Join the Journey
Years ago, a missionary named Wendell Broom shared a number line similar to the one below, with one major exception. Where you see the number zero, he inserted a cross.
Then he explained that when it comes to evangelism and helping people become disciples of Jesus, people are on a continuum like this number line. Prior to accepting Jesus and His grace and mercy people are in the “negative.” Once someone accepts Jesus’ sacrificial love and truth they move into the positive.
Wendall further shared that anytime we help someone move closer to accepting Jesus’ love and truth, say from -9 to -8, or from -4 to -2, that’s evangelism. He was convinced that moving people toward accepting Jesus as their Savior was evangelism.
This concept of evangelism plays out in the story of Nicodemus’ discipleship journey. In the Gospel of John we witness Nicodemus’ journey of faith in Jesus. First, Nicodemus comes alone to visit Jesus in the secrecy of night (John 3) to ask Jesus questions. Later in John 7:49-51, Nicodemus questions his fellow politicians regarding their negative judgments of Jesus. Finally, in John 19:38-40, we see Nicodemus act in risk-taking faith by helping another disciple named Joseph to embalm and bury the body of Jesus after his crucifixion.
This is a clear example of how Nicodemus moved closer and closer to faith. His journey wasn’t an “all-at-once-leap” into discipleship, but rather a progression.
In Acts, when we look at the conversion experiences of Paul and the Ethiopian Eunuch, it is possible to think that people are "thunderstruck" into discipleship. They each were traveling through life and had one awe-inspiring event that caused them to come to faith in Jesus. But remember that Paul had spent a lifetime studying the Old Testament that predicted the coming of the Messiah prior to meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. Then, it required Ananias to teach him more about the story of Jesus before he became a devoted follower. The Ethiopian leader was returning from a period of Jewish worship in Jerusalem when Philip arrived to explain to him that it was Jesus that Isaiah was writing about in Isaiah 53.
I, nor Wendell, want to limit the power of God, but it seems that for the vast majority of people discipleship in Jesus is not a single event, but a journey and a process.
Here’s what that means for you as you desire to share your faith with Jesus.
You don’t have to know everything about the bible or Jesus to help move people closer to discipleship. You don’t have to have a magical, spiritual encounter with someone to help them come to Jesus in faith. You can know and take encouragement from the truth that you are one person in a process that may involve many others in bringing that person to faith. Your act of kindness of listening to someone who is hurting, or helping someone with home repair, or assisting someone prepare for a job interview, or giving someone’s kids a ride home from sports practice, or sharing with them your story of faith, may play a part in their discipleship journey.
You not only can want to be like a missionary, but you can also join in the disciple-making process if you are intentional about living out your faith with people who have yet to love Jesus, and if you realize what Jesus can do through you.
Stay tuned for more in my next blog about the other side of discipleship - what it means to progress as a disciple once you have accepted the Jesus’ cross, His grace and His love.