Leaders sometimes have the daunting task of selecting followers. As a result, making disciples may mean hurting feelings.
You know the scenario. It’s 1:00 pm. You are ten years old and PE is in full swing. You’re standing underneath the basket on the concrete surface of the playground with a group of kids gathering around. Ready or not, you’re a team captain. Now you have to choose. Do you go with your thick-glasses friend who has never played basketball before, or do you choose someone who is a better player?
As we get older, the scenarios change, but the difficulty of the choices remains. When a group of friends goes out, do you ride with ride with your best friend or your roommate? When you have three daughters and only two tickets to Disney’s (sold out) Princesses on Ice, which one do you take? When you have two groups of friends inviting you to separate events – at the same time – what do you do?
One of my greatest weaknesses in life is my inability to make these choices. I stink at this. I would rather be punched in the gut than make a “you’re-going-to-hurt-an-innocent-person” type of choice. I hate those decisions. (Don’t get me wrong. My wife has told me more than once, “You don’t have any feelings.” It doesn’t bother me to speak my mind, but I hate to hurt the innocent.) And that has proven to be one of my shortcomings as a leader.
Kicking Innocent, Uncommitteds to the Curb
Sometimes you have to show people – even innocent ones – the door.
Do you remember the end of Luke chapter 9? It says:
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Some of these people wanted to follow Jesus. They expressed an interest in the ways of God. But, Jesus kicked ‘em to the curb. He bounced them so quick their heads spun. And they were seemingly innocent people who wanted to follow God. They were 90% ready, but 10% reluctant. So…
Jesus turned them away. He allowed them to be “friendship disciples” but not “costly disciples.”
There are many excuses that we can make at this point for Jesus’s actions. We can get into the wisdom of Jesus, the sovereignty of God or even the hyper-predestination of these people. But, the fact remains, Jesus turned them away. He determined that it was better to spend the bulk of His time investing in others.
Here’s the key for us: As disciples who make disciples, there will be times where the best thing we can do is to tell (the innocent, but uncommitted) people, “You’re not ready. I love you and I want to take this journey with you, but let’s come back to this discussion when you’re 100% in.”
When They’re Not Ready
You’ll know that they aren’t ready by things like these:
- They can’t seem to find the time to meet with you
- They hold your group back because they don’t keep up with projects or “assignments”
- They appreciate God’s Word, but don’t seem to respond to it with life change
- They are willingly entangled by the cares of this world (Matthew 13:22)
- They are not willing to make other disciples
Can I state it bluntly? Kick ‘em to the curb. These people are not ready to be committed disciples. They are not ready for costly discipleship. In all seriousness, that doesn’t mean that you walk away from them all together. You just don’t invest the bulk of your time in these people.
Here’s an important distinction
Friendship discipling often starts before someone accepts Jesus. You spend time with these people. You love them and in many subtle ways, you model the lifestyle of Jesus for them. You’re intentional in front of them, but you’re not overt with them. They may eat meals in your home or attend special events with you. You might talk to them multiple times each week. But, if they are not ready for a committed relationship with Jesus, you do not invest a lot of time beyond lifestyle modeling.
Costly discipling is for those who are committed to Christ and are truly willing to “take up their cross.” With these individuals, you model the ways of God for them, you study the Bible with them and you intentionally include them in learning situations.
This distinction takes prayer and discernment. But, when you are choosing a team of committed disciples, don’t settle for friends who simply want to have coffee. As hard as it is…don’t take your non-basketball-playing-friend for your basketball team. While you model Jesus for these friends, eagerly wait for the committed few (that God is already moving in this direction) and help them become radical followers.
Now, go take on the playground bully and kick some tail.