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The Discipleship Investment

I had an interesting question asked of me recently so I thought I'd share my answer and invite those of you in similar positions to add your thoughts. We all have limited time and energy but we're all called to personal discipleship. Who do you invest in and why?

The question was posed: "How do you actively decide who to invest the most time personally discipling."

To clarify, this does not refer to my role as Pastor. This refers to me, Tally Wilgis as a disciple of Jesus attempting to make other disciples in my own personal life just like every Christian is called to do. How do I determine who I will personally invest my time, take extra meetings with and intentionally walk with on a day to day basis toward Christian maturity?

In general I think it sums up what I'm instinctively looking for in a potential disciple who willingly wants me to mentor them. This is the first time I have written this down but after looking it over it is a pretty accurate representation of my standards.

Those whom I end up investing in the most are those who show a few signs:

1. They show a genuine interest.

Not everyone who says they are interested in Jesus is actually interested in Jesus. Some are drawn to the church as they are drawn to the Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs or their local tea party. For some, attending church is a nice social break where the kids are babysat and mom and dad can chill out. While I will always welcome the casual observer to investigate Jesus, long-term discipleship is far more than that. It takes a genuine interest to grow in Christ for me to invest my down time into personal discipleship.

2. They demonstrate that they actually value my wisdom.

While no one will listen all of the time, and that is never the goal, in general the person I invest mostly in will be the person who trusts what I have to say. It's my hope that they give my observation of scripture more weight than the guy at the water cooler, their hair stylist or Oprah.

When the rich young ruler showed interest, Jesus gave him instruction. The guy folded and ignored Jesus. Jesus didn't go beg him to reconsider. Jesus had a mission and he was like "Hey, feel free to come with me but it's not easy and I'm not turning around. If you listen to me you can come, if not... I'm still going." That's the approach I take. If people do not trust me or like my input, I can't make them do it. I keep moving forward and let them decide what to do with the advice I gave. It hurts every time people come back to me a year later and remind me that they went against my advice and it hurt them... but I've learned that I can't force anyone to consider me to be a wise man. Sometimes it is better that they didn't listen but most times it comes back to bite them.

I'm right a lot not because I think I'm all-knowing but that their situation and its consequences are rather normal in my line of work and most times spelled out in scripture. Call me crazy but if God wrote it down then I'd say you can bank on it being true. I can't make anyone listen to my guidance but I can decide who to give my constant time and energy, which emails to continue responding to, and which phone calls I take when I'm with my family. If someone places themselves under my care and they trust my advice, I'm much more apt to want to invest in their lives.

3. They can accept direct and frank tones.

While I'm a great guy to be around (if I do say so myself), I'm also straight forward and blunt when a person doesn't listen the first time or if they show signs of drinking their own vomit. It's God's example, not mine: "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness."- Proverbs 26:11. If someone places themselves under my care and they go around licking up their own vomit, they need to be willing to know that because I love them I may not be happy when I their breath smells like puke on a regular basis.

I know that not every Rabbi is good for every disciple. I also know that if someone cares about me they'd better increase their warning level as I increase my destructive behavior. Those who prosper under my leadership most are those who appreciate a direct and strong approach when they've been wayward. In athletic terms I've never stayed with a coach who belittled me but I've never had a good coach who didn't call me out when I needed it. I appreciate leadership who do that from time and I don't respect "leaders" who coddle a person over the same issue 1000 times. They aren't leading, they're enabling.

4. They show a likelihood to reproduce in someone else's life.

I'm not a fan of Cul-de-sac Christianity. Jesus gave us a model of discipleship and it involves multi-generational discipleship. No hoarding allowed!

In college I learned a definition of discipleship which may help others to understand my world-view on this subject. I've placed that below. This definition and mindset about discipleship forces me to not only ask myself if this person is willing and able to receive guidance from me but also ask

"By using my limited time with this person will I be investing in 1 life or countless of lives because of what this person will do with the investment?"

I suppose one could say that I consider the R.O.M. (Return On Ministry). Some people would turn their nose up and spout off some idealistic chatter about everyone is equal and deserves equal time and to that I'll ask them to show me that in scripture. Everyone I see in scripture invested in those who would ultimately go on to do something with it. They viewed the Gospel as important enough to guard against idol minds and hearts.

As promised, below is the definition I most appreciate when someone says "discipleship". It's a word many Christians have varying connotations for... this is what I think of when I consider that word. If you haven't nailed down your own understanding of the definition, maybe this will help.

"Discipling others is the process by which a Christian with a life worth emulating commits himself or herself for an extended period of time to a few individuals who have been won to Christ, the purpose being to aid and guide their growth to maturity and equip them to reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation." Discipleship: Helping Other Christians Grow by Allen Hadidian.

What I personally add to this definition is the concept that I do believe discipleship happens before salvation but this definition is specific to once a person claims to have received Christ. It's the whole belong, believe, behave vs behave, believe, belong approaches. Another post for another time.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Tuesday, July 24, 2007


At 4:48 PM, Anonymous jason allen said...

in your post I'm reminded of what some old school disciplers impressed upon me early on. I need to look for FAT people. Faithful, Available, and Teachable.

Thanks for the post.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Tally said...

You're right on. I've also used that to describe who I look for to fill ministry roles. Thanks for the reminder.



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