The Discipleship Journey: What's The Next Step?
Topic: Discipleship Passage: Matthew 4:18–22, Matthew 9:9, John 1:43–46
The Discipleship Journey
Grace Community Church
May 1, 2022
The Discipleship Journey: What's The Next Step?
If you have your Bibles turn with me to Matt. 4. We will have the scriptures on the screen for you to follow along with as well. We are kicking off a series called The Discipleship Journey and let’s start our journey in the region of Galilee by the Sea of Galilee.
18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matt. 4:18-22
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Matt. 9:9
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:43-46
About 12 years ago we invited ten guys to be a part of a twelve-week men’s discipleship program and to kick it off we threw a barbecue lunch for the men and their families. I was sharing a few thoughts about what we had in store for the men when I got caught up in the moment and made a bold prediction to the wives. I told them “say goodbye to your husband because the man you get back in 12 weeks won’t be the same man.”
Most of the wives looked pretty excited about that, but their enthusiasm waned when twelve weeks later they ended up with the same man.
Discipleship is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Jesus called his followers disciples, he spoke of the cost of being his disciple, and he commissioned his disciples to go and make more disciples. The mission of the church is to be disciples making disciples.
But I think a lot of churches, including this church, struggle in the area of disciple-making. Especially the making Great Commission part of it. The numbers show that most church growth isn’t from people coming to faith in Christ, but just moving from one church to another. That’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s not kingdom growth and it’s not fulfilling the Great Commission.
Discipleship is about real change in our lives but as we found out with our discipleship program, change doesn’t come easily. It’s very possible to be a Christian and attend church regularly and yet after many years have very little change to show for it.
- Your marriage is struggling in the same areas you struggled in 10 years ago.
- You keep getting angry and unleashing on your kids. You know it’s putting a wall up between you and them but you can’t seem to help yourself.
- Your finances are a mess and you’re up to your eyeballs in debt
- You don’t want your co-workers to know you are a Christian cause your life isn’t a good witness
- Your busy season has been going on non-stop for ten years and you are beginning to realize it’s not a season -it’s a lifestyle
- You don’t feel close to God and you get little from the Bible when you read it. Prayer isn’t much better, if you pray at all
- You attend church but don’t feel close or connected to anyone
I wish I could say when a person becomes a Christian all these things magically change. But they don’t! Sincere believers who love Jesus struggle in these areas and many others and change doesn’t happen easily. But I want to encourage you this morning – change is possible! My prayer is that this series helps position us as a church to see more discipleship go on here – not just 12 week programs, but life change.
I’ve called it the Discipleship Journey because discipleship isn’t a destination we arrive at, a height we attain, or a goal we achieve. It’s a journey. And like any journey, it consists of a series of steps, sometimes small steps, sometimes larger steps. It’s about progress not a program. And it’s not a neat, straight line, often it’s a messy process. A mess doesn’t mean discipleship isn’t going on. In fact, sometimes mess can be an indicator that discipleship is going on. Over the years I’ve learned that someone can look spiritually mature and all put together on the outside and be far from God on the inside. And someone can look like a hot mess on the outside, and yet God is doing a real work on the inside.
Jesus calls us to be disciples that make disciples. How do we do that more effectively as a church? That’s the journey we’re going to be exploring so let’s start with the two words that mark the beginning of the discipleship journey for every disciple of Jesus: follow me. There’s a world of meaning in those two words.
- Follow me is a call into fellowship with Jesus
Follow me meant something different then than it does today on Twitter or Instagram. When Jesus said,“follow me” he meant so much more than read my quotes or look at my pictures. Follow me meant Walk with me, get to know me, hear me and see me. Watch what I do and participate in what I do and as you do you will get to know who I am: my heart, my character, my values. I don’t call you servants (“do for me”), I call you friends.
The discipleship journey is walking life out with Jesus as our closest companion. He’s a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is with us even to the end of the age. If we forget this we’ll probably reduce discipleship to performance. Am I doing enough for Jesus? Am I committed enough? Am I witnessing enough? Am I bearing enough fruit (as if fruit is something we are supposed to bear for Jesus instead of something we bear from Jesus)?
I know I tend towards being transactional in my relationship with God. I know it and God knows it and we’re working on it. But God doesn’t want us to relate to him on the basis of transaction (if I give Him this, He will give me that). He wants us to relate to Him on the basis of love. He loves us and has made us His children. Transactional is exhausting and will always leave us feeling like we let God down. Follow me invites us into an intimate, loving, living relationship with Jesus. Everything flows from that relationship.
- Follow me is a call to change
But there’s more in the words, “follow me” for us to glean. It’s a call to fellowship with Jesus, but that fellowship is fellowship on the move. It’s a call to action, to obedience, to direction, to change.
