A guy I know has a curious way of getting acquainted with strangers. He’ll meet someone, perhaps a young person serving in a restaurant, who states she’s working part-time to help pay college expenses. After learning what she’s majoring in, he’ll ask something like, “When you graduate, then what?” The server will likely respond she hopes to find a job aligned with what she's studied. Then the customer will ask, “Then what?”
Perhaps she’ll reply she hopes to get married, buy a house, build a career, maybe have kids, and the usual stuff. After each response, the man will again ask, “Then what?” His goal is to eventually guide the person to considering the ultimate, “Then what?” When we die, then what?
|Embarking on our spiritual journey, "Now what?"|
is a very appropriate question to ask.
This line of inquiry is interesting, since we tend to focus on where we are in life at the moment, rarely considering the “then what?” of the next stage. There’s another question, however, that’s as important, in some ways maybe even more significant.
When people receive Jesus Christ into their lives, it is just the initial step in a journey of spiritual transformation. For many new believers, whether they “prayed a prayer,” walked an aisle, got baptized, raised a hand, or made some other faith declaration, what they need to know is, “Now what?”
Because just as the moment of physical birth is only the beginning of one’s visible and – hopefully – productive life, being “born again” is simply the start of one’s spiritual adventure with God. In fact, in His Great Commission, Jesus instructed His followers to “make disciples…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Those new in the faith need nearly as much care and attention as newborn babies. Whether they articulate the question or not, they all want to know, “Now what?”
Too often all they get is a schedule of church activities, receive encouragement to attend worship services (staring at the backs of people’s heads, singing songs, and listening to a sermon), and maybe being recruited for some form of church work. None of those things is bad, but it’s hardly what Jesus meant by “making disciples.”
If we use His example, we understand the intense, highly personal approach to disciple-making He employed. Jesus selected a handful of devoted followers, spent three years with them 24/7, and demonstrated by action as well as words what it means to serve God. And His disciples, despite some missteps along the way, held to that pattern.
The apostle Paul, writing to believers in the church at Philippi, said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). And to Timothy, his young protégé, Paul exhorted, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
These were not “show up whenever the church doors are open” directives, but instructions to live out and pass along what had been learned in the presence of older, more mature followers of Christ.
Sometimes we confuse “converts” – people who have turned from the direction they had been taking to face another direction – with disciples who are not only learning but also putting their lessons into action, and ultimately starting to teach others.