Feed me

A conversation I had on Christmas eve sparked the ol’ thinking juices. Bear with me, this is a bit wordy.

Most folks, regardless of what they claim as their “faith engine,” are simply religious at best. A Christian, a Buddhist and a Hindu are no different from each other IF they are not a disciple.

In the midst of folks who are religious, but not spiritual, how do you go about creating a disciple?

In church circles, most agree that the Spirit is essential to bringing someone to faith. In fact, biblically speaking, that is what happens. We have no problem with that.

When it comes to a person’s growth in their faith, most churches remove the Spirit and insert their program. I don’t think they intentionally mean to exclude the Spirit; it seems more of a “thanks for bringing them in, we’ll take it from here” kind of response. Unfortunately, we aren’t quite of the same caliber as the Spirit.

I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’ -John 16:12-15

If the Spirit is adept enough to bring someone to the point of faith, doesn’t it follow that he can also mature them? The story of the Ethiopian eunuch provides a tad of insight. The Spirit took Phillip to where the eunuch was, Phillip taught him, baptized him, then was whisked away, leaving the eunuch on his own. Do you think that God intended to leave the eunuch at that point? Was he going to head back to Egypt and enroll in a local church’s Sunday School? Was he going to join a nonexistent church and have the pastor place food on his plate?

Facetious? Yes. God had something in mind, obviously.

We need to create an environment that is conducive to the Spirit’s activity. We need to invest time and direction in them. We need to believe that the Spirit is capable of doing something in them that we can’t. Otherwise, we make the process of discipleship much too complicated and extremely ineffective.

The nonbelievers I was chatting with on Christmas eve had all been in church for years, in programs, classes, small groups, etc. But the Spirit had never been involved.

We do everyone a disservice when we abort the Spirit’s operation in a person’s life after they enter the Kingdom. Perhaps we should stop doing that.

20 responses to “Feed me

  1. It is indeed quite the delicate balance, “allowing” the Spirit to bring new believers to maturity and actively obeying Christ’s commission to us to “teach” and to “make” disciples. We must not ever forget that doing and being church is both an individual and a corporate work.

  2. So should we leave the “newbies” alone and let the Spirit guide them in their discipleship? Or maybe should we also allow (not sure allow is the right word, but all I got right now) the Spirit to work through us to teach and disciple?

    Interesting post in that I also hear lots of non believers say they are not religious, but “spiritual”. Most of the time when I hear someone tell me they are “spiritual” it ain’t a good thing at all, and they are listening to the wrong spirits.

  3. Isn’t it odd how we tend to be pendulum chasers? We run from one side to the other and never catch the blasted thing! There must be some time and effort invested in the “newbie,” but we need to understand that if we are left to our own devices, the so-called discipleship process will be a dismal failure.

    It isn’t an “all-or-nothing” type of proposition. It is a “both-and” one. Our current pendulum chasing has us far over on the “we can teach them” side and little of “the Spirit can grown them” one. The end result is a castrated church.

    Might it be that if we move a tad bit more to the center that we may be more productive?

  4. Can you say “ouch?” But aren’t we taught by the Spirit to then teach others? In the hopes that those who teach ARE being lead and filled with the Spirit. How can we digest meat if we cannot even handle the milk.

    But that doesn’t go without saying… The spirit can move by himself. just let Him do His work. But when we do call it that. Some of us (I included at times but have been humbled by God to think differently) call it Pentecostal or liberal.

    Can’t we just be what a friend affectionately calls, “Charismatic Calvinist?”

  5. I’ve never been much of a center-of-the-road kind of guy, but over time I am continuing to learn that the Christ life is both being controled by the Holy Spirit while still being responsible for our own actions or inactions. Ironically, I was just reading James’ Epistle this morning and he clearly was wrestling with very similar issues. “Faith without works…” Finding balance… Its tough!

  6. This stuff has been on my mind alot. I have this sense that we are putting way too much of us –in my case, me– into this. The Spirit is very capable of leading someone to all truth without a single finger being lifted on my part. Yet, I seem to think that without me it won’t happen.

    I’m ready to repent. I’ve seen far too much failure in my lifetime. If the “system” we use today is so good, why has it crashed and burned so fiercely? At the risk of sounding trite, or even condescending (I really don’t mean to!), I think its time to give the Spirit a chance to do what Jesus says he can do.

