Have you noticed a tendency in many older people is that they are looking back at life and not looking forward? This appears to be an indicator that they see the significance of their lives and perhaps the “best days” as those days gone by, rather than the plans, opportunities, and usefulness the Lord has for the days ahead. (Eph. 2:10) This is a discouraging if not depressing practice, especially if one sees themselves as a Christ follower. Does aging imply “game over?”
When Jesus called his first disciples he said: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The elements of this “calling” in Matthew 4:19 and the imperative Jesus gives at his departure in Matthew 28, “go and make disciples,” are the components of the lifetime apprenticeship those responding to Christ’s calling are to be engaged in. With no retirement provision or 401K, we are invited to a lifetime of co-laboring with Jesus.
Perhaps the greatest problem retarding the progress of the church today is a lack of the type of discipleship which leads to believers becoming mature in their faith and investing in the lives of others so as to develop them to a state of maturity. Noted author of the modern classic The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman, says “the problem today is that our churches are full of converts.” His implication is that too many people stop at conversion or don’t progress much further into fully reproducing disciple-makers. Being a disciple means we are engaged in a lifelong learning process which is “life on life” with Jesus and with others. This life cycle entails introducing others to a life of faith in Christ, helping them build upon this foundation through understanding and obeying scripture, and living with a missional approach to life as a model of how Jesus engaged and impacted his world. This transformation moves from head to heart as we observe how instructing others in learning and believing truths about Jesus and demonstrating his life practices leads to a life where our hearts are molded by Jesus.
Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington, authors of an excellent book titled Discipleshift, describe stages of discipleship and the state of the heart that identifies them. You might see yourself in some of these phrases. I did. Instead of being upset and stop reading, allow this to be a potential turning point for you and consider how you might grow and become more mature.
Might spiritual infants think/say “I need to pray and read the Bible regularly? I never heard that before. Tithing, what’s that? I believe Jesus is God. But isn’t karma real too?”
A Spiritual Child is still very self-centered. They think/say things like “I don’t know if this church is meeting my needs anymore. Maybe I’ll go elsewhere. I wasn’t fed at all by that sermon today. Why are all these new people coming into our church? I might serve but no-one’s ever asked me.” The Young Adults are making the shift from being self-centered to being God-and-other-centered. They understand God has called them to give to the body of Christ, rather than simply take. They might think/say “In my daily devotions I came across something I have a question about. I have two non-believing friends I’m witnessing to. Could I bring them to our next Group event? It was awesome how packed we were Sunday. I had to park 100 yards away!”
Spiritual Parents are still maturing. They understand God’s word and are intentionally building into the lives of others. They might think/say “I want to be conscious of the influence of my words and actions. I wonder if God is leading me to invest time with Bill/Renee and help him/her mature in their faith.”
We have all known people who have been Christians for a long time but they have not appeared to have been transformed much. They don’t seem to hunger for righteousness and consistent godly living. They don’t seem to associate enough with Spirit-filled people to see the challenge of moving forward and growing. They don’t seem to see or care what they are missing in a vibrant, fruitful life of obedience to Christ. Friend, be encouraged. We only need to be one step ahead to lead. But we do need to possess the heart of Jesus. We are called to “follow” and “fish.” If we are earnestly following, we will be fishing, even if we start with just a cane pole. Think About It.