Pardon Your Servant, Lord

Being a disciple of Jesus is one of my greatest joys, but making disciples of Jesus is one of my deepest fears. In other words, I am a cross cultural worker who is scared of evangelism. God does have a sense of humor, doesn’t he?

When we were sent off to the field with the Great Commission ringing in our ears, I secretly assigned all of that disciple making business to my outgoing, theologian husband. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of gal, I reasoned. Plus my medical training makes me better equipped for practical, hands-on kinds of ministries. I feel much more competent bandaging a festering wound than trying convince someone to become a Christian.

My fear of making disciples has roots in the harmful history of colonization and the political overtones of evangelism in the U.S. In addition, I’m insecure about my lack of preaching abilities and have a deep aversion to confrontation. I remember an experienced cross cultural worker once told me that hungry people don’t need to hear the gospel, they just need to be fed. That resonated with me as I felt called by Jesus to meet the practical needs of His people overseas. I figured God would bring someone else along to preach the gospel. 

So imagine my surprise when my husband decided to use his COVID-supplied free time to write a Bible study series on evangelism! I tried to appear calm as he excitedly laid out his talking points. I was ashamed to tell him how terrifying this topic was to me. So, trying to be a good wife, I read his drafts and listened to his plans. 

The first point that jumped off the page was that the Great Commission is more accurately translated not as “go and make disciples” but as “in your going, make disciples.” This is not a command to go and do something marvelous or heroic. This is advice to take your everyday life and infuse it with the good news of the gospel. Jesus spent much of his ministry meeting the felt needs of those around him. I can communicate his message by doing likewise.

So as I’m tending to the sick, I am pointing to the Great Physician. When I’m visiting a widow, I am sharing about God’s love for the least of these. As I pause to pray before a meal, I am bearing witness to the fact that all that I have comes from God. My disciple-making is not contingent on eloquent arguments or powerful words from a pulpit. Instead I can follow the wisdom of Leslie Newbigin, who said, “Live your life in such a way that people ask you questions to which the gospel is the answer.”  

As I worked through my husband’s notes on evangelism, God began to redeem my understanding of this loaded word. I was still wrestling with these new realizations when I read the theme for this week: “Disciple.” And, to be honest, my first response was a flash of guilt. I can’t point to anyone that I’m actively discipling. Then came the excuses. Finally came the truth: I’m not making disciples because I’m not trying to make disciples. 

I firmly believe that God’s love is communicated more clearly in actions rather than words. And I’m learning that I can be an evangelist by living a life of sacrifice and service like Jesus did. Yet, there is no getting around the fact that Jesus does call us all to make disciples and that at some point words are necessary to “give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). 

Like Moses, I want to say “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and tongue.… Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:10, 13).  And I hear the Lord’s response to Moses ringing true even for me, “Who gave human beings their mouths?… Who gives them sight?… Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:11-12). 

These verses drove me to my knees, praying,

Oh Lord, please forgive me for running away from your calling to make disciples. Thank you for demystifying evangelism for me. Thank you for reminding me that even Moses felt inadequate. I praise you as the Creator God who knit me together in my mother’s womb and gave me the gift of speech. I trust you to supply me with the words that I need to point people to you. Please show me how to be a disciple maker as I go about my life today. Amen

Is the call to make disciples overwhelming for anyone else out there? How have you seen God use you to disciple others despite your weaknesses and fears?

