GCD_BlackNot everyone is a “Super Christian.” We don’t all have stories of how we glanced at the stranger seated next to us on the plane and led them to Jesus right there on the spot.

Most of us are probably missing about 9 out of every 10 opportunities we have to share the Truth. (Wait! What opportunities?!)

Worse, in the unlikely event that we ever did lead someone to Jesus, we wouldn’t have the first clue what to do next. Maybe the pastor knows what to do? Sadly, maybe not.

Or, maybe you know how to “lead people to Christ” but you have never considered that the ultimate goal is actually to lead people toward Christ-likeness.

We may not all be Super Christians, but every Christian has been tasked with making disciples of all nations.

The New Normal: Every Disciple Making Disciples
But is the mission even possible? Is it really true that every follower of Jesus is meant to make and multiply other followers of Jesus? Is it crazy to think you might make a disciple this year who will make a disciple next year?

I believe that if Jesus has given us a mission to make disciples of all nations, then he will give us the means to fulfill that mission.

Jesus did not give us an impossible mission. Well, according to Jesus it is impossible in our own strength. He reminds us of this when He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.” (John 15:5)

It’s an impossible mission for a dead branch to make fruit, but when a healthy branch is connected to the vine, Jesus actually thinks that much fruit will be the result. Bearing fruit is normal for a vine with healthy branches.

Characteristics of a Dead Branch 
There are several reasons why a Christian might not be bearing fruit (Hint: It’s never a vine problem. It’s always a branch problem).

Here are a few characteristics of a dead or dying branch:

No Purpose – Jesus made the mission very clear in Matthew 28:18-20: “Go…make disciples of all nations.” Evaluate your life and determine how much of your time is spent pursuing that mission and how much is spent on other pursuits.

No Prayer – Are you devoted to prayer? Are you intentionally praying for your neighbor who is far from God? Look up Paul’s words in Colossians 4:2-5and ask God to give you the same kind of desperation for “outsiders.” Dead branch Christians often have a dead prayer life.

No Preparation – Quick! Answer this question: “What is the reason for the Hope that is in you?” Peter tells us we always need to be ready to answer that question (1 Peter 3:15-16). Are you prepared to defend the faith? Are you prepared to answer questions? Are you prepared to articulate the Gospel in one minute? Three minutes? Thirty minutes? Start preparing now!

No Preaching – If you’ve never talked about Jesus, your friends will never know about Jesus. It’s simple: the Gospel is a message. Messages need to be communicated. Let stories about Jesus permeate your conversations every day (just don’t force it).

No Purity – It may be that you are caught up in sin and aren’t experiencing victory in your life.  If your lifestyle conflicts with your message then no one will believe you. Ghandi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Is this what Ghandi would say if he looked at your life?

No Perseverance – Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

If we are going to pursue the mission it will take work, sacrifice, commitment, endurance, passion, and focus.

No Partnerships – None of the above will happen apart from community. When we’ve got a band of brothers (or sisters) who are on a journey together it’s easier to hold each other accountable. Superheroes often accomplish things on their own, but this isn’t a comic book – this is real life. In fact, it’s the abundant life that Jesus promised us. A dead branch lies there cold and alone on the ground. A living, healthy branch is connected to other branches through the vine.

If any of these characteristics describe your spiritual life, you will not bear fruit. You are a disconnected and dying branch. Jesus’ desire is that every branch would remain in Him and bear much fruit.

You may not be a “Super Christian” (whatever that is), but there might just be someone in your family or on your block that is far from God. Maybe, just maybe, God wants to use you to reach that one person. Making disciples is an impossible mission, should you choose to accept it. But don’t worry, Jesus knows you can do it with His help! Just stay connected to Him.

Nathan Creitz (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is passionate about making disciples in a post-Christian context. He and his wife Kim and two children, Zoe and Zac, live in Queens, NY where about 2% of the people are followers of Jesus. They are planting churches in Queens that are within reach of at least 64 unreached people groups. Nathan often records his observations about making disciples in a post-Christian context atnathancreitz.net. Twitter: @nathancreitz

 

Editors Note this is a repost of Making Disciples is Not Just for Super Christians  posted with permission from Gospel Centered Discipleship

This is part four of the series The Difficulty of Sharing Our Faith. from Gospel Centered  Discipleship

I’ve often heard people say the reason they find it difficult to share their faith is because they don’t have all the right answers. “What if someone suggests all paths lead to the same God, making Jesus irrelevant?” they say. Or “What if a co-worker claims she could never be a Christian because the Bible has too many errors?” These are serious questions that deserve thoughtful responses. As Christians, we should have reasons for our hope. However, I wonder if we often put our hope in having right answers instead of hoping in the reason for our faith? Let’s consider the role of “right answers” in the difficulty of sharing our faith.

