 15, and both are entrenched in the street life as I was. With Christ and my mentors modeling of relationships I feel equipped enough to always point them to Jesus and be unashamed that I am a sinner saved by grace. I pray the Lord always (certain seasons pending) has a less mature brother in the faith in my way. Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:15. Scriptures calls us to witness to not just the lost, but ALL people! Praise God for God sending that gentleman into my life..."
I share this story because I am so proud of Michael. God is doing big things in and through his life. His story is a perfect example of the kind of people God uses. He doesn't usually use the gifted, educated, squeaky clean, and talented. He doesn't only use the people who look like they belong in Lifeway. (1 Cor. 1:26-29) He uses the faithful, the available, and the teachable. He uses the ones who come to Him broken and willing to follow Him wherever He asks them to go. Because when those people start doing big things for the kingdom, there's no question that it was God's doing and nothing else. Those are the kinds of people you should disciple. Don't look for knowledge, look for hunger. Don't look for talent, look for a heart that beats for God, a heart that is sensitive to what God is up to. Test them and see if they really want to be invested in. For those are the kind of people Jesus will change the world with for HIS glory in all the earth.