As I shared at my final talk at the EHL Conference 2016 last week, if we are not to be derailed, we must grasp two core biblical truths – limits and loaves.
My greatest sins over the last 30 years of leadership have revolved around embracing God’s limits. It remains my greatest temptation to this day – enticing me into rebellion, anxiety, and impatience. Like you I am limited, for example, by my time, my age, my physical energy, my gifts and talents, and the ministry context/people God has entrusted to me.
As a result, it is easy to grow frustrated and look for a quick fix, especially when it comes to discipleship.
If we define a disciple as a follower of Jesus who surrenders to His will and love, allowing Him to change us for the sake of the world, what percentage of your church attenders might actually be disciples? According to a recent Barna survey, only 1% of church leaders say that we are doing very well at discipling new and young believers.
Our limits are many. The need is immense. So as I inevitably drift towards pessimism and discouragement, God’s greatest encouragement to me has come through the lesson of the power of the loaves.
Jesus puts us in situations we don’t have control of to teach us faith in Him. (In fact, if we feel like we’re in control, we are probably lost.) A barley loaf was the food of the poor, its size only enough for one meal for one person. The Twelve had before them 5,000 men, perhaps 10,000-15,000 people if we include women and children.
Yet, when we place our little loaves into the hands of Jesus, they become a feast. Jesus calmly performs an invisible, non-dramatic miracle. An entire city is fed.
Jesus focused an enormous percentage of His time and energy to disciple 12 ordinary Galileans during his limited ministry. So must we.
Will reorienting your time and energy towards discipleship be slow? Yes. Will you painfully feel your severe limits? Yes. But remember, Jesus really is more than enough. In His hands, our few loaves become not simply manna for a day but an abundance that overflows to feed the world around us.