My wife is great in so many ways, her love of science fiction isn’t one of her great points. What is a science fiction movie? It all depends but usually there is a alien that says, “Take me to your leader” or some version thereof. An invading or lost extraterrestrial needs to talk to someone in charge. The phrase comes out through a voice modulator, weird accent, or telepathy to a follower. After this phrase, the conflict of the story begins leading to the ultimate climax.
These stories teach us a couple of things. First, always be willing to give something to an alien as a peace offering. Second, we really need to develop ray guns to carry around in case of an alien attack. Third, living in rural areas is usually safe if ships descend over major cities. Fourth, rural areas are more prone to small outbreaks that are usually more dangerous because the worldwide governments usually do a good job of caring for cities. They do not trust any reports of alien attacks from rural areas. Finally, these stories teach us that the leaders are the ones who take action. The normal people, while important to their families, leaders make the decisions.
Leadership is defined in many ways but at the very least, leaders have influence and have followers. These leaders are leading the follower to complete a common goal. In the case of my wife’s favorite genre of movies, usually to save the world and get the advanced technology of the visitors. For the church, the common goal was given by Jesus as his parting words before he ascended to heaven. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20).
There are several verbs in this passage but in the original language, there is only one word, which we translate as two, make disciples. Making disciples is the common goal of the church. This looks different in different cultures but let’s be clear, it is the main goal of the church so we can be sure that it is a struggle for us. If we are really being honest, we are not very good at it. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you two questions: Who discipled you? Who are you discipling right now?
If you had a hard time answering this question, then you prove my point. If you could answer the first without the second, then you are part of the problem. My thought is though, much begins with the first question. We struggle to make disciples because we have never been discipled. It isn’t that you can’t make a disciple without being discipled, every believer has the Holy Spirit who helps us, grows us, teaches us, and guides us. But this was not the way Jesus meant discipleship to be when he told us to make disciples.
I have a great concern that some will answer the first question with someone who they have not met, for instance, an author or preacher with plenty of sermons online is not a correct answer. We are not discipled by someone we do not know. Discipleship will look different in different cultures but it will have face-to-face communication and contact.
Honestly, this concern is far less than the answer to the second. Who are your disciples? Who is learning from you? We can’t blame our leaders for our failures to make disciples. However, I’m about to teach a room full of church leaders who are going to hear this blog post but in Spanish. Those leaders, like myself, are to blame for anyone whom we are leading who are not making disciples. It is not my job to make disciples of everyone in the church but as a pastor and missionary I need to lead others to make disciples.
I need to go to teach in just a minute so let me wrap this up. Discipleship isn’t separate from science fiction. We need to take aliens, people who aren’t just like us, who are maybe a little rough around the edges, and maybe they talk a little different. We need to realize we are the unimportant person in the movie and take them to our leader, Jesus. Discipleship is taking people to Jesus. Christian leadership is taking people to Jesus because He is the true leader and the goal.