In a previous post, I shared about my friend Rob and the burden I frequently encounter when I ask church leaders, “What does disciple making look like in your life?” I continued to outline two key observations made as I’ve glimpsed into the disciple making journey of many church leaders.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read Part 1, before continuing with me in Part 2.
Here, I promised to share what has catalyzed a significant shift from “do-to-be” and “bounded set” thinking, towards the unforced rhythms of grace Jesus refers to in the Message paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30.
It really is an identity issue!
My shift starts first and foremost with an increased understanding of my God given identity. Both the identity that is given to all followers of Jesus, and my unique, one-of-a-kind identity.
First, disciple is the identity of every Christ follower.
My brother and sister, Caesar and Tina Kalinowski, have expanded my understanding of the Great Commission by instilling in me disciple is not something I do, but someone I get to be. Disciple is rooted in my identity.
Let’s look at Matthew 28:19,
“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.” (NIV, emphasis mine)
When we are baptized into the name of the Father, we are acknowledging we have adopted the name of the Father. To have the name of our Father, is to belong to God’s family. God is our Father, and we are His children. Living as His children together in His family, reflects the Father’s heart to the world.
Yeah, yeah, I know you already know this. But don’t stop there. Keep going with me…
We are also to baptized into the name of the Son. Again, we have adopted the name of the Son. I am a sister of Jesus, in the Father’s family. Philippians 2:6-8 tells us that Jesus took on the very nature of a servant. To be baptized into Jesus’ name is to assume the identity of servant. Jesus didn’t act like a servant. He took on the nature of a servant. I’m not to act like a servant. I am a servant.
Lastly, we are baptized into the name of the Holy Spirit. Miraculously, our identity reflects the image of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 declares through the power of the Holy Spirit we are sent to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit empowers us as sent ones, or missionaries. To be baptized into the name of the Holy Spirit is to have the identity as a sent one, as a missionary. This isn’t an identity reserved for a few unique overseas Christians. Missionary is the identity of all believers.
We are created in the image of a Triune God. As I grow in that truth, I experience an increase in what I can only name an unforced rhythm of grace.
I am always a disciple of Jesus and always a child of God, who is part of a family of servants on God’s mission as we make disciples who make disciples. Whether I’m at the store chatting with the clerk, in my front yard with my neighbour, running my home with Gen Z kids, or hanging out with a few people trusting Jesus to physically and emotionally heal us, I’m a disciple. It’s in my family name, and it’s in my spiritual DNA. It’s in me to live. It’s in every follower of Jesus to live. This doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does mean we’re created for it and being transformed for it.
Previously I operated from bounded set thinking. I looked at spiritual growth, serving others and living on mission, as three separate activities. Because I’d separated them into boxes, they competed with one another.
When I reflect on my identity as baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I realize the heresy of my behaviour. Yes, heresy. My actions did not align with who God is. My identity as child of God, servant and missionary are a unified identity. Never once in all of eternity has the Trinity disagreed. “For the Lord our God is one.” (Deut 6:4) My sinful nature can at times feel tension in the process of submission to its new Master, but God is never in tension with Himself. Jesus, who gives me the identity of servant doesn’t pull me in a different direction than the Father, or the Holy Spirit. To grow as a child of God, must also mean to grow as a servant and a sent one. Today what I once saw as compartmentalized and competing behaviours I see as a unified identity. It’s here where I experience the unforced rhythms of grace.
Second, our identity as disciple integrates with our one-of-a-kind identity.
While all Christ followers receive the identity of disciple, we know that God has intentionally formed us and uniquely transforms us. Unlike IT in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, God doesn’t assimilate us into identical automatons all bouncing red balls in unison. 1 Corinthians 12 reveals to us, we are each formed to play a unique, partial role within the complete Body. It’s ill-informed to believe each disciple should operate like everyone else.
Our passions, and skills are the very places where God uses us to disciple people others can’t.
So back to Rob. He’s an avid runner and gardener. Prior to this shift, running, gardening, disciple making, and parenting, were all in separate categories. Today, Rob is coming alive as he welcomes others into a running community and looks upon the bounty of his vegetable garden to bless his neighbours. Rob no longer feels like he must sacrifice his God-given design to run in order to go make disciples. Instead, running has now become a space where disciple making happens. Rob and a few Jesus loving friends pray boldly for the group. As a result, they are witnessing the Spirit provide opportunities to care for tangible needs of group members, share the Good News into real life challenges, pray with and for individuals and encourage some to discover the person of Jesus more fully.
But here’s the catch.
Sorry, there is a catch. And I believe it’s the space where most of us feel significant dissonance. It’s the reason my friend Rob became so burdened when I asked him about disciple making.
Disciple making environments are spaces where everyone can be discipled. God creates an eco-system conducive to everyone’s transformation.
This includes both disciple and disciple maker.
Transformation is the process whereby we live more fully into our God-given identity. God is gifted and faithful at using relationships to highlight anything we believe that opposes our true identity.
There are times when something in our perceived identity doesn’t mesh with our God-given yoke. However, if we dismiss it too quickly, we will miss an opportunity for transformation. This time it’s not the yoke that needs changing. This time, we do! Our flesh requires crucifixion, as Christ desires to live more fully in us.
I’ve still got much to learn, but here’s my discovery thus far. When the yoke feels heavy and ill-fitting, it’s typically one of two situations:
Either the yoke is ill-fitting and I’m trying to disciple in a way that’s not in agreement with who God’s created me, or;
God is using the disciple making journey to crucify something in me. The yoke will only fit well once my fleshly nature is put to death.
My most challenging and formative space is discerning the difference between the two!
And here’s where it comes full circle.
I have only ever peaceably and truthfully navigated this wrestle amid discerning, and prayerful Christian community.
Disciple making. I’m created for it and it’s created for me. It’s in me to live and it gives me life.
Questions for Prayerful Reflection with the Holy Spirit
How would you describe the work of disciple making in this stage of your life?
Identify an area of passion or gifting that could be uniquely invested for the advancement of the Great Commission. Will you surrender this to God and ask for His divine creativity in its investment?
Is there an area of your “identity” that feels like it resists disciple making? Will you surrender it to God and allow Him to form you in your true disciple making identity?
 Kalinowski, Caesar. Transformed: A New Way of Being Christian. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013.  If you aren’t familiar with Madeleine L’Engle’s work and life, I encourage you to read her works. They are brilliant. Her work reflects a depth of relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that is nothing short of miraculous. https://www.madeleinelengle.com/