Yesterday I met a sixteen year old kid who goes by the name Yo-yo. He’s had no place to call home since he was seven. His earliest years were no picnic, but then he lost his dad and slipped through the cracks of the system. Two states fought over who was responsible for him, and neither claimed him. He’s called Yo-yo because he’s always bouncing back and forth between places. That’s how he tells it anyway. I can’t know if the details are entirely true, but it was clear enough to me that he had indeed slipped through some cracks somewhere.
He wore ripped up jeans that were too big. The chains hanging off of him clanged and jingled when he walked. He had piercings and tattoos galore. The message on his oversized T-shirt was offensive. Very few of us church folk would look at him and think, “now this is a young man I could really disciple!” But why not?
I was tempted to think that his appearance was a deliberate attempt to push people like me away—to let me know he wasn’t interested in anything I stood for. But when I took the chance, he was eager to talk with me. He wanted me to see him. He didn’t care that I look like a thirty-something church lady. He was hungry for someone to value him enough to invest in him.
Isn’t that how Jesus went about making disciples? He chose a motley group of unlikely guys to share His life with. He answered stupid questions. He put up with frustrating ignorance. He dealt with lousy attitudes. Sure, He had affection for them, but I am convinced they were also quite inconvenient and tiresome at times.
Jesus kept pouring into them. He didn’t give up when they just didn’t seem to be getting it. He didn’t write them off when their motives weren’t entirely spiritual. He didn’t carve out a tiny, convenient corner of His life for them. There was too much at stake. These men were to carry His message and continue His work after He was gone. They needed His teaching, but they also needed to see what it looked like in real life. Jesus showed them.
If Jesus told us to make disciples, shouldn’t we use the model He provided?
That doesn’t mean putting on a tunic, grabbing a band of twelve men, and taking off across the country on an evangelistic campaign for three years. It does mean looking for people to invest in—and inviting them to invade our lives. It means being intentional, available, and transparent. It means a lot of time. It means full immersion into the life of another—ugly, painful, and burdensome parts included. It means being willing to risk—love always does.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB) 1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
When I hear this verse taught, it is always in the context of evaluating one’s own personal spiritual maturity.
Would it be a good thing if I said this to someone? Am I a healthy example of what it looks like to follow Christ?
I’m not saying that’s a bad way to approach it. Those are good questions to ask. If I can’t say this with Paul, it begs the question—am I following Christ? But there’s a second component implied here. If I determine that I am able to say it—I should be saying it.
Who should we extend this invitation to? Well, the answer to that question comes by asking God and looking around. It might be someone who’s never met Jesus. It might be someone new in the faith, someone who’s potential has been overlooked, or just someone who’s hungry for more.
There is no want for people to pour into. We just have to do it on purpose. And we can’t ignore kids like Yo-yo. My feelings of intimidation should not compete with his value as a child of God. Chances are he’s never seen Christ-like character modeled—and chances are he never will unless someone goes out of their way to invite him in.