Big Idea: Discipleship was never meant to be done alone; it is meant to be done in community through relationship.
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. Mark 1:16
SIMON, ANDREW, JAMES, & JOHN
It was a day as far as they knew that was to be like any other day. Weather good enough and clear enough to be fishing. No reason to expect this ordinary day to become extraordinary.
They were working on their nets. They might have looked something like this (show net). The story tells us that they were casting their fishing nets into the water when an ordinary day became and extraordinary day – when they heard the Rabbi’s voice. SIMON AND ANDREW didn’t have their own boat – that’s why they were casting from the shore, but they were dedicated to their trade and providing for their families.
Yet when this Rabbi called out, they dropped their nets to follow.
I wonder why?
Going on a little farther, the story repeats. Like Simon and Andrew, these two were fishermen as well – maybe even worked with Simon and Andrew; albeit they were a bit better off. They were preparing their nets in their boat with their father and the hired men who worked for them when their ordinary day became extraordinary – when Jesus called these two – JAMES AND JOHN, sons of Zebedee – to come along with him and become fishers of men. And though they were in their boat with even more to lose if they walked away, when this Rabbi Jesus called, they dropped their nets to follow.
I wonder what it was about Jesus that all four of these men were captivated by him so much as to drop everything to go along with Jesus. I mean it’s not like they had nothing else to do. James and John had it good for that day, working alongside their father who was wealthy enough to own his own boat and have hired men. And Simon and Peter, they were what we would consider today to be “middle” class. So it wasn’t like they had nothing else to do. And wasn’t like they didn’t have families to care for. We know from a later story in the gospels that Peter was married.
So I wonder why they did it. Why they dropped job, family responsibilities, their community – to follow Jesus - to go along with Jesus.
Maybe they had heard John the Baptist’s announcements called out, “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” They were Jewish men. They would have known the expectation of Messiah… of the prophet to come… the “lamb” prophesied in Isaiah.
Maybe they had heard Jesus teach in recent weeks and were intrigued by his message OR saw miracles of healing and were captivated by his action.
Maybe it was the fact that a Rabbi… this teacher / prophet… was calling people to “come along with him”. To follow. That wasn’t the norm.
- Prophets called people to follow God.
- Wise sages called people to follow the Law.
- Very few radical Greek teachers like Socrates called disciples to follow, but that wasn’t the norm for the Greeks and certainly NOT the Jews. Rabbis didn’t choose their disciples. In ancient times the norm was for students and parents to decide together which Rabbi they would choose to be a disciple of.
But this Rabbi was doing the asking – no not even asking; this Rabbi was calling / summoning / compelling these men to follow. And they’re not stopping to ask what their parents / families think.
I wonder why they said yes. I wonder if they had any idea of what they were really getting themselves into. I wonder what their families thought who they were going to be leaving behind for a while.
I wonder what part of that story makes you wonder… grabs your attention.
Whatever it was about Jesus that caught the attention of these 4 men…, these? (holding up the net)… were not necessary anymore (toss aside).
They were now part of a community of followers living alongside this teacher-prophet named Jesus.
As Jesus walked along, saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. Mark 2:14
As the story continues we learn of another man who joined this community of followers. He was known for handling these (bag of coins) – and he wasn’t liked for it. Levi was a tax collector… a tax gatherer… a customs agent on a trade route you might say. And an apostate according to the Jews. An apostate? Yes, because Levi was Jewish, yet he worked in collaboration with Rome for Roman benefit. And he should have known better. So to the Pharisees and others, he was an apostate.
But to Jesus, he was a prospect. And not just a prospect.
And similar to the fishermen, something about Jesus’ call to Levi was compelling. So compelling that he left his lucrative job in order to follow. So compelling, that he risked the loss of his position as tax gatherer in that location. You spurn Rome, your likely not going to work for Rome again. He burned the bridge the moment he got up from his booth to host Jesus in his home.
I wonder what he saw in Jesus.
Maybe like the fishermen, he had heard Jesus teach OR seen miracles done. Maybe like the fishermen, he had heard the word on the street that John the Baptist had spoken. Or maybe he was curious and captivated by a Rabbi who called his disciples rather than waiting for disciples to come to the Rabbi.
Or maybe it was what he saw in himself – the apostate – and the chance to be different – the chance he saw to be part of something, part of a community of followers living alongside, learning from this teacher-prophet who was catching everyone’s attention with his authority.
I wonder why Levi said yes.
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called t him those he wanted, and they came to him. Mark 3:13
The story goes on to indicate that many others started following Jesus. Some by their own choosing. Likely others by summons from Jesus similar to the fishermen and Levi. Eventually Jesus came to a mountainside (walk over to a place that is elevated – side stairway?) and – so the story goes – he called to himself those he wanted and appointed them as his “sent ones” – apostles.
