I remember when I first began to understand that I wanted to give my life helping make disciples. I was introduced to the idea as a junior in high school. I began to grasp it and actually try to do it as a college student. I was captured by the vision of helping young men and women walk with God. It was a compelling life purpose; however, I often felt handicapped because I had never been “discipled.” Then, in my late twenties I went on staff with a collegiate ministry where making disciples was to be my full time job. Suddenly, I felt woefully inadequate as I was faced day after day with the needs, questions, eagerness and sinfulness of a large group of college students under my care and direction.
My network of relationships at the time put me around a lot of people who came from large, prominent disciple-making ministries. They all seemed to have skills I didn’t. I perceived them as smarter than me, more effective than me, and likely more spiritual than me. They shared a common vocabulary which I was unfamiliar with and often spoke of their past mentors. I regularly felt like a misfit, an imposter, or worse, a hopeless case. I found myself thinking, “Gee, if I had only had gone to college there,” or “I wish I could have attended that church.” Of course, that kind of thinking quickly deteriorated into, “Well, not much can be expected of me. After all, I didn’t have the right training. I’ll just have to muddle along and do the best I can.”
One weekend I was invited to join some friends who were hosting one of their mentors, a man who was well known as a very effective disciple-maker. God had used him tremendously in my friends’ lives and, although I had never been around him personally, I had a lot of respect for him. It was a small group of ten or twelve and we sat casually in the living room as he shared his thoughts on making disciples, and encouraged us regarding our various ministries. Toward the end of the evening he invited us to ask questions. Sometime during the next few minutes I took a deep breath and found the courage to ask, “What if no one ever discipled me? How can I learn how to disciple someone if I was never discipled?” (I’m pretty certain I said this with a distinct whine in my voice.) He looked at me and replied, “No one ever discipled me.” I was stunned. And convicted. And challenged. Here was a man who had influenced hundreds of people, maybe thousands, and no one had ever personally discipled him? In that moment it dawned on me. There is no magic wand. No secret handshake. I am a disciple by following Jesus with all my heart, and I make disciples by loving people and coming alongside them as best I can on their journey to know, love and follow Jesus.
Not long after this encounter, I was reading Romans in my Phillips Translation of the Bible. It translates Romans 10:12* this way: “For all have the same Lord, whose boundless resources are sufficient for all who turn to him in faith.” Finally, after all my self-pity and excuses, I began to understand. I have all I need to love and minister to people because I have the Lord Himself. His boundless resources are available to me. To me! There are no formulas, no charmed curriculum that “works” better than others. I have everything I need in Him.
(*Note: I realize this verse in Romans is about salvation not equipping, but I don’t think it is a stretch to apply it as I felt God applied it to my heart that day.)