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How would Jesus disciple today?

I’m constantly challenged by Jesus’ model of discipleship – a model that reaches its greatest intensity as described in Luke 10. It’s a model where in no time at all we see Jesus sending out his disciples with no resources so as to demonstrate the power of God to a hurting world.   And in …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
I’m constantly challenged by Jesus’ model of discipleship – a model that reaches its greatest intensity as described in Luke 10. It’s a model where in no time at all we see Jesus sending out his disciples with no resources so as to demonstrate the power of God to a hurting world.
 
And in light of that, for years I’ve been stirred by the question: How would Jesus disciple if he were starting over today?
 
I asked that question in building AIM. All around us the facts are disturbing and you want to do more than just ask the trite question “WWJD?” Researchers like George Barna have told us that we can expect the church in America to go the way of the European church within a few decades where just 5% of the general population follows Christ. But I’ve got to believe that Jesus’ methods are still relevant – he’s still wanting to introduce young people to a hurting world where their hearts can be broken. 
 
I’ve found that when you do that, Jesus shows up over and over again as he has for Sarah, Sonya, and a girl in Malawi whose name I don’t know.
  • Sarah, a blind girl by herself in a dark room in the Philippines. Kristen Paulick’s team found her, clothed and fed her, and got her help.
  • Sonya, an 11 year-old sold into sex slavery in Cambodia. She was rescued and we’re helping to rescue many others like her.
  • An  8 year-old girl in Malawi who asked for prayer at our outreach. Her neck had been slit and she asked for prayer that the hole in her throat would close.

These situations break the heart of Jesus and I think he wants our hearts to break too. He looks at these girls, each living a  personal horror show with no one watching and he says, “This is not OK!” I think he’s looking for someone to take up their cause.

The irony is that so many young people in America are bored and self-absorbed. They sense that their world is too small. It feels too claustrophobic to them. If they see a chance to make a difference, many will jump at it. 

Given this, Jesus’ example looks not anachronistic, but exhilarating. Jesus didn’t give his disciples the pablum we offer in so many churches – he gave them the red meat of impossible situations that required supernatural intervention.
 
I’ve always been committed to the theory that what Jesus said and did applies to today without any updating or watering down. When I was a kid, I was given the theology that he no longer moved in power. But it just seemed harder to believe that than it did to believe the opposite: the possibility that his methods are the same today as they were in Galilee.
 
If Jesus were walking the earth today, I don’t think he’d embrace the discipleship method so popular in America. I don’t not think he’d give us more information. I bet he’d have us book a few flights and take us to the world’s slums and dumps to pray for people instead.
 
I think he’d send his disciples to the world’s dark places. Countries like Moldova where 90% of the young people leave the country and a quarter of them are trafficked. Cities like Manila and Phnom Penh, where hundreds work in the garbage heaps. Countries like Swaziland where AIDS afflicts 44% of the adult population and the orphan population is skyrocketing. Places like Newark, Denver, Toronto and L.A. where people are lonely, cynical and in need of a touch. Hospitals and nursing homes, city streets and holler roads.
 
And I’ll bet that if Jesus were calling out his disciples today, he’d spend more than just a few hours a week with them helping them to discover what it means to walk out their faith in a complicated and harsh world. I’m guessing that he’d prod them till they got to the point where they were willing to risk all for the dream of establishing his kingdom.
 
None of this is new, though it sounds almost crazy to our modern ears. It’s nothing more than listening to his voice and moving out in obedience. It doesn’t fit into a curriculum or a program or a classroom.
 
Jesus is still dreaming of a generation that will live to see the glory of God cover the earth. I believe he’s waiting for young people who are willing to take him at his word.

Comments (13)

  • I would argue that Jesus’ model of discipleship did not reach it’s greatest intensity in Luke 10, but in Luke 23, when he was humiliated, suffered, and died for his children.

    While I think it is true that the American culture is self-absorbed, I think our motivation in going to “the world’s darkest places” can be just as self-absorbed. Are we going for the sake of the kingdom of God? Or are we going to prove something, perhaps even to ourselves?

    Certainly I am not saying that a wrong motivation disqualifies ministry. But what I am saying is that I think kingdom work is much more about suffering and self-lessness – within the four walls of the American church just as much as outside of them. Sometimes giving our own lives as ransom for many, as Jesus said he would do in Mark 10:45, is going to look like a really unglorious calling that we really don’t want to do. Perhaps that is also intense discipleship, willingly staying where God has called you to be.

  • Hello dear friend.

