As Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were passionate about the things of God, carried their copy of the Torah everywhere, and they were fully committed to the weekly synagogue meetings for nearly a decade now. Jesus saw them as worthy of His investment so He said to them “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!” – Mark 1:16-17
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew with his copy of the Torah in tow. Matthew had new ideas and new vision, born out of his desire to grow the people of God. Jesus knew these ideas were against His preferences, and desiring to cling tightly to His leadership and authority in His Father’s kingdom, neglected to call Matthew to follow Him. – Matthew 9:9
If you know the Bible, you know that what you just read is not the actual verses.
That being said, I think our modern church reads them that way.
Discipleship, the raising up of new followers of Jesus, new leaders in the church, doesn’t happen often.
Here’s why it doesn’t happen often, at least in my sphere of ministry.
I wait for them to be ‘worthy’ of my discipleship, of my investment.
God have mercy on me for the number of times I have thought to myself, ‘yeah, they’re not ready (according to my standard). They’re not committed enough (to my preferences). They’re not faithful enough (to my preferences).
I have gone so far at times to not invest in younger men because I simply don’t want to pass the baton of my ministry to them. I want to stay in charge. It’s my ministry.
God have mercy on me when I do that.
Thankfully, in my life, I have seen discipleship modeled. Over and over.
At Olive Garden in 2010, Zack Randles (my youth pastor at the time) was having lunch with my family. He asked if he could disciple me. Weekly. One on one. There was nothing in me that was ‘worthy’ of that. He came to me. He called me. He didn’t wait for me to come and ask him.
He changed my life as a result.
At OBU in 2013, I was stirring the pot on campus. OBU was a small school, and I was a very loud and boisterous personality (surprise). I was vocal, very vocal, about the things that needed to change in the ministries on campus. Odus Compton, the Campus minister, came to me and sat down with me one on one. He lovingly confronted me in my methods, but supported me in my leadership. And over the course of the next four years he invested in me, passed the baton to me, and equipped me to lead. I made mistake after mistake after mistake. And he was right there by my side, guiding me, encouraging me, calling me out.
With their leadership in mind, I was able to pass the baton to three younger men on campus.
Because you know what?
The men’s ministry I was the leader of continued without me.
Church, to be blunt, every one of us is going to ‘graduate’ this life.
Who will carry on the ministry of the church when we’re gone?
When I was in Phoenix in 2016, I attended a Christian Challenge event on the campus of GCC. There was a man there named Joshua Tompkins. He immediately reached out to me and became my mentor for the rest of the time I was in Phoenix. He allowed me to help him lead the CC club at GCC. I messed up and made mistakes. Again. Again. Again. Yet he continued to walk with me.
Discipleship is scary. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward at first. But it’s oh so beautiful.
Who are you raising up?
Who are you teaching?
Who are you inviting in?
If you are a leader in an area of the church you attend, who are you giving ownership of that area to? Are you clinging to it? Or are you sharing it?
Who are you passing the baton to?
I will likely never take a youth pastor job again. I feel the Lord guiding me towards other things. Senior pastor. Teaching pastor. Discipleship pastor. Church planter. But probably not student ministry.
That being said, one day I am going to leave this church I serve. When that happens, one of two things could take place.
The youth group could utterly fall apart, back to square one, only to be built back up by the next youth pastor that comes in. That will happen if I don’t disciple and raise up leaders.
That leads into the second possibility. I could leave, having already given ownership of the youth group to other leaders, adults and students alike. That way, the youth group continues to thrive.
My desperate prayer and plea is that when I leave, the second possibility happens. But that will not happen if I wait to pass the baton until it’s my time to leave. That will not happen if I don’t disciple students one on one in the Word of God. That will not happen if I don’t allow students and volunteers to make mistakes, just as I make many myself.
If you’re reading this and there is not a younger man or woman in your life that you are meeting with weekly for the dual purpose of going through God’s Word and passing the ownership of leadership in the local church that you attend, I plead with you to prioritize this in your life.
Without discipleship, our churches will close their doors.
Without passing the baton, the next generation will not be reached with the good news of our Risen Savior.
In His Name,