They came to be known even today as the TWELVE.
We don’t know much about their backgrounds, identities, or even religious training, save the fishermen for sure. But we do know they were being commissioned as a community of followers of this teacher/ prophet Jesus to be like him; to do what he did. And it would take being a community. Human cooperation is needed for such authoritative tasks as those Jesus was commissioning these 12 to do: authority to heal, drive out demons, and preaching / proclaim the good news of God’s coming kingdom.
Actually later even in the story we learn that these tasks weren’t limited to the 12. They weren’t the only ones in the community of followers of Jesus. At one point the gospel writer Luke tells about 70 that were sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick.
I wonder what it was like to be part of this community of followers of Jesus in real time, real space.
COMMUNITY OF FOLLOWERS
What it was like for those who considered themselves followers but didn’t move around from place to place. I’m sure there were lots of those people –people who were healed but didn’t join the entourage OR were even sent back to their homes by Jesus. People who followed him to hear his teachings whenever he was in their region.
Then (there was) the 12 at least who did move from place to place… who walked with Jesus all those MANY miles as an itinerant Rabbi – teacher / prophet – going from city to city proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. And the entourage that probably was with them at least part of the time – maybe for certain segments of their journeys. More than the 12. The 70 came from somewhere to be sent out.
We gloss over so quickly phrases like “they got in a boat and went across the Sea of Galilee” OR “they left from there and went back to Jesus’ hometown” OR “from there they went up to Jerusalem”.
I mean, look at this map (CG: show map of Jesus’ ministry).
From the bottom there at Jerusalem to the top at Caeserea Philippi is about 105 miles. Jerusalem to Galilee, a frequent trip for Jesus was 70 miles one way. One person estimates that Jesus walked roughly 3,000 miles in those three years. That’s Boston to San Francisco one way. (970 hours; 40 days of walking 24 hours per day).
Trips across the Sea of Galilee? Roughly 7/7.5 miles across and 13 miles long.
I wonder what they did when they were walking? Riding in the boat?
For three years…
I wonder what all of the “between the lines” stories are from the gospels – you know, all the stories on those treks and trips throughout the holy land.
BETWEEN THE LINES STORIES
Do you ever wonder OR imagine what it might have been like?
I wonder if Jesus was a jokester playing pranks along the path? Did they play catch with a rock along the way sometimes? Did they tell “ghost” stories on the nights that they slept outside around the campfire?
These were people, right? Human beings. And possibly at times, just a bunch of guys hanging out together. Let’s be honest, if it was at times just Jesus and the 12, what do you think that might have been like? I don’t say that sacrilegiously at all! I wonder…
I don’t think they were constantly in a posture of prayer every second.
I wonder about how they walked. Did the walk single file OR as a clump? Both? In silence? Or talking? Or singing? Or complaining? (not Jesus of course).
When Access goes to Toronto for our short term trips we walk about 8-12 miles per day around the city. Sometimes we walk in clumps. Sometimes we walk single file. Sometimes people are singing; sometimes it is silence. And certainly there is some complaining.
Sometimes I walk out in front leading us to where we are going. When we know where we are going, sometimes I walk with whomever is there; BUT sometimes I am highly intentional with who I walk with – so that we can talk. So that I can process an experience they just had at Sanctuary Ministries OR outside the homeless memorial OR having just talked with someone on the street corner.
I wonder if Jesus did that. We have record of him at times pulling the disciples aside, sometimes just the 12 and other times more, after a miracle OR a teaching in order to explain what happened, letting them ask questions. Did he use the time walking between cities for that too? Did he teach more around the campfire at night? OR maybe not so much teach, but model what it meant to dedicate your life God.
They were a community of disciples following – living alongside – the teacher-prophet Jesus. A community of disciples who were having modeled to them who and how they were to be.
A motley crue of varying Jewish social ilk. Fishermen, a tax collector, one’s whose name possible meant “assassin” (Judas Iscariot) and then two who were known as the “Sons of Thunder” (James and John) which is a reference either to them being angry people (literally sons of anger) OR emotionally excitable people.
A community of disciples of the Master Jesus, learning to live as He lived… to love as He loved. Summoned to belong to him and one another in community SO THAT they could practice behaving as He behaved. Belonging to Him and one another in community SO THAT they would come to believe as He believed (that he was who he said he was) – MORE OVER EVEN, believe in Him for who He truly was. Belonging to Him and one another so that they would become all that Jesus desired them to become – who they were created to be: disciples who were sent as Jesus had been sent to make MORE disciples.
It was common in Jewish tradition for prophets to appoint their successors and that is what Jesus did with his disciples when post-resurrection he entered the upper room and said,
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you….Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-22
He was authorizing these disciples as his authoritative agents of the kingdom in trust that they would accurately represent Him to the world.