    Why don’t we let the new believer in on the secret that he has the Spirit of God residing in him and that he has full access to that power, point him in the direction of reading the Word and see what happens?

    No, I’m not suggesting that we then throw him to the sharks. Be available, make environments available, encourage, support, don’t indoctrinate… let the Spirit do “his thing.”

    I’m not speaking from theory. I’m suggesting this from actual hands-on experience. It is amazing what the Spirit can do, if we simply let him.

    Isn’t this a fun discussion?

  7. Isn’t it both heavy and at the same time a blessing that our Great and Mighty God, having put His Spirit in us, would entrust us with those newborns just entering His Kingdom? An infant human will eventually learn to walk on his/her own, but I would not trade a second of the time I spent allowing my daughter to hold onto my finger as I steadied her for her first clumsy and unsure steps. I see no interference of the work of the Holy Spirit in this. Rather, I am humbled by the privilege of being allowed to cooperate with Him in fulfilling His purposes in the lives of freshly born-again believers.

  8. And absolutely this is a wonderful discussion!! Thank you Joe.

  9. patrickandchristy

    Jesus doesn’t want us to be “experts” of the Spirit but rather, vessels of the Spirit. Our tendency is to approach God and the Spirit as if it is an academic endeavor. But to become an expert in the worldly, academic sense, we have to objectively remove ourselves from the subject so we can observe it, study it. This is great if you want to investigate a scientific hypothesis but doesn’t work so much when it comes to understanding something that is of the supernatural world. I can’t remove myself from the Spirit so I can “learn it”. I have to allow the Spirit to completely saturate me from the inside-out. I have to allow the Spirit to reveal himself to my spirit. If I do that, then the Spirit will “teach” me the Truths of Jesus Christ and His Word. He will give me the spiritual knowledge and wisdom that only comes from living a Spirit-led, directed life.

    If we put down our magnifying glasses that we naively use to “study” the Spirit with and allow God to fill us without conditions or stipulations, then we will actually become the magnifying glass that God uses to project the light of His Son onto a dark world.

    I guess I’m just rambling and probably not making much sense but I’m just tired of others trying to “teach” me about Jesus and how to be a good Christian when they wouldn’t know the Spirit if He tackled them. I know that I have much to learn about God and His Spirit so I try to walk a fine line when it comes to what I “teach” newbies because I know that I could actually hinder their learning and block the Spirit from “teaching” and working in their lives. I would rather my life be an example to them instead of my “smarts” about Jesus.

    Truthfully, I have learned more about Jesus and His Spirit by just going to Brazil and experiencing His Spirit in action than I have in Sunday school classes, bible studies and pastors preaching from a pulpit. Anyway, a lot to think about huh?

  10. I have received an abundance from the Spirit this morning simply by interacting with precious fellow followers of Christ! Wow Joe! You just keep throwing these little grenades of wisdom out here. Bravo! Gets my inspirational engine throttled up! Now we just need to hear from Haino Kemis….LOL! Amen?

  11. Patrick,

    I told a fellow a month ago exactly what you said — that you can learn more about Jesus and the Spirit by going to Brazil than you ever have from all other sources combined.

    At first he just laughed.

    Then he began walking in the power of the Spirit and now he’s going with us to Brazil this summer. He said that if the gifts he has been experiencing can only become stronger and more prolific by going to Brazil, he’s ready to leave tomorrow.

    This is what I’m talking about. Someone who is new in their faith and becomes infused with the Counselor, begins to experience growth and maturity in an unimaginable manner. No 10 years in Sunday School, no seminary classes, no special tutoring, just accepting the downloads that the Counselor is offering.

    Honestly, does it get any simpler than that?

  12. patrickandchristy

    Can’t wait to meet him and spend some time with him. I think Brazil will open his mind and spirit to how awesomely powerful God is when allowed to take control and manifest himself. Can’t wait to get back and see what God has in store for us this time.

  13. Actually it’s all sounding just a little too complicated for me. Why don’t we just do what the Spirit leads us to do? If it is to teach, then teach, if it is to be hospitable then be hospitable, if it is to prophesy then prophesy.

    It sort of sounds like you guys are saying sit on the sidelines and do nothing. I don’t think that’s what you are saying but it’s what I am reading.

    How are we to go make disciples if we don’t go?

