SO MUCH MORE THAN PIZZA PARTIES

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I was excited. My wife and I were headed out for a weekend of fasting and prayer in the Columbia River Gorge, to ask God to confirm our calling to move to Europe to work with Josiah Venture. I was sure that God would speak incredible things into our lives. I was waiting for vision, inspiration, and passion for the move ahead. We got there on Thursday night, set up our camp, and began to pray and listen. Bring on the vision, I thought.

I looked over, and my wife was in tears. I wasn’t feeling too great myself. Faces of loved ones flashed through my mind. Cherished memories mixed in. These were followed by friendships, hobbies, and favorite places we would have to leave behind. No, no, no, I thought. This isn’t right. This is supposed to be a weekend of vision and excitement. This is supposed to be a weekend of passion and preparation. Maybe we’re on the “wrong channel.”

So we began to pray again. And again we began to think of cost and pain. This isn’t right, I thought. Okay, Lord, I’ll really try to listen this time. For a third time we bowed our heads and began to pray. Once again God brought to mind the things that would cost us so much if we followed him across the ocean. Hmm, I thought. Maybe God has something else in store for us this weekend.

In my last blog, I talked about how people get stuck. Students go off to university and leave their faith behind. Young leaders won’t step into the calling that God has placed on their lives because they’re afraid of the cost. One of the primary jobs of a disciple-maker is getting people unstuck. But how do we do it? How do we properly diagnose and treat a stuck student?

Calling

pizza_quote2In John 1, Jesus meets Peter for the first time, and Peter is stuck. He’s been passed over by the other rabbis as a disciple. He’s dropped out of school, given up on his education, and is pursuing the family business of fishing. Nobody wants Peter as their future leader. Nobody wants to build a ministry around him.

Then, in John 1:42, Jesus looks at Peter and says, “‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).”

Why does Jesus walk up to a perfect stranger and change his name? Why is this the way Jesus greets Peter?

Jesus gives Peter a calling. He sees potential in him. He recognizes his gifting. He looks at Peter and says, “I know who you are. And I know who you will become.”

There’s power in those words. Our disciples need to know that we know who they are right now—and that we love them exactly as they are right now. But more importantly, they must know we have vision for them. We must cultivate the Jesus-like ability to look past all of the rough edges, to look through all of the broken pieces, to see beyond the stubbornness that comes with adolescence and the foolishness that comes with the teenage years, to see who they can become.

Cost

In Matthew 16, we see another life-shaping encounter between Jesus and Peter. Jesus, yet again, is trying to explain to his disciples that he must go to the cross and die. Peter, always trying to be helpful, pulls Jesus aside to explain that this really isn’t a good idea. He wants Jesus to understand that dying on a cross isn’t good for building kingdoms. Perhaps he’s a bit worried about the cost for those following Jesus, too. And so Jesus, in one of the harshest moments in all of Scripture, turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan!”

Peter didn’t understand the cost. He hadn’t taken full stock of what it means to follow Jesus. And so, like many of our disciples, Peter was stuck. Jesus had made it clear what it meant to follow him, but Peter wasn’t ready.

pizza_quote1Often our students are stuck because they simply haven’t embraced the cost Jesus promised. Jesus didn’t just predict his own death. He called his followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses daily, and follow him. We’re all called to die. Sometimes we’re stuck because Jesus has called us to a cost that we aren’t yet ready to accept.

Unstuck

These are two very important words: calling and cost. Often stuck students have blurry vision for their spiritual lives. They can only see things from their narrow, earthly perspective. They need us to remind them of their calling and to encourage them to embrace the cost.

I’m so thankful that God led Liz and me to count the cost on our weekend retreat. When we moved to Europe, we experienced a level of cost we never could have predicted. My wife suffered a spinal fluid leak that temporarily paralyzed her from the waist down. Then her back and body went into a season of trauma that lasted 18 months and included over 100 visits to the doctor. At the same time, my son and I spiraled into a health challenge that turned our world upside down. We never could have guessed the cost that Jesus would ask us to bear. But if he hadn’t called us to count the cost, we never could have embraced our calling. And we would have been woefully stuck.

Who in your group needs to embrace their calling? Who needs you to come alongside them and help them see their potential? Who in your group needs to understand the cost? Who needs to know that following Jesus is about so much more than pizza parties and Wednesday night fun? Who needs to lean in, take up their cross and follow Jesus? God might use you to get them unstuck.

To hear a fantastic talk about this subject (not by me) at a conference I just led, click here. Here’s a teaser: “When God calls you, he knows who you are, he knows who you shall be, and he uses whoever you are—and whoever you are not—for his glory.” –Maruska Skonc

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