17 Comments

  1. Crystal May 29, 2020

    Is the call to make disciples overwhelming for anyone else out there? Yes, that is me! I was a Children’s Pastor’s wife for 8 years, and now we’ve been overseas for 7 years, and I’m like this author, I’ve mostly left that part to my husband. My role was to take care of our four small children so he had the margin to do what he needed to do. Well, now our kids aren’t so small. We have two in college, and our youngest is 13. So now what’s my excuse? Then I realize, I have been discipling my own children for over 20 years. It hasn’t been perfect, and the methods haven’t been consistent, and many days I wonder if they’ve learned anything. But I know that they all have a good foundation for faith, and that they each have to learn to make their faith their own. Their life in Jesus won’t look like mine or my husband’s. They have to learn to walk with Jesus on their own now. I’ve introduced them to Jesus, His Word, and His ways through living with them for 18 years of their lives. Now I have to trust them to God and let Him grow them further than I could take them. I’ve also realized that I’ve learned more along the way than I thought. I’ve never called it evangelism or discipleship, I’ve just been doing my best to instill a love for Jesus into my kids. How does God want to use that now that they’re older? I guess I will keep asking Him that question, and go from there.

    1. Alyson Rockhold May 29, 2020

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad I’m not alone with these feelings! Wow discipling and molding four children’s faith is such important work. I’m grateful for your perspective as a mother. “I guess I will keep asking Him that question, and go from there” sums up a lot of my walk with God too!

  2. Joanna May 29, 2020

    I agreeI agree with you it is hard I don’t want it to be as hard as it is but I get so afraid of rejection I love to share the word of God it’s just that icebreaker moment that is most difficult for me

    1. Alyson Rockhold May 29, 2020

      I really appreciate your comment. It’s so encouraging to know that I’m not alone in these fears. Yes, ice breakers are so tough! I pray that God supplies you with the courage to act, words to say and grace for yourself amidst the struggles.

  3. Sheila Wier May 29, 2020

    Oh how I love the translation of While you go along the way Make Desciples!! Doing what we do,going where we go. Seeking out those who need the Gospel or allowing God to bring them to us! Together Touching Lives Ministry in Uganda is doing just that! By sharing and teaching about Life in the Womb, the value of life , mother care,abortion Recovery and many other life affirming teaching, The Gospel is always intertwined in all we say and do. I loved this article so much!

    1. Sheila Wier May 29, 2020

      Oh how I love the translation of While you go along the way Make Desciples!! Doing what we do,going where we go. Seeking out those who need the Gospel or allowing God to bring them to us! Together Touching Lives Ministry in Uganda is doing just that! By sharing and teaching about Life in the Womb, the value of life , mother care,abortion Recovery and many other life affirming teaching, The Gospel is always intertwined in all we say and do. I loved this article so much!

    2. Alyson Rockhold May 29, 2020

      Thank you for your kind, encouraging comment! It sounds like God is using your ministry in Uganda in powerful ways. I love how you say the gospel is intertwined in all you do and say. I pray the same can be said of my work. I’m right next door in Tanzania! Thanks again!

  4. Denise May 30, 2020

    I have tears running down my face as I read this. It’s become cliché now but, I feel seen… and that’s not always comfortable. Like when the eye doctor pulls into your personal space and then looks even closer for flaws.

    I also assign most of the “evangelism” to my more outgoing, more studied husband. Like the other commenter, we have three small kids. And I see how I use those as excuses to not take the risks to engage potential disciples. After all it was HIS name on the paycheck at the end of the day. I grew comfortable in a supporting role. Recently our org had to split the salary so we are BOTH employees for benefits reasons, so that blew that right out of the water. Also when we first started out, I thought more training, more books, more tools on how to share the Gospel was the answer. Three (to 8, depending on how you track our journey) years later, the subject still gives me butterflies and I feel like everything I ever stuffed in falls out of my brain.

    Truly, Jesus calls me to Himself. He continually reminds me He is first, the rest will be given as I need. The people, the words, the understanding, the time. Yep, I gotta remember I am discipling these kids as they grow – and pray for opportunities with their buddies and their parents.

    Wives, mothers, quiet ones, we have value. The Lord knows us. He does use us. He will stretch us! And in that stretching we will grow.

