Discipleship has become a popular topic of conversation in Christian circles once again. I’m sure it was never really off the agenda. Perhaps we just referred to it in different ways. But it’s back. The question of how we make disciples is one of the burning questions of the hour for many church leaders. And sometimes we are told that we should be making disciples instead of asking people to make decisions. That is a whole discussion in itself. How can we help people become disciples if they don’t make a decision to follow Christ in the first place?!
Perhaps an even more basic question is: what exactly is a disciple or follower of Jesus?
Luke chapter 5.1-11 records the call of Simon Peter to follow Jesus. Jesus promises Simon Peter that if he follows Him, He will enable him to catch people instead of fish (v.10). Obviously the picture that Jesus paints makes perfect sense to Simon Peter as he is a fisherman and he has just brought in an unexpectedly huge catch of fish.
We know that Simon Peter spent the rest of his life influencing people for Jesus, most notably on the day of Pentecost when three thousand responded to his preaching.
How does all of that translate for us?
I would suggest that discipleship can be stripped back to two things: being influenced by Jesus and being an influence for Jesus.
The story in Luke 5 illustrates both of these aspects.
Simon Peter was influenced by Jesus. Simon Peter gave Jesus his boat so that He could preach to the people (v.3). Simon Peter listened to Jesus’ instruction to sail into deeper water and let down the nets – even though that advice was contrary to the wisdom of fishermen. After all they had already fished all night unsuccessfully (v.5)!
And Simon Peter recognised His own sinfulness in the presence of Jesus (v.8).
Simon Peter opened up his life to Jesus both practically and spiritually. He allowed Jesus to influence the way he “did” everyday life. And he also acknowledged the reality of his own spiritual condition.
When we allow Jesus into our everyday lives and when we are courageous enough to submit to a spiritual reality check, discipleship is in process.
Jesus, however, isn’t just interested in turning us into better people. He also calls us to be influential people. Influential for Him. The kind of influence that we have for Him might not be expressed in the same way as Simon Peter’s influence was expressed. But to live consistently and courageously and compassionately for Jesus will bring His influence into the world that you live in, even if you never preach a sermon that results in three thousand conversions. He will make you an influence for Him, just as surely as He made Simon Peter skilful at fishing for people.
A call to follow Jesus is an invitation to influence. And the more you are influenced by Him, the greater will be your influence for Him.