Almost every story of every villain I can think of (which is a rather limited list, to be honest) begins with the same sad tune of anger ignited and fueled by one cold characteristic: isolation. Take the Mole, for instance: befriended by animals instead of humans because of his handicap, a hatred of humankind encouraged his evil acts. This fictional character makes for a great illustration on how the devil works today, and how very real his work is.
Having just finished our congregation-wide sermon and Bible study series on Revelation, and also having been to a recent seminar on the topic, I see more and more how the devil attempts to claim people today. His main tactic is exactly what we see in the Mole: isolation. However, the devil doesn’t do his thing to simply create fictional villains. The devil’s work is real.
As you’ve been reading, you’ve probably been thinking about people you know who have either been isolated or have isolated themselves. I isolate myself as well, and I do that by limiting conversations to Facebook, instead of having coffee with someone. What are other ways we isolate ourselves?
In contrast, think of the total opposite. If villains represent isolation, a team of superheroes can represent a much more beautiful picture: that of community. If isolation leads to a mole hole, community, in contrast, lives in the light. It’s a much richer picture of what God intends for us, and it starts with Discipleship.
My title is the Director of Discipleship and Outreach, and honestly, I used to think that the “outreach” portion of my job was more important than the “discipleship”. I was once the co-leader for a youth group that I brought to the Michigan District youth gathering a few years ago. I remember sitting amongst all of those Christian youth and thinking “We should be doing outreach instead of this”, and today I confess that that was wrong of me to think.
The picture that I wasn’t seeing then is this: outreach isn’t more important than discipleship, and neither is discipleship more important than outreach. Instead, outreach begins with discipleship. When Jesus is about to leave the disciples, He tells them to “Go”, but He doesn’t stop there. Jesus tells His followers to “go and make disciples, baptizing… and teaching.” Discipleship today looks a lot like a team of superheroes. Super heroes band together and form something special: they form a community.
To be a disciple is to be a group. It means loving your neighbor as yourself. Discipleship feeds into a community. Discipleship means to follow someone’s teachings, and if we are all following the same teachings of Christ, we are all a community of followers. If isolation is the devil’s number one tactic, to ward him off, Christ has instituted the best defense mechanism: community! “Go and make disciples”.
How does outreach begin with discipleship? Think of how many times you saw a group of people hanging out and thought, “hey, that looks like fun. I want to join that group”? Everyone does it! In contrast, think of times when you’ve been in a group and seen someone alone off to the side. As disciples, its our joy to bring these loners, these “Moles”, if you will, into a loving community. It’s naturally inviting. If discipleship is done well, that is, if community is built in the name and love of Christ, others see that and see something special. Outreach then becomes as easy as an invitation. “Join us.”
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us….” It is the responsibility for our group of disciples to reach the sojourners, the “Moles,” those living outside of God’s love. There’s discipleship feeding into the outreach! The best way to ward off the most villainous creature of all, the devil, is our group of those in faith surrounding us, disciples, which is a gift from God. The trick to becoming stronger? It’s as simple as an invitation.