Reasons for Hope

While some consider Christianity to be an unthinking faith, the Bible underscores the importance of reason. Peter, a disciple not known for being good with words, wrote this: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Pet 3:14-15).

We are to offer “reasons” for our hope, to always be prepared. Prepared to do what? “Make a defense” is a translation of the word from which we getapologetic. An apologetic isn’t an “I’m sorry” attitude. Nor is it a defensive, antagonistic stance against culture. It is a reasoned statement of belief. To make an apologetic, then, is not to argue out of defensive insecurity, but to offer a reasonable explanation from our security. What kind of security frees us to offer reasonable explanations for our faith?

Two kinds of security free us to engage in apologetics. The first is intellectual security. The Christian faith has a long tradition of apologists who have faithfully defended the faith century after century, answering some of the most difficult questions. The earliest apologists include: Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Tatian, and Clement of Alexandria (view their texts here). Their apologetic answers have been handed down from generation to generation. New apologists, such as Ravi ZachariasWilliam Lane CraigTim Keller, John Frame, and Alvin Plantinga, also address new questions. We do well to read them.

It is important to note that the gospel alone acts as a grand apologetic, addressing the deepest of life’s questions including: the problem of evil and suffering, the existence of God, the hope of salvation, the nature of God and man, and the role of faith. Through apologetics the gospel has proven intellectually credible and existentially satisfying for many people across many cultures. The gospel provides a coherent, rational view on the world that is intellectually secure. It makes sense of a world where things are not as they are supposed to be. But there is another security that frees us to offer reasonable explanations for Christian faith.

Deep Security

Many of us won’t make time to read the old and new apologists. And perhaps we don’t have to. Is it possible that Peter had in mind an apologetic that included, not just reasons, but faith? Peter was writing to people who feared persecution for their faith. When we struggle to share our faith, do we not face persecution? We are attacked by thoughts that undermine our confidence, diminish our trust in Christ, and redirect us away from speaking about Jesus. Surely, this is a spiritual persecution. Cultural apologist Ken Myers has said:

“the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries.[1]

While we may not face the gallows or plagues, we do face something more subtle–the invisible power of pop culture that undermines truth, dismisses character, and radically orients us toward comfort. The good news is that we have the same ability as those early saints to be secure and strong in our faith. When doubts surface and silent accusations fly on the cusp of mentioning the gospel, we need a security stronger than our persecution.

Before instructing the early Christians to always have an apologetic, Peter prefaces his statement with this: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” (1 Pet. 3:14). He reassures them, in the face of mockery, to sink their security deep into their hearts not heads. He reminds them that they have nothing to fear because they have Christ who offers perfect peace. He makes apologetics about Christ not right answers, a matter of both the head and the heart.

So, when we face that moment of temptation to shy away from identifying with Jesus, it is our identity in Jesus that we need most. We need not fear men because we can rest in Christ. People may reject us, but our forever acceptance in Christ gives us every reason to speak of Him, of His grace, mercy, kindness, love, and triumph over sin, death, and evil. O for stronger men and women who sink their identity deeply into what Jesus says about us more than what peers and co-workers (might) say about us! Our silence will convince no one of our rich, rewarding faith in Jesus. Fear over co-worker frowns will not inspire a smiling faith.

Authentic Apologetics

Our moment of opportunity is less about converting others and more about staying true to ourselves. Will we speak of our unique community in the church, the God-intoxicating gathering on Sunday, the stirring time of meditation on Wednesday morning, and the quiet, soul stirrings of communion with God? Will we speak authentically about what matters most to us and of the meaningful events in our lives or will we prove inauthentic, dismissing these things from conversation, and along with them, dismissing our true selves? Will we refrain from honoring the Lord Christ as holy in our hearts because we hold in honor the passing frowns of men in our heads? Surely the gospel offers a deeper security than the approval of passing men and women? Does not Christ’s love run deeper, His acceptance purer, and His approval longer than the love, acceptance, and approval that any person could ever give? If so, apologetics is meant to spring from a deep security in the heart, our unshakable union with Christ—fully loved, fully accepted. Apologetics is a matter of the heart as well as the head.

