Yesterday I wrote about why it’s hard to disciple adults. Today, I’d like to illustrate my point with an experience trying to disciple a man I’ll call “John” a few years ago.
I looked at John and loved his potential. He was a sharp business executive who openly shared his struggles with pornography and divorce. He told me about how his life was going and sought my advice. We were forging a good friendship and I thought I was making a difference in his life.
But one day, he did something I disagreed with and I had a chance to see if I had any authority in his life. What John did was innocent enough: He fell in love with a woman on the west coast, but his response had severe ramifications. He decided to move there, leaving his teenage daughter in the care of his non-Christian ex wife. His daughter needed him in her life. She needed his love and stability.
I told John it was a bad idea and that he shouldn’t do it. “You have an obligation to your daughter to be there,” I said.
Unfortunately, that was the last time we communicated. He was going to do what was right for him at the time. I checked with another accountability guy in John’s life and he agreed with me. I pray for John and pray that his daughter is not wounded by the experience. I don’t think it will end well.
What did I learn? For one thing, potential by itself is not enough if a person is to grow spiritually. When rough sledding comes, most people are going to struggle to do the thing that, though right, is still very hard. Only when they have pre-committed to trust their spiritual coach can the coach exercise the authority in their lives to guide them down the path of growth.
Peter Lord calls this category of people “the goers.” When I asked Dr. Lord where he intended to focus the remainder of his life (being in his 70’s), he said, “I’m going to go with the goers.”
Now hear me right on what I’m about to say, because I believe in hanging out and I have learned that there is no short-cutting the time-intensive trust-building process. But there’s a balance we must strike. If your goal is to facilitate spiritual growth, what a time waster it is to hang out just hoping to build trust; only to discover that you have none – no trust and no authority.
Better to be more intentional in seeking goers and go with them, testing your authority in their lives, as Jesus did with his disciples, early and often. Too many of us are timid in this regard – afraid of rejection, afraid of the power and influence that Jesus asked us to wield.
As I redeem the days God has given me, I’m going to hang with guys who want to grow – I’m going to go with them.