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The Courage to Disciple

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Fear doesn’t always show up in the horror movie sort of way. Sometimes screaming is replaced by subtle avoidance. Instead of opening your life to others, you keep them at a distance through humor or formality. Instead of initiating relationally, church leaders often hide behind sermons, classes, and programs. Such passivity, engagement without full commitment, keeps many from making disciples. For leaders and laymen alike, fear is a huge obstacle in disciple making.

So how do we handle fear that is an inevitable part of becoming a fruitful disciple maker? The answer is courage. Courage drives out fear.

Yes, I know 1 John 4:18 says love drives out fear but it means more than simply loving when we are afraid. If we dig deeper we can see that the verse actually says “perfect love drives out fear.” Perfect love has courage because love without courage withers under fear. Love that‘s imperfect morphs into spoiling and enabling. C.S. affirmed this very idea when he said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point…” In other words, when we are tested by the various faces of fear (danger, judgment, anxiety, failure, etc.) we will persevere only with courage. Put simply, courage allows us to live out our stated beliefs.

So many well-intentioned and kind-hearted Christians are unwilling to disciple others because they lack courage. They acknowledge the Great Commission and then instead of pursuing full engagement seek to passively support the work by prayer and financial support. Of course, we should all be praying and giving, but after hearing Jesus’ final command the disciples didn’t divide up into active and passive disciple making roles.

Potential disciple makers need to be courageous in order to reproduce. Here are three realities that fuel courage.


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1. God is with you.

We’ve heard it so many times it may be tempting to rush past it. Yet, when the truth becomes true for you, then you can move forward with confidence. In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “all authority has been given to Me.” When we disciple we are doing something God commanded. And when He says in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you to the end of the age,” we can believe Him. We haven’t been sent out alone. He is with us. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit lives in us and He is not a Spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Our courage grows when we recall these truths.

2. Imperfection is okay.

Both Jesus and Paul say to follow their example. Jesus set a perfect example, but Paul didn’t and neither will you. But you don’t have to! Young disciples need to see that perfection isn’t required to used by God. He uses us in spite of our sin. Allowing others to see the real you—struggles and all—takes the pressure off of both sides of the discipling relationship. Living into this truth fuels courage because you don’t have to have all the answers, follow Jesus perfectly, or disciple flawlessly.

3. You have something others need.

Christian scholar Desiderius Erasmus is credited as saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” In other words, in spite of your shortcomings, you may be further along than others. When it comes to disciple making, your investment is way better than absence. You have something others need! You know Jesus and how to abide in Him. When we recognize that someone else can really benefit from our intentional investment, then our courage grows. Not just courage though, confidence grows too as we accept that we can help someone. Courage that springs out of a heart of love and compassion is powerful because even if you are a rookie disciple maker you can make a huge difference!

Don’t allow fear to keep you from being a difference-maker in the Kingdom. God has called you to be a disciple maker. He has promised you His presence, indwelled you with a powerful Holy Spirit, and freed you to offer just who you are to others. Someone out there needs you to disciple them. And others out there need that person to disciple them. But it starts with you. You have what it takes!

Take the time to dwell on these truths and grow your courage until it’s big enough to defeat your fear!

This was first published on Justin Gravitt’s blog here.

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