An Intentional God

Author - Keyshawn Parkman

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20

Discipleship has recently become the main focus of our curriculum, which has been a blessing for many reasons. We've started a new book about returning the Church to Jesus' Great Commission. As we've been reading and discussing, it's challenged me to look at how our church approaches discipleship and what we can do to change that. It's been interesting to compare the customs and traditions our local churches have adopted from the secular culture with how the early Church operated in the Book of Acts.

As we're studying the different traits and characteristics of disciples, my focus for this week is how disciples of Jesus find and teach others how to become disciples. Jesus knew His purpose here on earth. He became a carpenter, studied and followed after the synagogue leaders of His days, taught many instances in the synagogue, and, most obviously, performed many miracles. We often cling to the characteristics of what Jesus did with his hands. I often marvel at Jesus' ability to teach how he did, speaking to large crowds in parables, using his authority with his voice, and studying how his words moved the crowds. While these traits of Jesus are all intentional, God-given, and purely good, one trait I typically skip over is Jesus' intentionality in making disciples.

Reflecting on Jesus, I've also seen how intentional discipleship plays out in my life. My pastor is someone I've seen model this pretty well. He's begun a small discipleship group, bringing in select people to get a closer look at how he lives his life following Jesus. People didn't flock towards discipleship but rather were chosen by our pastor. This intentionality is something I recognize in Jesus' ministry as he hand-picked each and every one of his disciples. He confirms that they didn't choose him; God chose them. For three years, these newly chosen disciples followed Jesus everywhere, eating, sleeping, praying, and casting out demons with him. What an awesome experience! When it comes to making disciples, I believe this is an important aspect: letting people into our lives so they can see firsthand how we worship God. It allows people to hear about our love for God out of our mouths and see it play out through us.
Honestly, this isn't something I've been doing well. Two years ago, I believed that the discipleship model most churches use to meet weekly and look over Scripture was sufficient. I've never seen someone display true discipleship or discipleship in the way that Jesus displays it. It can be difficult to let people into your life, invite them to your house, and meet your friends and family. I believe the Jewish culture during Jesus' time on the earth was more hospitable and welcoming than our American culture. As we continue to learn and follow Jesus' lead, we can adopt his discipleship model into our lives and find people to disciple ourselves. After all, this is Jesus' great commission to his followers—to go and make disciples of our own. When we glance at the people in our lives, we might find people God has placed on our hearts to disciple ourselves, especially the younger generation. Truth be told— everyone's getting "discipled." It's just a matter of how we're influenced and by whom.
I'm encouraged as I move through this program and eager to learn more about effective discipleship. So far, one of my biggest takeaways is playing the slow game. Genuine discipleship may take years before we see fruit. During my time here, I can't help but show gratitude for the opportunity to see discipleship in its true form—" life on life."

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