    1. Alyson Rockhold May 30, 2020

      I’m so grateful for your open, honest, heartfelt comment. What a blessing to know that I am not alone with these struggles! Thank you for the encouragement and truth in that last paragraph. I will remind myself of those wise words the next time my weaknesses make me feel unworthy.

  5. Jaclyn May 30, 2020

    This is so beautifully written and oh so applicable to Christians everywhere. God has placed us on a mission field wherever we are in our natural comings and goings. Thanks for this great reminder to be constantly aware of how to make disciples through our actions and to trust God for the words. Our small group just finished a study on Jonah and we talked about Jonah’s very simple 8 word “sermon” that he announced while walking through Nineveh. It was so refreshing to be reminded that it was God moving in their hearts, not Jonah’s words that brought change. It was a relief to be reminded that the pressure is off!! God just desires our willingness. He will take care of the rest.

    1. Alyson Rockhold May 30, 2020

      Thank you so much for your comment! I never realized that Jonah’s message was just 8 words- makes me want to read that book again. Praise God for always “taking care of the rest!”

  6. Joanna May 30, 2020

    Ok I have to give an update and lose my heavenly reward I shared the gospel! It’s been so long and it felt wonderful amazingly anticlimatic but wonderful. Thank you for the accountability and encouragement! I do with my kids but to show my daughter on her birthday how was the best thing!

    1. Alyson Rockhold May 31, 2020

      Praise God!!!!!! Your testimony is so encouraging! I imagine God saying, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Thank you for coming back here to share this wonderful news. God is so good!

  7. Jo June 2, 2020

    You can do it sister!!!!!!! Being available and open to being used is the beginning. Often for me the best times I have had with women I am discipling is sharing the stories of my life, past and present and what God taught/is teaching me through them and answering their questions about Jesus, the Bible, etc. We have so much inside of us we can share with guidance from the Holy Spirit.
    On the field we have had an intense focus on EV and discipleship the last 2 years specifically and I have found that practice makes things easier to say and it gives me greater confidence and ease with discipling even my own children!!! My 5 year old came to faith last month after I shared the testimony of my local friend who recently came to faith. What!!! And it started with chatting about Noah… What!!!? I had an amazing discussion with a friend the other day and she was the one who brought up Jonah! Again, what! God is so faithful to use us in practically loving people, meeting needs, walking out our front doors and opening our mouths. He will use it all!!!

    1. Alyson Rockhold June 3, 2020

      Jo, thank you so, so much for your comment. I can hear the joy of the Lord just bubbling out of you! Your examples and insights are very encouraging. What a fantastic testimony about your daughter and friend coming to faith. All praise to the God who truly does use it all!

  8. Jeanne June 3, 2020

    This topic comes up over and over in our couples group. We all admit our reservations and know we need to improve. But how?Your awareness that we need to use words to accompany our actions is what I needed to hear. I need to open my mouth more often and speak what God puts on my heart to say. I recently saw this played out so beautifully. We had out-of-state company leaving after a 5-day visit, which was packed full with fun activities, a lot of laughter and good food, and perfect weather for swimming, boating and jet skiing. Over the course of the days, I kept silently thanking God for all the joy He was providing. I felt so blessed. But my husband was the one who actually said, “Let’s pray together before you leave.” Those simple words led to a circle of family members, including 5 children, ages 20 months to 14 years, and 5 adults, bowing their heads while they listened to words of thanksgiving for a wonderful time and asking for safe travels home. He made it look so easy. When I thought about his practice of reading through the Bible almost daily, I realized that that’s when God was, most likely, prompting him to be bolder. He opened his mouth and God spoke through him. He planted seeds in me and perhaps in the others’ hearts to be bolder, too.
    Thanks for sharing, Alyson, and thanks for being so real!

    1. Alyson Rockhold June 4, 2020

      Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your beautiful story. I love how you parallel dwelling in God’s word with speaking God’s word. That makes a lot of sense. Way to go for your husband stepping out to share his faith! I hope we can all follow his example.

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