There is absolutely nothing in what Jesus Himself or His early followers taught that suggests you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus’ expense and have nothing more to do with Him.” 1
Over the years I’ve read quite a bit of literature on making disciples. Coming from a parachurch background, we were intent on making disciples even if our approach needed to be broadened a bit. I remember sitting in the living room of Walt Henrichsen, a former Navigator staff member who wrote the classic Disciples Are Made Not Born, discussing theology and how it played out in making disciples as well as personally growing in my own commitment to follow Christ. Along with Leroy Eims’ The Lost Art of Making Disciples and Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism, I was convinced early on of the necessity to make Christ-followers and not just converts.
Taking a cue from Randy Newman’s wonderful book on evangelism, Questioning Evangelism, where he explores the rabbinic method of asking questions in evangelism let me make a similar application to discipleship. Jesus asked people tons of questions, about one hundred in all. Here are some examples as I’ve paraphrased some of them:
- Can you worry and add anything to your life? If you’re so concerned about things out of your control, why are so anxious? (Matt. 6:27, Luke 12:26)
- Why are so afraid? (Matt 8:26)
- Do you really believe that I can do this? (Matt. 9:28)
- Why are you filled with doubt? (Matt. 14:31)
- What is it that you don’t understand? (Matt. 16:8, Mark 17:17-18, John 8:43)
- Who do really think I am? (Matt. 16:13)
- Why are you asking me what’s truly good? (Matt.19:16)
- What is it that you want me to do for you? (Matt:20:32, John 1:38)
- Why are you so stuck on the things in your heart? (Mark 2:8)
- Why are people so concerned with the big and flashy? (Mark 8:12)
- What are you bickering about? (Mark 9:33)
- Where is your trusting belief? (Luke 8:25)
- What is in my Word? What does it say and how do you read it? (Luke 10:26)
- If you’re so caught up in worldly wealth, how can you be trusted with something much greater? (Luke 16:11)
- Why are you asleep? (Luke 22:46)
- Do you want to be well? (John 5:6)
- Does my teaching on the picture of the Eucharist as union with me this shock you? (John 6:61)
- Do you want to leave me? Where would you go? (John 6:67)
- Who condemns you? (John 8:10)
- Do you realize what I have done for you? (John 13:12)
- Do you love me? (John 21:16)
Why did Jesus use questions? The use of a well-placed question helps to clarify the heart and mind. In other words, questions get after our cloudy hearts and muddled thinking. What I’m suggesting is making disciples (and being a disciple) is not less than imparting skills or practices but it’s more. It’s actually pointing to Christ in the context of community, listening to Him, allowing Him to “cross” our wills and clarify our hearts and thought process. For instance, some are sleepwalking through the Christian life and should have to deal with some questions like, “Why are you asleep?” or “Who do you really think I am?” Some are so bent on following the rules that questions like “Do you love me?” or “Do you realize what I’ve done for you?” are appropriate. Some with real needs need to hear questions like, “Where is your trusting belief in me?” or “What is it that you really want?”
Making disciples can certainly include programs or classes. However, it seems to me that one of the most effective ways to being a follower (and making followers) of Christ is to let these questions sink into our soul allowing the Holy Spirit’s “counseling” work to settle in (John 14:26). Most people are followers of something or someone – they are disciples even if they are disciples of a late-modern narrative. As Christians we are declaring that we are followers of the Messiah even if it seems countercultural. We let the living Word confront or deconstruct us as we read the Word regularly. In this way we allow the gracious words of Christ to cut against our predisposition to self-sufficiency and comfort in order to follow after Him.
1 Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, p.13
2 thoughts on “Questioning Discipleship”
Thanks Jon. Thought provoking. I needed that. Clarifying the heart can be a challenging task.
Jon, thank you for writing this article. I appreciate the quote by Dallas Willard. And the books you mentioned are some of my favorite as well. God used them greatly to give me a vision for discipleship and for helping to make more disciples! (The Great Commission!). I felt your questions were excellent and I intend to use them in meeting with men. I feel asking questions, listening well, and pointing people to Scriptures are key ways we can help a young follower of Jesus grow towards discipleship. The words, stories and questions Jesus used continue to challenge my heart. May God continue to bless you, Jon, as you invest in people.