Leonard Sweet writes that for decades a story was passed around about the legendary writer G.K. Chesterton. Friends raised this question, “If you were stranded on a deserted Island and could have only one book, which one would you choose?” The friends thought Chesterton would say, “The Bible.” When Chesterton answered, he replied, “Thomas’s Book on Ship Building.”
Sweet’s point in telling the story is that followers of Jesus Christ are doers of discipleship, sharers of the way, builders of ships, and trainers of other builders. Followers of Jesus don’t so much describe the components of the boat as show others how to be boat builders themselves and how to “sail the winds of the Spirit.”
There are tons of books, lists, and training materials on what a disciple looks like, Sweet says. But it you want to know how to make disciples, go to Jesus.
18 Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: 19 Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 20 Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20, The Message)
Jesus spent three years in a deep personal journey with a group of men and women that went far beyond “a pulpit-to-pew relationship.” Jesus invited the disciples into the everyday rhythm of His life. They laughed, cried, and prayed with Him. They saw Him perform miracles and they listened to His stories. Jesus encouraged them along the way to go into the world and do as He had done, to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and encourage the least, last, and lost. Jesus was a guide and friend.
As Sweet says,
For the church today to fail in discipling followers is the ultimate failure. The paramount purpose of the church is to create little j’s who are sharing life with the Big J. If the church is not doing this, in the words of C.S. Lewis, then ‘all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simple a waste of time.’
This Sunday we welcome the third year confirmation class as New Covenant Partners at Clemmons United Methodist Church. Teachers, mentors, parents, and friends have worked hard at making little j’s who will follow the Big J for the rest of their life. These confirmands will hopefully someday mentor others to follow Jesus.
Please join us for worship this Sunday and help us celebrate and give thanks for this group of young Jesus followers who will become a part of the Body of Christ at Clemmons. We will welcome our third year class during the 11 am worship service.
Leonard Sweet, I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 206-208.