Can we be honest? People who constantly speak about the good ole' days are annoying. Whether they are stories of how great the person used to be or how great our country's (the US) morals use to be, they are annoying. I'm ready for fresh vision that points people towards Kingdom breakthrough!
Leaning one way or another In my last post, I defined a disciple as an intentional follower of Jesus, who is learning to be like him (character), while also learning to do what he did (competency). A person growing in both character and competency will eventually start seeing kingdom breakthrough (in the form of Luke 4:18, 19 and/or Matt 11:2-5). Many people, if they are honest, look at their lives and only see limited breakthrough. When I look in the rearview mirror, I see a lot of breakthrough in the beginning stages of the various ministries I have started, but limited to no breakthrough in later stages. This begs the question, “Why does breakthrough become more and more rare as I move forward in ministry?
If you find yourself asking this question, the answer, more than likely, is that you are leaning too much on either the character or the competency of Jesus. People may immediately be attracted to you because of your character or competency, but sooner or later your strength will become your downfall. As seen in the matrix above, a person with high character but no competency runs the risk of becoming intolerant, while the person with high competency but low character may find himself critical of others. Do either of the realities sound familiar? Are you tired of talking about the good ole days?
Competency I typically lean more towards competency. I long to do the things that Jesus did. If I am not careful though my identity and self-worth gets wrapped up in how much stuff I do or that my community does that looks like Kingdom activity. As a “doer” type leader, Kingdom type activity is often associated with or defined as busyness. Eventually, I look back and discover those who originally set out with me have been left behind or have given up. The few that remain are often tired, stressed and/or incredibly cynical of those who could not bare the burdens I place on people. (P.S. These voices are poisonous for the “doer” type leader because it serves to justify or even glorify my hard work ethic.) It is important to understand that Kingdom activity is not and should not be directly associated with doing things. Yes, Kingdom activity is serving and loving your neighbor, but it is much more than this. The Kingdom that Jesus revealed, and Paul described and expressed, comes with power (miracles, healings, etc.).
Disciples, who focus primarily on competency, may see some success initially but eventually they find themselves with little fruit and no followers. Why? This is due to immaturity. Immature disciples often choose to “do” rather than to be and listen to the Father. They move at their own accord. Eventually these leaders become cynical, accusing others of not loving Jesus enough and/or being lazy and apathetic. These types of disciples are no fun to be around because they do not know how to relax and have fun. If a “doer” type leader does see continued personal success, they lead as glory mongers robbing the glory do to God. Glory Mongers forget they were representing the Father and began representing themselves. A mature disciple lives a humble life, knowing the work God wants to accomplish through her is done in the overflow of his in relationship with her. The mature disciple understands that Christ strength is revealed and magnified in her weakness.
Character Persons who lean more towards Character long to be like Jesus. Their identity or self-worth gets wrapped up in character development, which often gets translated as “do’s and don’t’s.” Character leaning leaders tend to enjoy relationships with believers, forsaking relationships with those outside the church because “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). It should be pointed out here that Paul was referencing other so-called believers who denied the resurrection (those with bad theology on an essential doctrine) and not with the outside world. But in any manner, outsiders often find it difficult to break into this type of group and thus little Kingdom breakthrough happens.
Immature disciples, who focus on the Character of Jesus, may see some success/breakthrough initially but eventually they become intolerant and/or separated from the world, tucked away in a religious community. They soon become lofty finger-pointers who love to point out the splinter in another person’s eye while ignoring the log in their own eye. A mature disciple knows they too are a wretched man (as Paul describes in Romans 7) and therefore approach people with grace and seek to restore them with gentleness. The mature disciple also knows God wants to do through him what he has done in him.
The Journey of the Disciple If you are like me, and you are tired of talking about the good ole' days, then you need to recognize which ditch you find yourself in. Immature disciples annoy people with stories of those good ole' days while mature disciples inspire people towards future days. These immature stories often have seeds of intolerance or cynicism. Choose not to camp in either of these pits. Choose instead the life of a disciple. The life of the maturing disciple is a journey of developing the character of Jesus while learning the competency of Jesus. This balance of character and competency will help us find sustainable breakthrough in ministry, not just in the exciting beginning stages, but throughout the entirety of the journey. It is certainly a journey that it is filled with many pitfalls, which is why we see in the New Testament that disciples had spiritual leaders who they imitated and who held them accountable. This begins the discussion of discipleship, to which we will turn in my next post.