The AHA moment
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20 TNIV)
It was one of those “Aha!” moments, when an enlightenment comes in an instant and you have a monumental change in life. I was 27 years old sitting across from a pastor I had met only a couple of days before when I came to preach a week of nightly meetings at his church. He was aware that I was thinking about transiting from an intenerate ministry to pioneering a church. As he sat across from me in the restaurant, he said, “How can I help you?” I felt and knew that he was sincere in his statement. At that moment something happened inside of me that changed my view of what ministry is about. If you were sitting there, you would not have realized that something had happened, but I was changed.
Maybe it was the timing in my life that day. A time when I was pondering decisions about the future ministry I would be involved in. Perhaps it was that I had been fasting and praying about our next move in life. Maybe, it was his spirit and heart of this and father in the faith, that touched my spirit. Most likely it was all of that and more put together. Whatever prepared me for it, or caused it to happen, it was a supernatural moment that changed me.
I had already been involved in church ministry for most of my life. My dad was a traveling tent preacher in the 1950s, so as early as I can remember, I was helping to put up the gospel tent. By the time I was ten, I was playing the organ and piano in the tent services. When my brother and I become teenagers, we began traveling and preaching meetings. As soon as Janet and I were married we were ministering as a team. By the time I sat across from this pastor I had been around all types of ministries and preachers. Yet, this was the first time a pastor had ever showed true interest in helping me. It was always about helping them, their church, what I could do for them. They needed a revival, a youth pastor, a worship leader, an assistant pastor or whatever other talents they felt I had that could help them. That is how it always came across. This was different. Here was a pastor who wanted to help me. From that moment on, I realized that ministry is not about me, it is about helping others to fulfill their purpose in Christ.
I learned a lot over many years from this pastor – disciple-maker – but it was that supernatural “Aha!” moment that changed my understanding of what ministry is. It is in this understanding or I should I say, “personal revelation” that disciple-making is released. Disciple-making is a spiritual work. It takes the supernatural power of God to bring spiritual revelation or insight into the heart and understanding of an individual to make him or her into a disciple-maker of Jesus Christ. The “Aha!” moments are times where the Spirit of God is at work in the life of a disciple to impart spiritual truths.
My dear friend and mentor, the late Dr. John Holland would say, “Spirituality is the ability to receive from the realm of the spirit and release it into the physical material universe.” The problem comes when we filter the revelation of God through our cultural background, educational processes, our carnal minds, and so forth. We attach our ideas and methods to what the Spirit says. We take making disciples out of the spiritual realm and make it an educational course. We tell disciples that they need to study and pray, read a number of Scriptures each morning, practice disciplines, join accountability groups, and on and on the lessons go. It is in this process that we can leave out and lose the very source and power for disciple-making. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples . . .” The call to go and make disciples is based upon the “all authority” and “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” is sandwiched between these two statements.
You can read many books to learn the practical application of disciple-making, providing instruction on, how to. How to pray, read, be accountable and so forth. I am not minimizing the need for the practical or the personal spiritual disciplines involved in being a disciple and a disciple-maker. There is the “Aha!.” The “All authority” and the “I am with you” that brings the work of the Spirit of God into the call to make disciples. I cannot make disciples of Jesus Christ without his spiritual authority, “power,” at work in and through me, and without the presence of the Holy Spirit actively involved.
Once we move to make disciples by textbook, classroom, or a set formula that someone has developed in their workbook for discipleship or instructional “how-to” manual, then we fall into the danger of missing the spiritual element that makes disciples of Jesus Christ. It is not the power of our teaching or instruction that makes disciples. It is not a dynamic program with all the systems in place that make disciples. It is the disciple-maker, our teaching and application of the works of Jesus Christ, sandwiched between his authority and his active presence. If we think that we can make disciples of Jesus Christ without being right in the middle of his authority and his presence then we will make something, but not men and women who are truly following and experiencing the joy of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
It is amazing to experience spiritual life sandwiched between the “All authority” and the “I am with you always” at work. As Dr. John Holland said, “Spirituality is the ability to receive from the realm of the spirit and release it into the physical material universe.” I write about disciple-making in this understanding and move with caution as I seek to talk to you about this work of the Spirit of God which Jesus did and commanded us to do - “make disciples.” I do not want to impress you with some new formulas. I want to release you to a dependence upon the “All authority” and the “I am with you,” so that you can live in the, in between. It is there that we are able to take from the realm of the spirit and release it into the physical. This does not produce a classroom, a system, or a curriculum. It releases life. Life is what disciple-making is about. It is a 24/7 process where God is working in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ to form him or her into the likeness of his dear Son. Where God is working out his salvation through our moment by moment and day to day experiences, bringing the teaching of the Word of God to life.
To me, motive is the number one issue when it comes to disciple-making. What is motivating me in ministry? Why do I want to make disciples? Somehow a revelation, bringing clarity, came into my being and at that “Aha!” instant. The Spirit of God was there when pastor Wayman Mitchell said, “How can I help you?” Those words came from a heart that I knew was said with an honest and pure motive. He was not manipulating me to get me to join his ministry as so many had done before. There was a genuine concern for what God had for my life and a desire to help see that come to pass. I was feeling a different motive from this pastor than I had been around before. He meant what he said and the spirit that was behind those words resonated within me. At that moment, I understood that ministry was not about me. Not about self-preservation. Not about self-promotion. Not about building a church. Before that, I don’t believe that I was in the ministry with wrong or selfish motives, but at that moment with a disciple-making pastor, something changed inside of me.
Since that “Aha!” moment, my whole life has been about helping others fulfill their destiny in Christ. I have experienced the personal joy of disciple-making. Today, I work with hundreds of pastors and churches in many parts of the world who were saved in our ministry, discipled, and sent out to pioneer churches. Many of them are reproducing more disciples and church pioneers. This has not happened because we developed a system or program. It is the fruit of motive, the “Why am I doing this?” Disciple-making is not something that someone can just do and keep doing. You have to have a heart for it and only God can give you that heart. If you try to make disciples out of wrong motives in your heart, it will not happen. You might gather crowds around you and achieve success in ministry by today’s standards, but at the end of the day, will you have made disciples? “Go and make disciples” is what Jesus commanded us to do.
Somewhere as you journey with me, as I seek to draw from the realm of the spirit and release it onto the pages of this book, I trust that you will have an “Aha!” experience. It might be one simple thought, a sentence, or maybe nothing I write, only the Spirit of God catching you at a moment as I had in that restaurant. When you have it, you will know it and your life and ministry can be changed in a moment of time. Only God can do that and he wants to.
End of Chapter one.