And not only represent Him, but He was authorizing them to do as he had done:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Giving them authority to call people to be disciples of Him by being disciples – followers – of them – yes, of the disciples themselves. That they would make more disciples of Jesus by baptizing them and then teaching them / modeling for them what they had learned and lived with Jesus. Paul captures this sentiment with his words to the church at Corinth: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1
TRANSITIONAnd it is this commissioning at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry that led us to this vision for discipleship for the community of Grace Church that we call The Way of Discipleship.
THE WAY OF DISCIPLESHIP (philosophy from the way of Jesus)
Last week as we celebrated the baptisms of over 40 people, we were reminded by way of introduction into this new series - Follow Me - that baptism demonstrating one’s surrendered life to Jesus is just the beginning. As Barry Rodriguez said, if we see baptism as the finish line of the faith, we leave people as newborn infants. But that has never been God’s vision for His people – to be born again but never grow up.
Clearly from the stories we heard today from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ vision as He called people to follow Him was that those people would become like Him. And it is from Jesus’ example with His followers that we came to the way we wanted to do discipleship among the community of Grace Church.
The Way of Discipleship is an intentional, time-bound relationship focused on learning and embracing 11 practices essential to following Jesus Christ.
The idea is that this relationship is led by a trained discipler. One person following another person in following Jesus. It is taking the commissioning from Jesus that Paul then expresses: “Follow my example, as I follow Jesus.”
And the picture painted today highlights the fact that we believe that discipleship is not done alone, but rather is best modeled by this discipler and practiced in community.
You don’t do discipleship alone. It is best modeled by a leader and practiced in community.
This was the way of Jesus. His call to follow to Simon, Andrew, James, John, Levi, the 12, the 70, and beyond was a call to follow him as a community of disciples – into real relationship with Him and one another. His invitation to follow was an invitation to relationship. As Eugene Peterson’s The Message translation says, it was an invitation to “come along with me.” And not just with Jesus, but in the picture I sought to paint for us through re-telling of the gospel stories, it was an invitation to be in community with other like followers as well.
This again, was the nature of Rabbi’s in that day. They took students who they expect to become like them in a community of students – into relationship with them as the Rabbi and with one another. And though Jesus flipped that order by initiating the call to follow instead of waiting for students to come to him, His expectation of the followers was clearly the same: you can become like me. And you will do what I have done. And you will do it together.
This again is why the intentional relationship. A disciple is following Jesus but in community not only with other disciples, but in relationship with a discipler who is more seasoned in living the way of Jesus.
I like to think of it through the comparison with a tradesman – for example my friend Jake is an electrician.
I remember learning how he became an electrician. First, as an apprentice electrician, you are always learning from the master electrician.
You need instruction, practice, and evaluation. In addition, you can’t work anywhere without the master electrician. They give you your authorization to work.
Then – after demonstrating proficiency in the trade, that you can do it, you become a journeyman.
Apprentice -> Journeyman ->
You no longer work under the eye of the master electrician; they have authorized you to work alone – commissioned you, one might say. As a journey man, you need assignments and then encouragement. A journeyman can and will as needed always go back to the master for help or more insight.
Finally, after a long enough time as a journeyman, your proficiency and seasoned experience leads to you becoming a master electrician.
Apprentice -> Journeyman -> Master
The master electrician has been affirmed in their proficiency and ability and has complete autonomy to work.
Now, the analogy isn’t one to one with discipleship, but let me share what is helpful in the comparison to me.
Jesus is and always will be the master. He is the master of living and as His disciples (apprentices as a synonym), we are learning to live as He lived, love as He loved. We are seeking to live as if Jesus was living our lives for us.
Jesus = Master
Disciple = Apprentice
And as apprentices initially, we have everything to learn about what it means to embrace and engage the practices of an ordinary disciple.
But as we grow, we become like journeyman. We don’t just need instruction and practice and evaluation. We need assignments. Real work of the kingdom with encouragement and even authorization from the master to work on His behalf! And that is what we get.
And part of that authorization is to help make – through teaching and modeling the essential practices of a disciple of Jesus – more disciples.
There are people who are journeyman when it comes to walking with Jesus – living in the way of Jesus – and they serve as disciplers.
Jesus = Master
Discipler = Journeyman
Disciple = Apprentice
In this way, we bring discipleship into community. We break it free from our “go it alone” tendency as human beings – even as Christians (just me and Jesus all the way!) and draw it into relationship just as Jesus did with those who followed Him during His life on earth.
Discipleship was never meant to be done alone; it is meant to be done in community through relationship.
And there is no question in my mind that this is true when I think of my own growth as His disciple!
