Before we get into it, the answer is yes…that is a lizard. I think it is a southern aligator lizard. I snapped this picture when it crashed a recent small group ministry event at Saddleback. Seriously, it meandered through the room from front to back, creating a little bit of mayhem every time it got a hair too close to a foot or disappeared under a table.
What’s Up with the Title of This Post?
You might be wondering about the title of this post. Here’s the backstory. There’s a running conversation these days about discipleship. Some have asked, “Are we really making disciples in our small groups? Or have we settled for simply connecting people into community?” Some wonder if we’ve made “an idol of community that needs to be knocked over?” And some even make the bold statement that we do a disservice to everyone who responds to our invitation to join a small group to satisfy their most basic felt need (belonging) without pointing out our end-in-mind (becoming).
Can I offer a few observations from the gospels?*
First, a simple check of A.T. Robertson’s A Harmony of the Gospels reveals a series of interesting insights about Jesus’ invitations. Looking at the gospel events in their probable sequence indicates that Jesus’ first invitation was to simply “come and see.” (John 1:35-51) Note the conspicuous absence of much of a disclaimer. Simply “come and see.” See also, The Twelve Were Not Chosen from the Core.
Second, the next invitation seems to happen about a year later. In an event reported in Mark 1:16-20, Matthew 4:18-22, and Luke 5:1-11 Jesus invites Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John to “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Obviously, a little more to this invitation than “come and see.” Responding to the invitation and the miracle described in Luke 5, the four men leave their family businesses and follow.
Third, sometime later Jesus invites Levi the tax collector (Matthew) to “follow.” (Mark 2:13-17, Matthew 9:9-13, Luke 5:27-32) More than “come and see.” Is this Levi’s first encounter with Jesus? Who knows.
Fourth, still later, Jesus spends a whole night in prayer and “called His disciples and chose twelve of them (Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16).” I just want to point out that He apparently chose the twelve from among a larger group. He designated the twelve apostles. And He was 11 for 12.
Finally, every reference to a “come and die” invitation happens in the last year of Jesus’ three year ministry.
- The gospels illustrate conclusively that Jesus operated with a “crowd-to-core” strategy. His initial invitations were not hard. In fact, they were easy. They were a no-brainer. “Come and see.” Anyone suggesting that the entrance requirements were high is simply not being honest about the sequence of events in the gospels. By the way…there were no disclaimers about what would happen later.
- Jesus’ strategy was fluid and met people where they were at the moment. His invitations were customized to the person. Note the difference between what He says in Matthew 8:18-22 and Mark 5:1-20. See also, Next Steps for Everyone…and First Steps for Their Friends.
- Jesus made progressively more challenging asks of His disciples. Luke 9:23 is in the game plan, but it is not first. “Come and die” happens later…but it does happen. It is not possible to read the gospels and find community without an invitation to progressive abandonment to the Kingdom.
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.
*I have a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am not a biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination…but I do know how to use the tools. I wish to the core of my being that I would have been more diligent in my studies with Dr. Curtis Vaughan and Dr. Jack MacGorman…but I stand, albeit unsteadily, on the shoulders of giants.