Summary: The church multiplies disciples only when its members are present as God's humble servants, preach the word as God's human spokesmen, and present themselves as God's holy sacrifices.
Rick Harrison, of Newark, Ohio, talks about his six-year-old son, who seemed to demand Rick’s attention just when he was most busy around the house. Rick says, “My standard reply has been, 'I'm busy right now. Go ask your mother.’”
Then one day, the disappointed look on his son’s face convinced Rick to change his priorities. He resolved to give his son his immediate attention whenever he asked, but that resolve was quickly tested. Rick had just climbed a ladder to the top of their two-storied house with a paintbrush and bucket in hand. As he dipped his brush into the paint, he heard a little voice call, “Daddy, Daddy.”
Determined to keep his new resolution, Rick immediately laid the paintbrush and bucket aside and climbed back down to the ground to see what his boy wanted. Rick got down on both knees, looked him straight in the face and asked, “Well, now what can I do for you, son?”
His reply: “Daddy, where's Mommy?” (Rick Harrison, Newark, OH, “Lite Fare,” Christian Reader, www.PreachingToday.com)
Rick knew he had to get his priorities straight; otherwise, he would lose his son. And that’s the way it is in life. Priorities are important! They can determine the success or failure of whatever we set out to do, whether it’s being a father, succeeding in business, or doing ministry.
Charles Schwab, former president of Bethlehem Steel, once hired Ivy Lee, a consultant, to (quote) “Show me a way to get more things done with my time.” Charles Schwab agreed to pay Lee “anything within reason” if his suggestions worked.
A little while later, Lee handed the executive a sheet of paper with this plan:
a) Write down the most important tasks you have to do tomorrow.
b) Number them in order of importance.
c) When you arrive in the morning, begin at once at number 1 and stay on it until it is completed.
d) Recheck your priorities, then begin with number 2… then number 3.
e) Make this a habit every working day.
f) Pass it on to those under you.
g) Try it as long as you like and then send me your check for what you think its worth.
Do you know, Schwab paid Lee $25,000 for that advice! He said it was the most profitable lesson he had ever learned, and it turned Bethlehem Steel into the biggest independent steel producer in the world within five years! (Charles Swindoll, Come Before Winter, pp.24-25)
That’s what ordering your priorities can do!
God has called us as a church to multiply disciples of Christ who love Him and people. He has called us to make disciples – all of us! (Matt. 28:19-20). So what does that mean in terms of ordering our priorities? What are our most important tasks as disciple-makers? What should be the first 3 things on our list as we go to work as a church on the task God has called us to?
Well, if you have your Bible, I invite you to turn with me to Acts 20, Acts 20, where the Apostle Paul sums up his priorities as a maker of disciples. Here, he is saying farewell to a group of men he has discipled and trained over the last 3 years, and he reminds them of the ministry he had among them.
Acts 20:17-18 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. (NIV)
And HOW did Paul live with them? As the great apostle, dispensing his vast store of knowledge? As the man who knew it all and was going to set the rest of the world straight? How did Paul live with them?
Acts 20:19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. (NIV)
Paul was with them, not as the great apostle, but as God’s humble servant. And THAT, my friends, is the first priority of a disciple-maker. If we are going to multiply fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, then 1st of all, we must…
BE PRESENT AS GOD’S HUMBLE SERVANTS.
We must be there, serving the Lord with tears and with trials. Jesus called His disciples, 1st, to be WITH Him (Mark 3:14). Paul says to these men, “I was WITH you.” We cannot make disciples from a distance. We must be WITH those we’re trying to reach. Our personal presence is an absolute MUST. We MUST be there humbly serving our Lord and suffering right along with them.
Just a few years ago, Leadership Journal did an interview with Saul Cruz, who along with his wife founded Armonia (Harmony) Ministries in Mexico City. They minister to hundreds of poor people all over Mexico today, but they began their ministry by planting a church on the edge of a vast garbage dump. Starting the church had its challenges. In particular, the people had a difficult time trusting Saul's leadership. Although Saul is a gifted strategist and thinker, he often appeared aloof. His education prepared him to be a psychologist, a family therapist, or a college professor, and by his own admission, at that point Saul was “unwilling to plunge into the pain and poverty of his people.”