The Key to Making Disciples and not just "Consumers of Christian Culture."

For many years, I've undervalued a crucial part of Jesus' invitation to become a disciple.  After 10 years in ministry, this is something I'm just beginning to truly understand.  

 

I STINK AT FISHING

I like to be inside, much more than outside. I really do love to experience nature, as long as I have a beautiful hotel room waiting for me when it’s all said and done.  As Jim Gaffigan puts it, I’m pretty, “indoor-sy.”  Imagine my confusion as I began to study the true meaning of living as a disciple.

If our churches are going to thrive in the next decade, producing genuine believers and not just consumers of Christian culture, this is a subject we’ve got to get a handle on.  Volunteers, givers, and regular attenders are awesome, but disciples are what Jesus commanded us to go and make.  I’ve grown up in church, and for the past decade, I’ve worked at an amazing church.  Even I have to admit that some times this subject seems a little unclear.

As we prepare to plant Spring of Life church, I’ve really begun to look into this idea.  There are a couple of things that are pretty obvious in scripture.  First, a disciple is someone who follows after Jesus.  We see this in the first encounter Jesus had with his future disciples, Peter and Andrew.  In order to truly be called a disciple, you have to be hungry for Jesus.  You have to lean into what He says, be willing to drop some stuff and to go where He goes.  There is a second qualifying factor for disciples that we find in Jesus’s innovation, that we often neglect.

Here it is —

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Matthew 4:19

Um… ok.  I want to be a good Christian and everything, but I tried fishing once.  It didn’t go so well.  My Uncle lived on the lake when I was growing up.  One afternoon my dad took my brother and I down to the water.  I had grand ambitions as my dad baited my hook.  I learned back, pushed the little button on my Donald Duck fishing rod, and swung my arm forward. I caught something on my line!  The bad news, it was my uncle’s black Labrador. That officially ended my fishing career.

 

WHY DID JESUS TALK ABOUT FISHING?

Why did Jesus phrase the essence of being a disciple in such a specific way — fishing?  I think it’s because He was talking to fishermen.  If I could have some creative license for a moment, I think Jesus was saying the following, “I know you’re not super religious.  That’s good.  I know you don’t realize your life could mean more.  It can.  Here’s what I’m offering.  I’m going to take everything that you are, and I’m going to redeem it for my purpose.  But make no mistake - my purpose is people."

Here’s how that is beginning to play out in my life.  When we first moved to Portland, I felt challenged to become “relevant.”  I asked myself, how could I get the message of Jesus in front of others.  This often resulted in brainstorming forms of ministry that felt just as foreign to me as fishing.  What I’m beginning to learn though, is that God is willing to use the real me.  He has plans for the guy that likes movies, culture, NPR podcasts, and yes…branding.

 

BEING A "BRANDING CONSULTANT" OF MEN (AND WOMEN)

Yesterday, I met a new guy at work. He has a big, vibrant personality.  He likes to bounce Peanut Butter M&M’s off the wall and catch them in his mouth.  He’s not afraid of interrupting people to start a conversation. This might get on someone else’s nerves, but it’s a Church Planter’s dream.

I was standing in a neighboring office space with my phone, testing the light for an upcoming video shoot.  He walked in and offered to help. He asked me about what I do, and I told him I am a pastor looking to start a new church, and that I am beginning to build a creative agency.  He said, “me too — but not the pastor part.”  It turns out he has a pretty healthy client list of businesses that he’s worked with.  He’s also made some pretty sweet videos.  I told him that while I love videos, but I am striving to become a branding consultant.

“Spiritual branding?” he asked.  

“Kind of,” I responded.

 

I continued...

What I like about branding does have a lot in common with what I like about Jesus.  I think that bad branding tries to slap a label on the outside of something. That’s what I believe religion does.  Jesus, on the other hand, cares about who I am.  Because of my relationship with Him, He reaches in deep. He cares about every part of me.  He knows that I’m not good enough to meet God’s standard, so He is good in my place.  He is changing and growing the real me.  That’s what good branding does.  It helps people discover the gold inside of their organization.  It helps them see what they want to be, and how they can tell a better story. I love Jesus because He is rewriting my story every day.

“Cool.  I like you,” he said.  He leaned back and looked at me for a minute.  He gave me his business card and we made plans to follow up with a lunch meeting.

I’m praying for my friend, and for more open doors.  I didn’t have to use a track, an app, or a “share the gospel” outline.  (I love all of those methods, by the way.)  I just began to fish with what I had.  I am more excited everyday about what it means to be a disciple.  Now through His Spirit, I can’t wait to make some.

 

PRACTICAL THOUGHTS

  • Learning without sharing creates a passive approach to faith.
  • Some of the best ministry happens outside the walls of the church.
  • Your interests are not separate from God's plan for your life.  They are the very thing God will use to connect you with others.
  • Gospel conversations are best when they are natural.
  • The more I share Jesus, the more I love Jesus.
Aaron is the pastor of Spring of Life, a new church in Portland, Oregon. He's the owner of Amplify Creative.