by Valerie O’Brien
Two plastic cars. From two preschool aged kids.
I was at their house meeting with their mom to talk about Sonlife and the disciple-making ministry in their church (one unexpected joy of covid has been taking more meetings in homes!)–and these kids, only three and four years old, discussed among themselves and decided that they would give me two of their toys to take home for my nephews. By the time my meeting at the kitchen table with their mom was over, two cars were stacked neatly by my purse at the door.
As I hugged the two of them goodbye, I gave their mom a sideways look like, “where can I leave these cars on my way out?” She gave me the most delighted little look back, shrugged, smiled and said, “We teach our kids to be cheerful givers, right? If they want you to take them, please do!” So I did.
The joy of that sweet interaction stayed with me. All that week, I found myself trying to give stuff away. Generosity breeds generosity, doesn’t it? But not just generosity. True kindness breeds true kindness. Forgiven people forgive others. What riches the Father has lavished on us–not just in material things (although He has), but in all the characteristics of the Godhead that He demonstrates to us. May our response to the generosity of Jesus be that we generously give Him away to others.
A disciple is someone who knows God and pursues Jesus in His character and in His priorities. How well do we know Jesus? When was the last time we beheld and were captivated by Him? Do we know Him well enough to know what His priorities are? Do we know Him well enough to know what His character is like? Have we studied Him, and have we experienced Him? As we become more like Jesus, we ourselves become (although imperfectly), “little Christ’s” (aka, the historic meaning of the word “Christian”), before a world that is hungry for Him. As we go deeper in our love and understanding of who Jesus is and what he has given to us, the more we can’t help but give it away.
This is the not-so-mysterious way that “evangelism” and “discipleship” are inextricably linked. The more we grow in our understanding of Jesus (common idea of ‘discipleship’), the quicker it should overflow from us to those who need it most (common idea of ‘evangelism’). The natural byproduct of ‘discipleship’ should always, always be beckoning others towards Jesus as well. I’ve often heard people in the church say, “Are you more of a discipleship person, or more of an evangelism person?” As if you are either right handed or left handed. We can talk about spiritual gifts, we can talk about personalities, we can talk about ministry roles, but let’s not overcomplicate something that is very simple. Jesus called us to “make disciples.” Disciple-making encompases the whole process, from pursuing the lost to helping each believer take steps towards the likeness of Jesus. It’s not a left-hand-right-hand dichotomy, it’s one hand. The disciple making-hand of Jesus–in a world that needs Him.
I have been the recipient of an overwhelming amount of generosity. From the donors who partner with me in ministry, to friends who open their home, to the parents who sacrificed so much to raise me, to the little kids who saw this Auntie had a need—and give from their own collection of plastic cars to meet it. All of those gifts humble me. Each gift makes me a little less selfish, a little more generous, a little more like the giver. But by far, the greatest generosity ever shown towards me was the gift of a life for mine–Jesus–by whose wounds I am healed. That gift changes me each day, and just can’t help but pass it on.