Jesus said to Peter, you’ve been a fisher of fish, I will make you a fisher of men. Major change! Peter didn’t say, “can I keep everything the way it is and just slap a ‘fish’ bumper sticker on my boat?” Follow me meant a change of direction and priorities for Peter and it does for us too. Follow me means our priorities and direction gets realigned with Jesus’ priorities and direction for our lives.
We’re going to talk more about the Challenge of Change in a future message, but sometimes we get spiritually stuck, not because we can’t change, not because we don’t know how to change, but let’s be honest, because we don’t want to change. We want to follow Jesus wherever he goes, we just want to stay where we are while doing it. We want to make forward progress, we just don’t want to have to move. We want change that doesn’t change what we want. And it doesn’t work that way.
Follow me is a call to change and this is where the Bible hits the road.
If someone is harsh or unkind to their spouse, Jesus wants to lead them to be kind and patient with their spouse. That’s not just words or a concept, it’s action. It’s change. It’s not a change we can bring about without the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God, but it’s also not a change that’s going to happen by the Holy Spirit and the word of God until we answer “yes” to Jesus’ call to follow him.
Classrooms can teach us what it means to obey God, but real life is where we learn to obey God.
If someone is a bad steward of their finances and has racked up a huge debt, Jesus wants to lead them into good stewardship. So we pray and ask God to give us more money to pay off our debt and God answers our prayers by saying “no”. I’m not going to give you more money because you’re a bad steward of what you have. Follow me by learning from my word how to be a good steward of your finances.
I know this can easily slip into a Nike Christianity mentality: just do it! Legalism leads us to think we can do these things for God in our own power. But the opposite of Nike Christianity is Netflix Christianity – we sit on a couch and watch for God to do it.
I enjoy watching a good movie or TV show as much as the next person. And there have been shows that have been so engrossing that I’m like, “what’s going to happen? I can’t wait to find out…” I have binged watched – I admit it! But those shows – whatever show you’re “into” right now – aren’t real life. Even if it’s reality TV it’s not real life. The problem is it can become a substitute for real life if we’re not careful. We can withdraw from a lot of that annoying stuff going on out there and curl up on our couch and watch other people live their lives. We watch them work out their problems, laugh at their foibles, hope they catch the bad guy, and our hearts are warmed as they work through their conflicts and forge deep and meaningful friendships. And you know as well as I do that this can become a big part of our lives: what we look forward to, what we think about, what we’re committed to.
On one extreme we have Nike Christianity and on the other we have Netflix Christianity. Jesus says, follow me. It was important that the disciples followed Jesus into real life circumstances for them to get to know who he really was. It’s just as important for us today. Jesus doesn’t say just do it. But he also doesn’t say sit and watch me do it. Jesus says walk with me, and as we follow him, our direction is changed: from anger to patience. From impurity to purity. From selfishness to love. From bad stewardship to good stewardship. It’s not easy. It’s discipleship, lived out in the messy, annoying, inconvenient context of real life. Follow me is a call to change.
- Follow me is a call to walk together in fellowship
“Follow me” also means we walk together with each other. Following Jesus meant the disciples had to walk together with him. That’s what church is: brothers and sisters in Christ walking with Jesus together.
I think this challenges us to look at church perhaps a little differently than what we’re used to. Remember the mission and the vision of the church is to be disciples that make disciples. To grow as disciples and to go to help others grow. We can’t grow without going and we will do a lousy job of going if we aren’t growing.
This means church is all of us growing and all of us going. As we see discipleship as a journey, we don’t expect ourselves or others to advance 100 miles with one leap. The question becomes: What’s the next step in this journey?
Behind the scenes some of us are working on the church structure and process to do a better job of helping people take that next step. From helping a first-time visitor know first steps they can take to get to know us better, to helping Sunday attenders know what steps they can take to get more connected, to helping potential leaders get trained to lead and then giving them leadership opportunities. We want to make some tangible changes – I believe the Lord is leading us to make some tangible changes.
Here's my ask of you (and I’m going to be blunt): don’t wait for the change, be a part of the change! You are the church. You are the one who can help the person next to you take that next step in their discipleship journey. You are the one who can help an unbeliever consider the claims of Jesus maybe for the first time in their life. You are the one who can be that connection someone else needed to feel cared for. You are the one whose influence can be the difference in a young believer’s life.
You might be the one who can lead a ministry, a community group, a bible study, or some other context to help people grow in their faith. You might be the one who can lead the church in worship! And if you’re not the one, you can be the one who prays with me that God brings that worship leader our way cause I shouldn’t be doing it that much longer.
What’s the next step in the discipleship journey? We all should be asking that, not only for ourselves (growing), but for what we can do to help others take that next step (going).
Follow me – Jesus is with you, draw near to him in humble fellowship. Ask him to show you what steps he has for you to see change in. And look around for ways you can help others take their next step in the discipleship journey.