Defending the faith, then, is as much about defending Christ as our Lord in our hearts as it is explaining the reasonableness of our faith. The goal of apologetics should never be to convert others (that is the Spirit’s job), but it is to honor Christ as Lord in our hearts. This happens, very often, with our mouths. And in the end, for everyone the bottom-line issue isn’t an intellectual objection but hope objection. We refuse to remove our hope from one thing and transfer it to the ultimate thing, the person of Jesus. A witness of our authentic hope in Christ will be more compelling than any intellectual argument we could ever articulate. People need to see our hope burn in our bones. They need to sense the Lord Christ set apart in our hearts. They need to see that the gospel not only makes sense but that it also works. Christian faith is intellectually satisfying and existentially rich. So let’s not put our hope in having right answers but have answers that reflect our hope.

 


[1] Ken Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1989), v.

Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. He has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others. Twitter:@Jonathan_Dodson

(Editor’s Note: This article is reposted with permission from Gospel Centered Discipleship)

It can be difficult to share our faith. Sometimes when opportunities arise to share our faith, we shrink back because we don’t want to be intolerant. We don’t want to come across as demeaning of other’s beliefs or exclusivist in our own beliefs. This can be very positive concern, though it has some shortcomings too.

Tolerance as Christian Love

Tolerance can be either an expression of Christian love or intellectual and relational carelessness. How do you know if your tolerance is loving or careless? It depends on what we mean by tolerance. In The Intolerance of Tolerance, D. A. Carson helpfully clarifies the meaning of tolerance. He points out that there are two types of tolerance: old and new. The old tolerance is the belief that other opinions have a right to exist. This is a very Christian notion. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, and even our enemy. The Christian ethic of love should compel disciples to tolerate other beliefs and religions. We ought to grant others the right to believe whatever they desire to believe. After all, what people believe is a deeply personal and profound matter. It isn’t like picking out a ripe banana at the supermarket. Our beliefs require much more thought and investment. Love values people and respects the things they hold dear. Since Christians are to love God, neighbor and even enemy, tolerance (believing that people have the right to hold different opinions) can be very loving and respectful. Christianity shouldn’t be coercive or proselytizing; it should be loving and tolerant.

The Carelessness of Tolerance

The new tolerance, however, is defined as the belief that all opinions are equally valid or true. This is quite a leap from the old tolerance. It is one thing to say something has the right to exist; it is quite another to say that two beliefs are equally valid. If we followed the logic of the new tolerance, it would be possible to affirm the following two statements:

  • We should grant others the dignity to believe whatever they want to believe.
  • We should force others to believe whatever we believe to be true.

The new tolerance has to allow for these two statements to coexist. The problem is that this is simply impossible to do! The new tolerance is intellectually careless. The new tolerance carelessly dismisses careful logic. For instance, new tolerance affirms that both Jesus and Allah are God. It also affirms that working to keep the Five Pillars of Islam and trusting in the work of Christ are both ways to get to God. The problem, however, is that both Islam and Christianity fundamentally disagree on who God is and how to reach him. In Islam, we reach up to God but in Christianity, God reaches down to us. These beliefs can’t be equally valid and true because to affirm one its to invalidate the other.

This intellectual carelessness is not only illogical; it is exclusively intolerant. According to the new tolerance, it should be intolerant to not tolerate exclusive faiths like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Instead, the new tolerance makes the exclusive claim that all religions lead to the same God. This is an act of great disrespect, dismissing the centuries of study, formulation, adherence, and faith of religious devotees. In this, the new tolerance is religious. It makes an exclusive claim (all beliefs are equally true) and intolerantly forces that belief onto everyone. As a result, it is not only intellectually careless but relationally careless.

The Relational Impact of Our Confusion

The carelessness of the new tolerance impacts relationships. Have you ever been on the precipice of a spiritual conversation with someone of a different faith, but backed off because you thought to yourself: “I don’t want them to think I’m intolerant or judgmental of what they believe?” If so, you did this out of a confusion over what tolerance truly is. Your behavior was affected by your (wrong) belief that tolerance means validating all other faiths as equally true. When we affirm two contradictory statements, it creates a cognitive (and spiritual) dissonance that affects our behavior in social settings. We become paralyzed, unable to discuss some of life’s most meaningful questions with others because, on the one hand, we tolerate differences (classic tolerance) and on the new hand, we dismiss differences (since they are equally valid). The unfortunate result is that relationships often remain skin-deep. We don’t get down into the weighty matters of faith, ethics, truth, and beauty.