MY STORY of W of D’SHIP
- Impact on me as disciple of Jesus in my story
- Never known day without Jesus
- Christian school, Christian college, seminary twice
- Sunday School, classes in church setting
- Extended mission trips and ministry settings
- Most impactful? The people from whom I saw discipleship modeled. The people who modeled for me what it means to be a disciple – live as a disciple of Jesus – love as a disciple of Jesus.
- The constant people in my life…
- …my parents who taught me and even more, from whom I “caught” what it means to be a disciple of Jesus – still to this day from my mom.
- …my wife Betsie who models the same heart for following in the way of Jesus, sharpening me and molding me through our relationship
- …my family members who walk with Jesus
- List of people who have come in and out of my life doing the same: teaching and modeling…
- Ron Short, Jerry Price,
- Jordan, Neal, David
- Eric, Matt and the brothers
- Don and Jay
- Kenny N.
- The last 10 years: Dave Rod, Jeff, Eric, Eness
- And most recently through discipling my guys!
- Impact of being a discipler with this kind of focus!!!
- Most consistency of spiritual practices in my life
- Grown in daily awareness of practicing God’s presence
- Their impact on MY life and walk with God – they challenge me.
- People through whom GOD in Jesus Christ and by His Spirit has worked to transform me to be more like Jesus.
- Impact of watching my guys grow
- Comments from wives, family members, and friends
- Brian talking about moving from disciple to discipler…
I believe in it for myself and my guys and have loved the experience of walking in these various discipleship relationships for the past 3+ years.
And I believe in it for the impact it can have in and through Grace Church - more so than any other expression of discipling I know of OR have experienced because INHERENT to the Way of Discipleship is EXPONENTIAL growth of disciples.
· You’ve heard Dave and others after him say, “The world is dying faster than we can make disciples.”
· We could teach the content of Way of D’ship and say “that is faster because we can just do it in mass and we will have disciples.” But that wouldn’t necessarily lead to exponential growth of disciples and life change.
· Part of being a disciple is that you will begin discipling someone else. And since the idea is that these 11 practices become part of your life with Jesus forever, the vision is that discipling will always be part of who you are just as Jesus commissioned that we would GO and MAKE disciples. When one intentional discipleship relationship is done, another begins!
o E.g. – taught material of WoD as a spiritual formation class at Taylor… no accountability for it to continue.
o But there is when you move from disciple to discipler. It all continues as you lead someone else through the 11 practices.
So I believe in it for this church and our impact in the world.
And I especially believe in it for you and want you to experience it!
What does that mean practically?
For some of you, it means you need to be trained in the Way of D’ship and become disciplers. You are journeymans – seasoned disciples of Jesus who have much to offer in the way of teaching and modeling what it means to follow Jesus.
· Onsite Discipleship Trainings
o June 1 at 7:00 pm – 146th Street Campus
o June 8 at 7:00 pm – 146th Street Campus
o June 14 at 9:15 & 11:00 am – Fishers Campus
o Register online...
· Buy the book today – BOGO – why? Because you don’t buy the book to go it alone. J
· Not sure who to ask to follow you as you follow Jesus?
o Consider the present relationships in your life
o Pray (my story with B Raves)
o Get connected in a ministry and see what relationships form:
§ Fuse and Merge – disciple through small groups
§ Access – develop one-on-one
§ Men’s / Women’s Ministry – get to know people through and small group setting and see what emerges
For others of you, you want to be discipled – you need to be. What’s your next step?
· Step 1: Evaluate those already in your own sphere of influence whom you respect.
· Step 2: Pray over those names for several weeks. Let the Holy Spirit do His work.
· Step 3: Ask one of those people to consider participating in the Way of Discipleship.
(My story with Tyler – me being on his short list; my hearing God’s Spirit leading me to ask.)
And for those who may wonder, why 1:1? Why not 1:2/3/4?
· Nothing magical about it nor necessarily biblical; certainly possible
· But… 1:1 is just practically easier
o Easier scheduling (and let’s face it, we are all busy right?)
o Ability to focus on one person’s growth at a time
o Opportunity to go deeper because the time in conversation is focused on one person’s story and journey, not 2 or 3. Literally that means the time spent sharing and processing together is double what it would be with more than 1:1.
Discipleship was never meant to be done alone; it is meant to be done in community through relationship.
Something captivated Simon and Andrew that they left everything to respond to Jesus’ call to join that first community of followers.
Something captivated James and John to do the same.
Something captivated Levi… and the 12… and the 70… and the masses.
I wonder what about Jesus will captivate you so that you will respond to His call – His call to FOLLOW Him as His disciple… and His call to GO and MAKE more disciples.
For those of you not engaged, I wonder why you are waiting.