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The Incredible Power of Discipleship

  My mom introduced me to Jesus and she modeled a life sold out to him. She tapped into the incredible power inherent in the discipleship process.    But where did her faith come from? It came from a woman named Shirley Wratten. 50 years ago, Shirley helped my mom see that t…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
My mom introduced me to Jesus and she modeled a life sold out to him. She tapped into the incredible power inherent in the discipleship process. 
But where did her faith come from? It came from a woman named Shirley Wratten. 50 years ago, Shirley helped my mom see that to make Jesus Lord, you have to give him total control of your life and live sold out to him. My mom came to faith and has been a disciple-making juggernaut all her life.
The power of discipleship
Looking at Shirley, you might never guess the impact of her life. Her focus on discipleship made all the difference. Because she was faithful in discipling my mom, the course of my mom’s life was changed. Because of my mom, my life was changed. I started Adventures in Missions which has in turn sent more than 100,000 people to the mission field. But without Shirley, none of this would have happened.
It’s a great example to you and me. Too often we want a quick answer to the world’s problems. We want to vote someone into office or sign a petition. Jesus had a different way, a narrow way. It was a hard way that not many wanted to follow.
That’s what discipleship looks like. It’s messy and personal and it takes a long time. And often it looks like it’s going to end in failure. 
Discipleship is messy
The best of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, messed up his final exam. Along the way, Peter got plenty of real life faith tests followed by immediate debriefings from Jesus. There he was walking on water one minute and chopping off a soldier’s ear or denying Jesus multiple times the next minute.
Each time he failed, Peter could look at his spiritual reflection and see his brokenness. After three years of living with Jesus, this “rock” on which Jesus was going to build his church denied him. And in a perverse way, that encourages me.
If a super-apostle like Peter can mess up and still make it, maybe the rest of us have a shot. We just need to recalibrate our expectations of how long it’s going to take and what it’s going to require of us. 
Discipleship takes commitment
Most of my adult life I’ve sought to find a way around the long road of commitment that Jesus’ pattern of relationship requires. It just takes a lot longer than I realized. And I keep coming back to Jesus’ model of making disciples. You have to walk with a mentor – you have to be able to see his or her model. You learn a new way of living by watching them.
You need to see your mentor risk big and fail big in front of you. You deserve to see that both are possible and that life goes on afterwards. You deserve to see your mentor at play and to see him or her when they’re tired. And all of that takes years.
In this community that I’m a part of, we value discipleship. We try to make it a life practice. It’s the core of what we do.
Sometimes we get distracted by programs and job descriptions. And then we have to recalibrate and go back to the basics of discipleship that Jesus modeled. We have to focus on helping one other person to walk in relationship and faith.
Jesus’ final words to his disciples were to go and make disciples. He commissioned them and us to that end. If we aren’t wholeheartedly committed to achieving his commission, then we’re on the wrong path. We all have something to give and we have a mandate to give it.
Who are you discipling? And who is discipling you? There is great power in the disciple-making process. It’s the power of multiplication. It’s what caused the early church to grow so explosively. It’s a power available to us still today.

Comments (5)

  • Seth, this is a wonderful tribute to your moth who illustrates the power of miracles happening in the wake of decisions to be faithful in the moment. My own mother Joyce led me to a faith in Jesus at age 8. In her teenage years she used to take a bus to get to a women named–I believe–Mrs. Foley who did a personal Bible study, mentoring and discipleship walk with her. Our stories are similar that way. To God’s glory over 200 ministries around the world consulted, generating over $2 billion of revenue from different strategies and more than 2,000 communication and fund development professionals trained in my life to date. That’s because of an elder woman teaching my mother who taught a son.

    • What a difference a strong mother bent on discipling her first-born makes! Add to that their prayers and we didn’t stand a chance!

  • That’s true. We do best when we honor them in their lifetimes. You did that very well just here. Pax Christi brother.

  • Wow. THE POWER OF ONE. That’s all it takes, and that is truly what discipleship is all about. I think to your point in this blog, it all started with one woman. Sometimes we can get so caught up in this world of ‘more is better,’ when there is truly impact and ripple effects in pouring into one person – or a few…that then pour into others and continue the cycle. I’m so glad to be a part of the ripple effect of Shirley – and you! Thank you Seth!

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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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