I grew up attending church. In fact, I think I was less than a week old when my parents first took me to First Baptist Church in Calvin, Okla. As I grew and learned about Jesus, I realized my need for a Savior and at age six I made a commitment to follow Him.
I continued to learn and grow in my faith throughout grade school and high school. Though I had genuinely experienced the saving grace of God, I often settled for simple devotion and “dos and don’ts” rather than purposeful discipleship.
Fast-forward to college
I distinctly remember when God began to gently push me toward purposeful discipleship (or what some would call missional living). It happened during a week-long summer mission trip to Houston. We were serving in several mission centers in a poor section of the city.
The mission centers often received day-old bread and other perishable food items which the missionaries in turn distributed in the community. One day the center received several large sacks of “perishing” potatoes. My buddy and I were asked to sort through the sacks to see if any potatoes were salvageable. We squeezed and poked each potato seeking out the rotten spots. We then cut off the bad parts, washed the “fragments” that were left and put them in buckets of clean water. Now it was a typical summer day in Houston – hot, humid and sunny. The warmer it got, the worse the potatoes smelled. My stomach was queasy throughout the process. It was very satisfying to see hungry people line up and happily take these rescued potatoes later that afternoon.
In my prideful heart I thought “I wouldn’t eat those potatoes.”
That evening as we sat down for our meal at the mission house, I couldn’t help but notice the large bowl of mashed potatoes front and center. While Mildred McWhorter, the director of the mission center, was still in the kitchen my buddy and I quietly joked about the potatoes. We expressed how thankful we were that these were not the same potatoes we had cleaned earlier.
Ms. Mildred overheard our conversion and whipped around the corner. With stern, but caring tone she assured us that these were in fact the same potatoes. She went on to say that she would never distribute any food she was not willing to eat herself. Woe to me!
Well, I ate a big helping of those rescued potatoes along with some humble pie. I learned a lesson about identifying my neighbors and loving them as I love myself. It was a key moment in my growth toward purposeful discipleship.
Integrating belief and action for purposeful living
Just a few years later I moved to Pittsburgh, Pa. to serve as a college minister. In this urban setting God’s gentle push toward purposeful discipleship became a loving shove. I can’t put my finger on one event, it was everything. It was my first time to live outside of the Bible Belt – my first time to live in a large city. My view of God grew and my view of His Kingdom expanded. My time in Pittsburgh prepared me for how God is calling me to live in New Orleans.
I realized that discipleship involves the integration of love for God and love for our neighbors. It involves vibrant worship of the Triune God, who receives top priority in our lives, and selfless service to others. We are saved by God’s grace to serve in His power. It’s all about integrating belief and action – a “growing and going” faith. We are called to live out biblical Christian discipleship in a way that brings others to Christ. We are called to live out the Great Commission and the Great Commandments. I’m not there yet, but that’s how I’m trying to live
Photo by Hai Nguyen at Unsplash.com.