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.