People like Paul Blart mall cop and security trainer can be pretty annoying. You probably know people like him at your job or maybe in your family. The classic overachiever. “Why can’t you just punch in, do your job and punch out like the rest of us.” In other words, just go along to get along, don’t push the envelope. Strangely enough, Paul Blart helps introduce our topic of discipleship, doing more than we are asked to do by the people around us or by the standards of the world, in order to achieve more than we thought possible.
Today, just as Paul Blart went about training up the next generation of enthusiastic mall cops, as a church, we have to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to train up the next generation of disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus made discipleship an enduring part of his legacy—“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations…” Discipleship was the enduring plan for the church. Matthew 28:18-20 are verses often quoted, but rarely put into motion– Lifeway Research found that as many as 70% of youth adults drop out of the church after high school. Some students leave for an extended hiatus and others forever. That is 7 out of 10 kids, which kids are we willing to sacrifice? As a parent of a 2 year old, frankly, 5 out of 10 isn’t okay, 2 out of 10, even 1 out of 10 isn’t okay. If you want a revival change that number, what to change the course of our nation, change that number.
In some ways though I get it. I grew up in a Lutheran church where I was an acolyte. I was so excited to become an acolyte because it meant that I could get up and move around during the service! Like most people, going to church seemed to be what “good people” did, but I didn’t see any overarching purpose or direction. Church for the most part was an inconvenience to my schedule, a bore to my brain, and a small part of my week. Instead of dropouts we the research notes the first and fundamental suggestion on turning the tide is “disciple, disciple, and disciple.”
Over the course of the next four weeks, I’d like to take a look at the practical building blocks that form a disciple. Missing any piece is like having 51 out of 52 playing cards or all but the last puzzle piece-incomplete. Without the big picture it is hard to know how things are really going. To please his father a freshman went out for track. He had no athletic ability, though the father had been a good miler in his day. His first race was a two-man race in which he ran against the school miler. He was badly beaten. Not wanting to disappoint his father, the boy wrote home as follows: “You will be happy to know that I ran against Bill Williams, the best miler in school. He came in next to last, while I came in second.”
The first key for a disciple is a focus on what they BELIEVE– Author Raymond Edman put it this way: Discipleship means ‘’discipline!’’ The disciple is that one who has been taught or trained by the Master, who has come with his ignorance, superstition, and sin, to find learning, truth, and forgiveness from the Saviour.
What and How a disciple Beliefs MATTERS! (Romans 10:9-10) If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
How do I become a Christian?” These verses give you the beautiful answer—salvation is as close as your own mouth and heart. Instead of complication Paul gives us conciseness. Fundamentally, you cannot become a disciple until you’ve learned what the disciple knows and believe! The Greek word for confess “homologeo” holds more than just lip service to the LORD but rather a declaration of allegiance as one would a king—to enter into a covenant. The belief becomes a foundation for all that follows. Without really believing to the point of action, the covenant is meaningless. Belief must be both internal and external!
A few years ago, I came across a story from a college classroom. A student was asked to prepare a lesson to teach my speech class. The speech would be graded on our creativity and ability to drive home a point in a memorable way. The young man gave a talk on, “The Law of the Pendulum.” He took 20 minutes to carefully teach the physical principle that governs a swinging pendulum. The law of the pendulum is: A pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. Because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns, it will fall short of its original release point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest. I attached a 3-foot string to a child’s toy top and secured it to the top of the blackboard with a thumbtack. I pulled the top to one side and made a mark on the blackboard where I let it go. Each time it swung back I made a new mark. It took less than a minute for the top to complete its swinging and come to rest. When I finished the demonstration, the markings on the blackboard proved my thesis.
I then asked how many people in the room BELIEVED the law of the pendulum was true. All of my classmates raised their hands, so did the teacher. He started to walk to the front of the room thinking the class was over. In reality it had just begun. Hanging from the steel ceiling beams in the middle of the room was a large, crude but functional pendulum (250 pounds of metal weights tied to four strands of 500-pound test parachute cord.). I invited the instructor to climb up on a table and sit in a chair with the back of his head against a cement wall. Then I brought the 250 pounds of metal up to his nose. Holding the huge pendulum just a fraction of an inch from his face, I once again explained the law of the pendulum he had applauded only moments before, “If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger.”
After that final restatement of this law, I looked him in the eye and asked, “Sir, do you believe this law is true?” There was a long pause. Huge beads of sweat formed on his upper lip and then weakly he nodded and whispered, “Yes.” I released the pendulum. It made a swishing sound as it arced across the room. At the far end of its swing, it paused momentarily and started back. I never saw a man move so fast in my life. He literally dived from the table. Deftly stepping around the still-swinging pendulum, I asked the class, “Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?” The students unanimously answered, “NO!” (Ken Davis, How To Speak To Youth, pp 104-106)
What is in our heart ultimately will be lived out with our hands and feet. Think about what less than total or complete belief would look like in other areas besides Christ: What if in your marriage you were 75% faithful? What if your boss paid you 50% of the time? Giving ourselves completely over to Jesus Christ in belief, both externally and internally is the pivotal first building block in discipleship.