Several years ago, a family member of mine was diagnosed with cancer. My heart broke for this relative, and I decided to run in a 5K for cancer research in their honor. I am not a natural-born runner, and I finished that 5K running a pace time slower than I normally walk!
Determined to improve for the next charity run, I spent several months training. The more I practiced, the easier and more familiar running became. While I’m still not an expert runner, the fear, fatigue and lack of confidence that plagued my first 5K have subsided with continual training.
Over the course of my training, I also realized that disciple-making is very similar to running in three distinct ways.
1. Disciples of Christ should be moved with compassion to make disciples.
Before my family member was diagnosed with cancer, I never even thought about running. However, when cancer affected my family personally, things changed. I wanted to do all I could to help find a cure for my relative.
Similarly, we see in Scripture it is compassion that first moves followers of Christ to begin making disciples. In Matthew 9:36-38, when Jesus looked at the people in the cities and villages, he saw them as “sheep without a shepherd.” They were “distressed and dispirited” because they were without hope and salvation, and this moved Jesus to compassion.
If our Lord, who is the one who would pay the ultimate penalty for sinful, broken people, had this type of response to lost people, shouldn’t His followers? Do we truly see people without Christ as eternally separated from God? Knowing and having the solution, are we compassionate enough to share the gospel?
2. Disciples must begin somewhere in sharing the gospel.
I often think of Peter, the disciple who so boldly told the Lord that he would never deny Him, yet within 12 hours denied knowing the Lord not once, not twice, but three times (John 18:15-27). In his interactions with three different people, Peter had prime opportunities to share the gospel. But, he didn’t. It’s easy to look at Peter and think he blew it. It’s easy to look at our own opportunities and think we blew it.
However, Peter’s story didn’t end with his three denials. Fast-forward to the Book of Acts and you see a very different Peter. The Peter we see throughout the remainder of the New Testament is a Peter who, while not perfect, stepped out in obedience to share the gospel.
We also must be willing to be obedient to share the gospel, and our desire to be obedient needs to outweigh our fears.
3. Disciples must teach others how to make disciples.
I’m not a gold medal runner, and USA Track and Field doesn’t have me pegged as “one to watch.” But I know enough about running to help someone else who wants to learn. I can run with others, and while we learn from each other, we also can encourage one another.
Jesus demonstrated this same principle with His disciples. He taught them and then sent them out to teach (Luke 10:1-24). Paul also brought others along with him on his missionary journeys and in his day-to-day moments in life. Paul didn’t know everything, he was constantly learning; however, he was one step ahead of someone else and he taught them what he knew so they could teach others.
Disciple-making isn’t as complex as we try to make it, but it does take compassion, a willingness to be obedient and start somewhere, and a desire to teach others.
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