Welcome back to following up on follow up! (If you haven’t read the first post on follow up… you probably should here)
I understand some confusion may have ensued after my first post on follow up. I think there are three reasons for this… 1) I confuse myself… which can be a problem if I am trying to explain something to someone else when I am not really even sure of my position in the first place. 2) It goes against the grain of what most of us are taught. 3) It takes the ball out of our hands and puts it in the Holy Spirit’s hands (the true playmaker).
So I will try my best, in as few of words as possible, to clear everything up… because this could get lengthy (sorry in advance if you get bored and stop reading… this may be a longer post than usual… scratch that… A LOT longer).
1) First… what is a disciple? Because many people seem to have two, three, or even four different categories of Christians; the highest being a disciple.
Personally… I believe there is only one category of Christian… a disciple. Yep. Just one. And I think a disciple is just this: a follower of Christ.
I don’t believe in converts. I don’t believe in spectators… I believe there are only disciples of Christ. If you surrender your life to Christ you are a disciple. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
This is one position that I am not really open for debate on.
When someone is raised from death to life (Ephesians 2) they have no choice but to pick up their cross. They will be a disciple. There are no such things as real disciples that don’t show up.
Now I hear you arguing with me already. Settle down. It’s okay. I don’t believe everyone is automatically spiritually elite so to speak right off the bat… or ever elite for that matter. BUT… I do not believe that once you fully surrender your life to Christ and He raises your life… to real life… that you can just sit around and do nothing with that. If you are doing nothing there are some serious problems going on. But this is a whole different topic that could take hours to discuss. So let’s just settle on this definition… a follower of Christ.
2) This whole idea of not needing to follow up goes against the grain of what many of us were taught. So I have compiled a few verses that embody each side.
YES, Follow up.
1) “18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
Oh snap! “teach” them?? One point for follow up. You can’t teach them if you don’t follow up. And that is Jesus talking! I am pretty sure He has some authoritative stuff to say.
2) “2and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2
Props to Bob Stilwell for finding this one. That “teach” word is coming back again! And who knows… it might just be in the context of “small groups”?? And on top of that, the Apostle Paul was a huge proponent of mentoring and teaching! Strike two.
3) “1Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…” – Hebrews 6:1a
Props to my father (Gary Steffaniak) for calling that one out. In order to leave the elementary and move on… we must learn… which comes from some sort of teaching… right? Strike three?
NO Follow up… Now for the other side of the coin… do know, there are no specific instructions to do it this way as far as a I know… strike four? But there are many examples…
1) “Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ 20So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” – Mark 5:19-20
As mentioned in the first post on follow up, Jesus did not exactly teach him anything. He taught him what a renewed life looked like and taught him to tell people about Christ… that’s pretty much it.
2) “39And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.” – Acts 8:39
Acts 8:26-40 details this whole story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Basically Philip is used by God to bring this guy to Christ… and he does so. Immediately after the guy gets baptized… and just as quick as that all happens… the Holy Spirit basically transports Philip away, never to be seen again… which leaves no room for teaching or discipleship! And all by the Lord’s hand!
3) “9And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” – Luke 19:9-10
What is this one all about? In Luke 19:1-10 the Bible details the story of Zacchaeus becoming a follower of Christ. The reason I am using this is because first off he changed and became a Christ follower; thus becoming a “disciple”… but more importantly Jesus never seemed to have much more, if any, contact with him… indicating that he may not have ever really followed up with him! Also, this passage shows what Jesus’ main purpose was… to seek and save the lost! Not to grow and mature the found… And trust me… I know this one was a little bit weaker than the previous two… but I wanted to keep the cool three on three point thing and still be able to use the double point from this passage… call me lazy…
There are numerous other stories of Jesus healing, changing, and enlightening others… yet never following up after that. But on the flip side you have Jesus with his disciples and the ever growing crowds that would follow him… So we still seem to be stuck… not finding a definitive answer. Which is okay in my opinion… because for some reason I think God really enjoys dichotomy’s. I think the majority of the answers we seek are found in the middle… maybe more to one side than another… but never at an extreme. So as Andy Stanley might say… the tension is good.
3) When we embrace this philosophy… that it isn’t all about us doing follow up and discipleship… it takes the ball out of our hands and puts it in the Holy Spirit’s hands… who makes the real plays happen anyway.
If you are a football fan… maybe this analogy might help… although it is not anywhere near perfect.
Think of us as old man Brett Favre. We are weak, old, fragile, and one sack away from a retirement home. Really… at best… we could be considered a care taker. We generally screw it up when we try to hold on to it ourselves. So what do we do? We hand it off to the real playmaker… Adrian Peterson (A.K.A. the Holy Spirit… who doesn’t ever fumble…).
Sure we can be involved. Sure we should try to make plays. Sure we should do our best to “disciple” or follow up or whatever you call it… but when it really comes down to it we just need to hand it off to the Holy Spirit and let him do the work… because He is going to bring home the win.
And besides… if we don’t end up following up with someone… we shouldn’t lose them to Satan. Our God is way to great and awesome and powerful for that. He doesn’t lose. He doesn’t fumble. He makes not mistakes. He finishes what he started… EVERY TIME.
So in essence… I think follow up is something we should strive to do. But in the end… lets just listen to Jesus and do whatever he says. If it means just telling people to spread the Gospel and you never see them again… DO IT. If it means mentoring someone for 15 years… DO IT.
So here is my final conclusion: Discipleship/Follow Up takes many different forms. It doesn’t always take months, years, or decades to accomplish. Jesus can do it in a simple call to preach the Gospel… that only took 10 seconds to say. Therefore “not necessary or essential” is probably the wrong terminology. It is more accurate to say that it does not always take a long time… or is not always required of you to complete.
Simple isn’t it?
“6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6
*For those of you who freaked out and thought I was anti-discipleship… I was only making an observation… not an end-all-be-all statement of not needing discipleship. Hopefully this clears things up.*