Sunday, July 17, 2011

Evangelism and Discipleship - A Parable

There was a certain man named Jim, who lived in the dense jungles of a faraway place. The land Jim lived on was a vast piece of property bordered by a river to the south. The river went for hundreds of miles in both directions and cut a deep canyon through the land, which made it nearly impossible to cross over to the other side, except at the few bridges that had been built by missionaries years before.

Jim had never been to the other side of the river. As a boy, his parents warned him not to cross over to that wild and dangerous place. Growing up in this region, everyone knew the stories about the odd customs and beliefs of the strange people on the other side and few dared to cross over to see for themselves.

Jim had a friend named Robert, who had been to the other side. Robert had many good things to say about what took place across the river. Out of respect for his friend's wishes, Robert didn't ask Jim if he wanted to go across. They talked about other things. The two men took many long walks on the dirt paths that criss-crossed the jungle floor. Over the years they had become good friends and Robert, having great wisdom, took to counseling Jim through the difficulties of his life and Jim's respect for Robert grew as the years went by.

From time to time, Jim walked a favorite trail that led to the river and ended at one of the bridges to the other side. Without fail, every time he wandered that way, just to gaze across the canyon or to relax while tossing sticks into the raging waters below, someone from the other side would invite Jim to come across the bridge. Jim's answer was always the same; "No thanks."

Two years earlier, Jim's friend Mary decided to cross over. The person that invited her talked about the wonderful things that she would see and experience across the river. And when Mary got there, she wasn't disappointed. It was beautiful. The people seemed pleasant and the streets were well maintained. It was like living in another world. But she found it hard to make friends. People on this side were somewhat cold and distant. They smiled often and knew how to be polite, but they guarded their speech and kept to their own affairs and weren't very friendly. The man who invited Mary to cross over never contacted her again after that day.

Many who crossed over lived in loneliness and isolation. Some crossed back over to the jungle from which they came. But there were always some who invited the jungle people to cross over the bridge, promising them paradise.

One day, while walking, Jim and Robert came to the bridge and stopped.

"You've been my friend all these years Robert. You've stayed by my side and helped me whenever I needed it. I see wisdom in you and it's benefited me, when I took your advice. I desperately need to know what's on the other side. Something is pulling on me to cross over. But I've heard stories about being abandoned. Robert, I trust you. Please tell me you'll stay beside me if I cross over."

Robert looked at his friend and said, "Jim, the one I serve gave me a promise; 'I will never leave you or forsake you.' I make that same promise to you."

The two men crossed over and Robert began the journey of exploring the kingdom of God with his friend. He kept his promise. They remained friends for life and walked together, sharing many adventures.

Many of us are excited to bring others across the bridge into the kingdom of God. That's how we win souls. And he who wins souls is wise. But Jesus asked us to make disciples. Discipleship requires something different. It's a daily walk with others as we pour into them what Jesus poured into us. Discipleship requires a commitment and faithfulness to the ones in our charge. It's not a one time deal. It's for life.

Let us win souls, but let us also mature into people who are able to make disciples. This is the fruit that lasts into eternity.



Rick Knock said...

Excellent parable! Thanks!

sue wilke said...

You are my Robert for me, Dave. I am so seeing in the spirit I can hardly type.

Kingdom goodies this is filled with. YUM.