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Reflecting on the death of a disciple

Mike Nygren is a great discipler who has written extensively about the issue. A while back, one of his disciples died and he wrote a beautiful reflection about it: Today I attended a memorial service for one of my disciples. I met Todd about 10 years ago while he was a …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Mike Nygren is a great
discipler who has written extensively about the issue. A while back, one of his disciples died and
he wrote a beautiful reflection about it:

Today I attended a memorial service for one of my disciples.

I met Todd about 10 years ago while he was a high school
student. I was to become his youth leader, discipleship group leader and
friend. Last week he died in Colorado
in an automobile accident.

Today I was reminded of the power of discipleship. His
parents, in the midst of this tragedy, have to know that God must be smiling
down on them with the idea of “well done my good and faithful servants.” The
foundation of faith that they instilled in him is a model for all parents to
follow. Todd’s life was a blessing to all those that he encountered. His high
school passion to reach the world for Jesus never ended after high school. His
pastor spoke today of the 60 people in the hospital waiting room, waiting, only
to hear the news that Todd did not pull through the five hours with the
surgeon. Todd again had impacted those that surrounded him on a daily basis.

And so I wanted to cry when I heard the news, but it has
been hard to do that. The past few days have just been filled with memories.
Great memories of Todd. He was that person in the youth group who had no
enemies. He was the one that all of the girls would have waited in line to
date.

My greatest times with Todd seemed to be when the “little
boy inside of him” who come out. He spent his life doing everything to the
maximum. When he worked, he worked hard. When he played, he played hard. And
when he studied, he studied hard.

For me, as a sixteen-year-old, Todd changed the way I
approached youth ministry. Todd influenced me in a way that no other high
school male has ever done. Because of the commitment we had made to our
discipleship relationship, we spent many early morning breakfasts together and
many hundreds of hours in countless other settings.

Todd was a student. He could never get enough of the
scriptures; he always wanted answers to questions that seemed to me had no
definite answer. Our breakfast talks sometimes frustrated him and he would call
me later in the day to almost challenge my way of thinking and the answers that
I had given him to the questions asked. He never once did it in a rude or angry
way, but he always wanted to know the bigger picture of where we were headed
with our youth ministry. He always wanted to make sure that the ministry was
about making disciples and not just a bunch of activities.

What Todd probably never really realized was that he almost
single handily made me a much better youth leader. It was because of Todd’s
influence that I wanted to ’raise the bar of expectations’ even higher. It was
not hard for Todd to ask me why I didn’t expect from the other guys in the
ministry what I expected of him. He was right. His influence on the younger
boys and his male peers is beyond words. Todd was one who ’walked the walk’ and
everyone knew it.

Today at the service it turned into a revival. Not the kind
you might be thinking where you need to accept Jesus or walk down the aisle. It
was a revival on the inside. The hundreds of people there had no choice as they
listened to the testimonies of Todd’s life but to look at their own lives.

Without the preacher mentioning it, all of the congregation,
especially the 20-30 year olds were asking their own questions. How has my life
been? In this church were hundreds of people who did not need an altar call,
for most of them that had happened somewhere before. But today, because of
Todd, a revival began in the hearts and lives of many.

It is hard to see one die. It is hard also to know that
maybe our own faith has died. Today was a great day. A day of celebration. A
day when the life of one faithful young man makes us ask the question of how
are we doing with our own faith.

Todd created a legacy. Today in the congregation we saw the
fruits of his faithfulness. We saw the tears of sorrow and the tears of
laughter.

For me, Todd’s legacy lives in me in how I view the hunger
and greatness of youth. I learned through Todd that in all congregations there
are other Todd’s. We as leaders must remain faithful to the call to go and make
disciples. The Great Commission today proved itself to be just that, a great
commission!

Today I was reminded that beyond discipleship, not much else matters in youth
ministry.

Thank you Todd for impacting my life.

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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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