So you see, there’s quite a difference between the old and new tolerance. While we should grant others the dignity of their belief (or unbelief), classic tolerance also expects the differences between beliefs to come out. Classic, and Christian, tolerance should promote respectful dialogue and charitable debate between religions. Christians should honor differences and dialogue to grow in clarity and appreciation of differences between religious viewpoints. We should be eager to learn from others about their faith, not condemn them for their faith. Meaningful conversation is in short supply, and of all people, Christians should have meaningful conversations with others. After all, Jesus claimed to answer the deepest questions of life. And if his teachings are true, then we have every reason to talk deeply with others about meaning, faith, and truth. Jesus gives us every reason to be classically tolerant, full of love, and persuasively engaged in the things that matter most.

Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. Dodson has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others.

(Editor’s Note: This article is reposted with permission from Gospel Centered Discipleship)

Gospel Centered DiscipleshipThis is the second in the series The Difficulty of Sharing our Faith by Jonathan K. Dodson.

We often find it difficult to share our faith because we want to first form relationships with people. Avoiding preachy self-righteousness, we try to get to know others before talking about Jesus. We prefer to talk about work, culture, and ordinary stuff first. This springs from a proper concern to not come off as stiff evangelists but as real, caring people.

Love Not Proselytize Your Neighbor

This concern to have a relationship before sharing the gospel has some biblical warrant. Jesus said: “Love your neighbor,” not proselytize your neighbor. To proselytize is to coerce or induce people to believe what you believe. The person who proselytizes coerces by forcefully defending and advancing their beliefs. Remember the film The Big Kahuna? Grabbing evidence and opportunities, Christians back their co-workers into a theological corner, expecting them to throw up their hands and say, “I believe!” Other times, proselytizing takes the form of recruitment. We might try to convince people to join our moral or political agenda, as if Jesus wants to add to his numbers to strengthen a political constituency.

When we proselytize people, we reduce discipleship to an intellectual enterprise. In effect, we replace the gospel with doctrinal agreement (or just being right). When we focus on recruitment, we make Christianity about power or morality. This replaces the gospel with religion or rightwing politics. But Paul shared a gospel that was all about Jesus, preaching Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:1). He resolved to preach Christ not politics. Similarly, when sharing our faith, we need to make Jesus the stumbling block not morality or politics. When we put doctrinal, moral, and political blocks in front of the gospel, we proselytize instead of love. Proselytizing requires the mind and the will, but love requires heart, mind, and will.

“When sharing our faith, we need to make Jesus the stumbling block not morality or politics.”

I’ve had countless conversations with non-Christians in which I’ve had to remove these stumbling blocks in order to get to the heart with the wonderful news of the gospel. Getting to the heart takes time. We need what Michael Frost calls “Slow Evangelism.” We need faith in God and love for people that slows us down to listen to others well, so that we can learn how to make the good news good to their bad news. For many, hearing that Jesus died on the cross for them is entirely irrelevant; we have to show the relevance of Jesus to their real need. Relationships are essential to discerning and meeting real needs. It was Francis Schaeffer who said: “Give me an hour with a non-Christian and I’ll listen for forty-five minutes. Only then, in the last fifteen minutes, will I have something to say.” We often hesitate to share our faith because we want people to know that we value them, regardless of their response. But if we truly value them, we wont simply “wait” to share the gospel; we will embody it by listening well.

Wonderful Doesn’t Wait

Have you ever noticed when you encounter something truly wonderful, you don’t always wait for a relationship to tell someone? There are things that are so urgent, so weighty, so wonderful that we burst out to talk about them whether we have a relationship or not! When our sports team scores to win the game, we don’t look around the stadium and think: “I can’t tell people how happy I am about this win. I don’t even know them!” No, we don’t wait to express our joy; we burst out when our team wins. We celebrate with strangers and go nuts on social media. When we’re at a concert and our favorite song is played, and the band is really rocking, we don’t wait to sing along or comment. We sing and chat it up with strangers. After reading a book or seeing a great movie, perhaps the Hunger Games, we strike up conversation with people at work about how great the movie was.

When something is truly wonderful, we often don’t wait to talk about it. Is the news about Jesus so urgent, weighty, and wonderful that we can’t help but share it? It is, but often it’s not as fresh as the game, concert, or movie. Why? Very often this is because we aren’t immersed in the goodness of the gospel. It is old, memorized, fading news because we haven’t had a fresh encounter with Christ in weeks! The wonder is lost because we haven’t plunged ourselves into Christ-centered worship, prayer, or Bible meditation. We are most likely to talk about the gospel when the good news is good news to us.

“We are most likely to talk about the gospel when the good news is good news to us.”

Have you ever considered what would have happened if Jesus had waited until he had a relationship with the thief on the cross to offer him eternal life? What if authors, pastors, and preachers waited to tell you the good news until they had a relationship with you? Sometimes there are things that are so wonderful, they don’t deserve a wait!

 

Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. Dodson has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others.