Doing My Part | Setting The Table

by Joel Owen - Lead Pastor | Grace Fellowship Church, Kingsport, TN

We have a man in our church that is a chef… like 5-Star chef! He happened to be in my Life Group a few years ago and for our Christmas party he volunteered to cook a meal for our entire Life Group, kids included. The amount of food and the quality of the spread was unreal! Multiple courses of mouth watering food- stuff I couldn’t even pronounce because it was so classy! He set the table for us in an incredible way. The food he made for the kids was just as spectacular: four cheese mac ’n cheese with bacon sprinkles and a crumb topping plus some of the most amazing chicken strips you’ve ever seen with some kind of delicious glaze on top. The table was set for a feast! But have you ever taken kids to a really nice meal like that? They wouldn’t eat the food because it didn’t look like the mac ‘n cheese out of the box at home! The chicken tenders didn’t come from a microwaveable bag in the freezer, so they turned their nose up to it! Can you imagine? I was horrified. My chef friend did his part by setting the table, but we couldn’t force the kids to eat something that was unfamiliar, no matter how good it was!

I’ve experienced this in making disciples as well. There have been a few times I’ve invited men into a discipling relationship, explained what I expected of them and desired for us to experience together as followers of Jesus, but then within a few months the person I asked to join me for the journey stepped away. I had set the table for discipleship to take place, but a busy schedule or lack of motivation or something else in their life caused them not to remain committed to relational discipleship. I know God is always at work doing what only He can do to draw people to Himself relationally. My part is walking with people in relationship to make disciples in relational environments. Their part is to let God change them through the methods Jesus laid out for us as we follow Him as disciples. When I think about doing my part I think of setting the table and inviting people to come and eat. But I can’t force them to enjoy it or return for more, staying committed to the process.

In Luke 18 Jesus had a similar experience with a man who came to Him asking how to inherit eternal life. God was visibly at work in this man’s life, causing him to think of eternal things. Then Jesus set the table by inviting the man to sell all he had so he could follow Jesus as a disciple. However, Luke tells us the man went away sad because he was very wealthy. Jesus made an invitation to discipleship and was willing to invest time and energy into this man, but Jesus would not force the man to follow.

It can be discouraging when we set the table for discipling relationships only to have someone reject the invitation! When I first began trying to disciple others, I would invest in multiple people, but I did it one-on-one throughout the week. What I discovered was it was hard to get our schedules to align or they had things that would come up and they would prioritize their other events over our time together. Those relationships fizzled out pretty quickly and the discipleship process I envisioned ended. So, I did what Jesus did- I asked multiple people to join me at the same time, all together! Now there was accountability and deeper relationship among a group of disciples. I found that people stayed at the table much longer in those environments!

My part of the discipleship process is to set the table. I trust and believe God is always at work in the lives of people around me doing His part. The part of the person being invited to be discipled is to pull up a chair, sit at the table and let God transform them from the inside out through relational discipleship!

By

Joel Owen, Lead Pastor
Grace Fellowship Church
Kingsport, TN