  14. I’m not sure why we’re making this hard either, Mark. It seems clear to me from the Scriptures, that the development of disciples is both due to the work of the Holy Spirit in them, coupled with His faithfulness to and in us to help them with that process. For just one of many examples of this in the New Testament check out Acts 14:21-23. It is a picture of faithful witnesses for Christ, having seen the creation of new believers, returning to help them to grow in their new found faith. Paul seems to be amazed that God would choose him to do the work of ministry in 1 Timothy 1:12 when he said, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” As Joe has said, its not an either/or proposition, but a both/and. The Spirit does the work. We act in grateful and cooperative obedience in doing the work He puts before us.

  15. I think the real problem is the structure of SOME if not MOST “churches”. Sunday School is taught rigorously and structurally and the emphasis is showing up to “church” on Sunday and you are good to go with a weekly 50 minute class which includes 30 minutes for coffee.

    Rick Warren says you gotta be around other believers to grow, and that is on a regular basis not a Sunday basis. I also think forums like this where we are basically jumping on each other on regular basis to try and determine which way to go, how to go, what to go, and where to go are key. Now I don’t know all on here but I do know 2 of you and have no qualms about getting hit in the head being drug in the right direction when I am going in the wrong one because I trust their judgement.

    And I don’t care what you say, we can point the new believer in the right direction but I also think it is incumbent upon non recent converts (1 Tim 3:6) that if the Spirit leads us to grab a couple by the collar and drag them to where they need to be……….and then have coffee afterward with a little olive leaf extract.

  16. patrickandchristy

    Actually, a person cannot be filled with the Spirit but still sit on the sidelines. The Spirit of Christ is a living representation of God himself and is in constant motion, pulling all that allow the Spirit to dwell in them toward God and His Truths. The Spirit is like an ultimate action hero.

    If I never sat through an organized bible study, sermon, Sunday school class or religious study but I was full of the Spirit and the Spirit truly lived within me, then I would be “taught” all I could ever need to know about God (within human limitations… God does keep some things a mystery). The Spirit teaches me and leads me in the direction He wants/needs me to go in. It’s not Joe (example) teaching me anything. It’s the Spirit teaching me THROUGH Joe. If Joe truly teaches me about God, then it’s because Joe has allowed the Spirit to teach Him a truth and he in turn shares it with me (my spirit) what the Spirit has revealed to him. Basically, we CANNOT learn anything that is of God with our minds or just by doing. We learn the things and truths of God with our spirits, our souls. Does this make sense? It is clear to me but since I am a flawed person, there’s a good chance I’m not stating it properly.

    What I’ve learned through following and seeking God is that God does not NEED me nor anyone else to do anything for him. He doesn’t need us to teach anybody anything, he doesn’t need me to preach to anybody, witness to anybody, pray for anybody, or lead anybody but He does ALLOW me to be an active participant in His Kingdom and His plan for this world. Does He want me to be an active participant…yes! But does He need me to be…no! I think that’s what Joe was really saying. We are attempting to teach people about God and build disciples in an academic sense, without the Spirit and it just doesn’t work. We build people who can recite verses and stories about God, and may be able to pass a “pop quiz” about the Bible and God but are ignorant to the true ways of God.

    There is a Bible scholar that can recite, word for word linguistically perfect in Hebrew the entire New Testament and most of the Old but if the Spirit doesn’t dwell in him, he’s nothing but an overly intelligent guy that can impress with a very neat intellectual stunt but if he is a follower of Christ and the Spirit dwells within him, then He becomes an extremely powerful warrior and ally of God. Good exchanges everybody.

  17. Ha ha ha. If there is anyone who I don’t want “grabbing me by the collar” or dragging me anywhere, it’d be you big guy! YIKES! And you may have no qualms about me hitting you in the head, or but I’d sure think twice about it!

  18. Well Eddie if I am going in the wrong direction then think twice and then sneak up behind me.

    Patrick, the Spirit can’t use Joe (well he can but let’s not get too complicated) to teach if Joe don’t do no teachin’.

  19. I don’t do no teachin’? 😦

  20. patrickandchristy

    LOL. No, he really doesn’t. Honestly, Joe has taught me more about God and His ways without even opening his mouth. But you’re right too Mark. God has given each us Gifts that he wants us to use by the power of the Spirit. We don’t use them, we lose them.

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