    The Gospel goes forward invigorated by the blood of martyrs and the breath of those seeking the Messiah.

    You have been leading the way.

  • I think you are on target. You give stories of the need abroad because that is where your ministry is focused, but I think many Americans need to know that the need is just as great here in their own backyard. The problem I see is that most Americans think they have to go to Swaziland to make a difference, and they are overwhelmed by the enormity of such an undertaking that they never go. Or, they see the need here in their own communities, but are lost as to how to even begin helping. I would be interested to see some stats on the depravity found in America… I think it would make it easier to convince ministry leaders to involve their disciples in the type of hands-on discipleship that you are talking about. I think people, at least in America, are often blind to the world immediately around them.

  • Seth, thank you. I need your words today. Monday night, a few folks gathered in a local bar before it opened-to pray. We prayed for the next Alpha round that will be hosted there. We prayed for our city and the loneliness pervasive to our culture. We listened to stories in this ragtag group of prayers from every corner of our town of God working through prayer and persistence (respectful & loving) and People. And then we committed to pray and prayerfully join with a semester-old 24/7 prayer room on campus. This -prayer & people- is how the revolution of bringing light and God’s mysterious love into a broken world is accomplished. A ragtag group-ragamuffin builders, professors, convenience store clerks, former addict-stay-at-home-mum, students, socially quilted pray-ers who trust as best as we can, for God to hear our prayers and to move on his own behalf. We must have moved in a good direction…i’ve been cranky & harrassed ever since.

    Begin at the beginning -with Himself in prayer- and keep the end in mind- that somehow…Love wins.

    A.

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    AMEN! We are starving, and craving a person to be discipled by, and to disciple. The way Jesus did, and does it. Right on man.

  • Amen indeed.

    I was reflecting on the fact that I and so many I know would classify ourselves as “hands on” learners. Why is it that we can identify ourselves that way in so many areas of life but not spiritually?

    I sit back wanting to learn more before I “go”, yet in every other area of my life I go before I know and learn along the way……thanks for this post and getting me thinking!

  • Thank you for this blog uncle Seth. I really needed this boost before heading back out! I am super pumped for 2011 for all the excitement, adventure, blog ideas, writing projects, stories, and most of all MOVEMENTS OF GOD. I am excited to go out there and rely on him for EVERYTHING.

    I am relating much more to the first disciples these days than ever before as I literally have $90 to my name (maybe) and trusting that God knows what I need and he will provide it when I need it. So far he has. . . . I should blog about this experience . . . . I think I will. Stay tuned. Speak to you soon!

    kristen nicole.

  • I honestly think that His ways or methods would not change. I believe you are correct when you say:

    “If Jesus were walking the earth today, I don’t think he’d embrace the discipleship method so popular in America. I don’t not think he’d give us more information. I bet he’d have us book a few flights and take us to the world’s slums and dumps to pray for people instead.”

    I am tired of being boxed into four corners. I see ministry happening inside of the church but outside of the walls ministry is dead. Honestly I am tired of the way we do church in western culture. I believe it is time to follow Jesus and reflect His image. If we truly did that I don’t believe there would be four corners. I see Jesus taking us to the mountain top, or the hill side, or the river maybe.

    My point is we need to be where people can see us. We need to be where they can hear us and model our Christ-like actions.

    Seth, I desire with all of my heart “to see the glory of God cover the earth” and to do my part as God would use me.

    Thank you for speaking truth. But more than just speaking, thank you for modeling what you speak. I see you putting your words into action.

    I look up to you, and desire to do the same with my own words.

  • Thanks for this, Seth, you are so right. I have dedicated my life to “The Jesus Model”, even though I sometimes get discouraged by what you said,”…that so many young people in America are bored and self-absorbed”, because I have experienced this on missions trips, but I have also experienced young people who are hungry and are looking for “…a chance to make a difference”. Even when I’m discouraged, The Holy Spirit exhorts me to never give up and reminds me that many listened and even experienced Jesus, but few followed. We need to stay with it, continually praying and listening for God’s direction, after all, it’s really his battle. We need only to follow His lead.

  • “Jesus didn’t give his disciples the pablum we offer in so many churches – he gave them the red meat of impossible situations that required supernatural intervention.”
    Oh, Lord…that says it all, doesn’t it?!
    (And, no, I’m not taking the Lord’s name in vain…I’m talking to Him in that sentence!)
    Allie, I’m praying for you…exciting stuff.
    Don’t know you well, but have “seen” what you’re made of and how God is going to use that!
    Whee-hoo!
    Love to all!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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