Discipleship: Activity, Results or Obedience?

Over the years, I’ve
crossed paths with many youth leaders/pastors who just can’t agree on
what a “fully-devoted follower of Jesus” looks like.

Early in my career
a pastor asked me what I wanted my students to look like.

I simply
said, “Like Jesus.” That proved to be an insufficient answer for the

Believe it or not, I still stand by that answer. However, the
answer deserves a more thorough explanation.

Let me suggest a shift in how we come to the conclusion of the
question. First, our society is massively focused on results. Just take
a look at the news and the discussion of the use of aid to Haiti
or the Economic Stimulus Package and it’s implementation.

We’re also
really focused on activity.
I hate simplistic Christian activity so
much that I have a bumper sticker on my truck that reads, “Look Busy,
Jesus is Coming.” Perhaps if we’re busy, the Boss won’t get mad.
So, if we base our answer of what a follower of Jesus looks like on
results, we’ll fall into the trap that’s already been set.

In fact, if
we look at the Prophet Jeremiah, or any of his contemporaries, we might
conclude that they were failures, not being able to turn the people
toward the LORD and thus, suffering exile. Miserable results of a
preaching ministry, eh?
If we base our conclusion on activity, we’ll fall short again.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, that just because people are doing the work of the Kingdom doesn’t mean they make it! (cf: Mark 3:14,15; Acts 19:11)

everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of
heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On
that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your
name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in
your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”

I think it’s ridiculous to simply say that a fully devoted follower
“knows Jesus”. Even that begs the question. In this passage, to “know”
means to have an intimate, personal, first-hand experience with
someone. In fact, it was actually the Jewish idiom used for

So, if this is the imagery used to describe what “knowing
Jesus” means, then what does that spin out to look like? How does that flesh itself out in the lives of students?
I say, a fully-devoted follower of Jesus has a “go anywhere, do anything”
attitude toward God and for God.

They are willing to sit the bench when the
Father tells them to sit. They are willing to hang on a cross when the
Father says, “Hang!” They do the will of the Father, which might be
significantly contrary to their own wishes. They respond like Isaiah
did when he said, “Here I am, send me”, without a hint of what his
mission would look like.

It means to have humility, compassion and
mercy that far exceeds anything man-generated. It means to have a
presence of the Holy Spirit
that is tangible — touchable.

In short, a fully devoted follower of
Jesus loves, passionately and deeply, Jesus and he obeys every word
that Jesus speaks to them.

Although activity and results are part of the “following-Jesus”
equation, they’re a poor test for faithfulness to Christ. Let’s stop
looking at our students and evaluating them by how much they’re
involved at church or youth group, how many Bible studies they attend or how many mission trips they’ve been on.
What if we started looking for their love for Jesus reflected in their obedience to the teachings of Christ,
their love for their brothers and sisters, their
sacrificial service towards others, their humility in being corrected,
their willingness to take a back seat so others can benefit (Philippians 2)?

Let’s stop checking to see if they’re “doing their devotions,” and
start encouraging their devotion to Jesus, because to know Him is to
love Him!

That means that the worst screw-up in your ministry, or the
one who hasn’t and won’t go on a mission trip,
or the one who isn’t always in church, just might be the one most
devoted to Jesus.

Perhaps, your student just happens to be a bit awkward, or has
been given a unique assignment from the LORD.