I wrote this article for this Autumns Baptists Together magazine. Enjoy:
Everyone you meet is a potential disciple of Jesus. Everyone. The first friends of Jesus were plucked from one way of life and work and plonked into a new role of heralding and showing the coming Kingdom of God.
Fishermen to fishers of men. Summoned in an instant.
I don’t mean that we should, when gathered at the school gate or local shop recite chunks of the gospel before we’ve said our good mornings or that we should ask people to follow Jesus before paying for our groceries. Rather, I do believe that the way we perceive people desperately needs to carry a sanctified simple childlike expectancy that the people whom we look at are sacred and potential followers of Jesus. Everyone. These are the people we see day in day out. They are the image bearers of the Divine and as Christians we believe that the pinnacle of all consecration is to be made into a new creation, to be found in Christ. To become a disciple.
To become a Jesus follower is an absurd gift. On one hand no one deserves to become a friend of the most beautiful and kind man who has ever lived. But on the other hand surely everyone warrants the right to know and experience how they too can be a Jesus follower and be made whole. Right. Saved.
Who are we to disallow people that can have opportunity to engage with the most outrageous gift that this world has been graced with?Despite enjoying such a radical call to follow Jesus the disciples struggled to understand that it was also for others. Teaching them around a Samaritan watering hole in the heat of the noonday sun Jesus asked them to lift up their eyes and look at the harvest, that it was white for people to also become disciples.
There are four phrases that help me lift up my eyes and see that everyone can become a disciple of Jesus. I hope may help you too:
1) People need what I’ve got.
I have a cheeky confidence that what I have is good. So good. Others around me need the purpose and hope that I enjoy. What is it that you have that others need? What have you been graced with in your life from Jesus? Peace, despite the storms? Hope despite the hardships? Joy, even when there’s heart ache?
Do you know that people need what you’ve got? People need Jesus and if you’re a Christian reading this, well you’ve got Him.
2) Strangers to friends to disciples.
It’s OK to meet strangers and let them know your faith. Many years ago before becoming a Christian my fellow co-worker Glyn who leads The Light Project with me was confronted by a stranger on her way to work in a park who told him two things: 1) t=There is a God. 2) This God loves you. As he stood there weeping little did the stranger know that Glyn had made a careful plan to end his life unless he heard from God that he was real and that he loved him. Glyn’s life was saved. Literally.
In my role as a chaplain in Peterborough City Centre I often spend time in pubs painting prayers for people. I meet many strangers. Some have become very good friends and a few have become disciples of Jesus. This has taken over 5 years of patiently believing that Jesus calls the most unlikely people to himself. Even beer swigging lonely blokes in Weatherspoon’s.
3) Where are the ‘it was meant to be’ meetings for the day?
Recently I have heard this phrase over and over. You and I may describe these meetings as divine appointments or God-incidences or even the Missio Dei.
But for people without the lingo of Christianeze they simply say ‘it was meant to be.’ After 7 months of being housebound a lady walking with crutches dared to venture into the pub for a coffee. One of my team saw her and as bold as brass simply said, “Hello, you like you’re in pain, can I pray for you?” The lady didn’t tell my volunteer where to go or tell her she was mad she simply stood there and with tears declared “It was meant to be.” At that precise moment I had painted a prayer stating “Stay strong.” This phrase meant a great deal to the lady as it was a mantra she had spoken over herself for months.
4) Make disciples by doing mission with people who are not Christians.
Granted it’s messy and it can all go wrong but doing mission with people who are not yet Christians seems to fast track discipleship. It’s when people who are curious about the Christian faith actually get to ‘do’ the Christian faith that they ‘get it.’ Our wonderful popular refrain ‘belong before you believe’ in practice has become for many of our churches ‘attend before you believe.’ It has become way too passive and non-participatory. People need to see what it means to change this world for Jesus and to take part in this cosmic redemption!
Recently I was asked by a man who is homeless if I would marry him and his dog. Instead of choking on my cuppa or laughing out loud I simply asked if we could meet the following week to talk about it over breakfast. Another man who is also homeless heard about the man’s question to me and asked if he could join us for breakfast and talk too. It was him who gently and lovingly explained why I couldn’t perform such a ceremony but furthermore it was him who offered to pray for the man. I felt like a bit of a bystander in the process, watching a man who wouldn’t in any way describe himself as a Christian act like a disciple, albeit with a few choice ‘f sharps’ in his prayer.
How can you lift up your eyes and see people as potential disciples of Jesus?
Chris Duffett’s new novel Philip is available from Gilead Books (www.gileadbookspublishing.com)