If you’re like me, when it comes to making disciples, you’ve had a few disappointments. Someone who you thought was tracking with you turned out to be way off track. It recently occurred to me that engaging in making disciples will always produce it’s fair share of disappointments. I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised by this considering Jesus had many moments just like this.
Consider this moment…
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:35-45, ESV
What would you have said to James and John? There’s another Rabbi down the road, go check him out? You don’t get it? Or perhaps, out of our insecurity, yeah, I’ll promote you!
Allow me to rephrase James and John’s question. “Hey, I know I’m new to the church, but I want to be an elder.” “I’d like to preach regularly at this church.” “I’m not coming to this Community Group anymore, I’m going to a different one with cooler people.”
Okay, so it turns out those weren't questions at all, but if you’ve had these conversations, they don’t tend to begin with a question.
These are disappointing moments for us leaders who are trying to disciple people. Their independence, and oftentimes arrogance, can really put a wedge in the relationship. But it’s no time to write them off!
Don't give up
Notice how Jesus handled it. He didn’t give up on James and John. He didn’t cut ties with them. He took the disappointment and turned it into a discipleship moment.
Discipleship is the process in which we become more and more like Jesus. In this moment, Jesus realized how these guys were different from him. (Clearly he knew other ways they were different as well.) The attitude and identity lacking in James and John in this moment was that of a servant. So he simply pointed to himself, the ultimate servant, and said this is what greatness looks like. It’s not the standard of greatness that most people have, but it’s Jesus’ standard.
For us, it’s a matter of pointing out how we are following Jesus or simply pointing out Jesus’ attitude and actions. We can’t shy away from these moments and file them away as another disappointment.
As we make disciples of Jesus, who make disciples of Jesus, we will have some seemingly disappointing conversations. However, as we grow, we will rejoice in those moments because we’ll see them as discipleship moments. These are chances to teach who Jesus is and what His followers are like.