It was about a year ago that I jumped on a plane to Portland, Oregon with my family and some friends to go spend some time with Paul Watson, author of Contagious Disciple Making and founder of the organization by the same name, Contagious Disciple Making, (CDM).
A Little Backstory
For Becky and me, the years leading up to Portland were filled with tension and wrestling through a simple, yet challenging question: what does it look like to be a disciple of Jesus in our context? What does it look like to share the good news of Jesus with people around us? We have been on many sides of this conversation, talking through scripture, strategy, purpose, heart posture. Between the two of us, over the years, we have prayed for healing for people in public, shared Jesus door to door, been on mission trips, shared prophetic impressions with strangers, been apart of groups who do the same. By the fall of 2015 we were in need of perspective. We read Paul’s book, Contagious Disciple Making, and knew we had to meet this guy — a phone call and a few plane tickets later…
I only do what I see the father doing
I won’t go into a detailed summary of the book. Pick it up on Amazon, it’s totally worth the investment. I will say, the thing that is so helpful for me about Paul’s perspective on discipleship is that it applies to anyone in any context. His thoughts don’t hinge upon a large budget, a mega church, a salaried pastor and worship leader, or the need to uproot and move to the middle east. What Paul proposes is that anyone can share the good news of Jesus simply by being present in their everyday experience and listening for what God is saying in the midst of normal life. It reminds me of Jesus’ words in the gospel of John.
What we really wanted was for Paul to give us a step-by-step plan for the next 5 years of how to be effective disciple makers in our context, which he did not give us, no matter how many times we begged him to do so.
Though during our time in Portland, Becky had a significant moment with God where he invited her into several action steps for a missional lifestyle, which we have since adopted for our family.
- Be near to me
- Love my words
- Love your life
Back to the basics
Be near to me
This is an easy one. Be near to me. As Brother Lawrence simply states in The Practice of the Presence of God,
The Lord has called us first and foremost to love him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. His desire is relationship, his desire is our nearness. Our primary role in communicating the gospel of Jesus is in fact drawing near to our precious savior, allowing our hearts and lives to be impacted by him, as we listen and respond to his words.
Love my words
Jesus communicates, in John 15, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The love language of God is obedience, it’s loving his words so much that we actually change our behavior, perspective, reality, in order to come into alignment with his words, his truth. There is no life of discipleship apart from obedience. It is wisdom to love his words and put them into practice. Only in adoring his words, will we obtain a lifestyle that will proliferate disciples of Jesus. Without his words, we are simply making disciples in our own image — yikes! But imagine if we give ourselves fully to adoring the words of God and obedience to those words. There are no marching orders apart from this relational process.
Love your life
God called Becky and me to love our lives. What an odd thing to work out, right? Ummm… I think I love my life? What does it mean to love my life? What does it look like for Becky to love her life? I interpret this word in the following way. In order to love my life, I must make space to do things in my life that I love to do. Yes? I do love my famiy, I do love my work, I love my friends, but what do I — or in the case of my family, we — love to do? What places do I find myself going? Do I find myself in a specific area of my city? Do I find myself in another city? Do I find myself participating in a particular hobby? Do I find myself at a particular coffee shop, restaurant, bar? And when I find myself these places, doing these things that I love doing… who do I find there? Who has the Lord already placed in the middle of the life that I love? You know what? As I’ve asked these questions… I’ve found myself around people who it makes sense for me to share my life with. I’ve found myself in dialogue with people about things that genuinely interest me, things that I love. And this is what else I’ve found. When I’m in places that I love, doing things that I love, enteracting with people who also love these places and these things, meaningful and spiritual conversation come naturally over time.
In processing these thoughts, I by no means believe there is some magical method to share the grace and love of Jesus with another human being. The Lord has created us each uniquely, with unique loves and perspectives Rather, using these three lines as a filter for how I posture myself in discipleship has been a freeing and liberating process. It has helped me in sharing my journey as a follower of Jesus in a way that feels genuine rather than textbook, authentic rather than forced. I think it’s easy to search for a method, while missing the relational intention that Jesus has afforded us in this life with each person we intercept — be it brief or long lasting.
So here we go, intro to discipleship in three simple —not easy— steps…
Be near to me, love my words, and love your life.