Growing up, I had no intention of becoming a pastor. I was a three-year letterman in baseball, and sprawling onto the infield dirt and robbing a would-be baserunner of a single up the middle was my passion. I jokingly tell people that I played one year at the college level, sat the bench, and found out how good I wasn’t.
Sitting in church on Sunday mornings as a recent college graduate, I listened to the pastor speak with conviction for the lost and call us to join Jesus in His mission. Week after week he would exclaim, “We must make disciples!” I would hear his words, be cut to the heart, and think, Yeah, but I love sports. How does this apply to me?
As much as I wanted to join Jesus in His mission, I couldn’t connect the dots to understand what that looked like practically. At that time, my world revolved around working one part-time job at a restaurant and another at a fitness center, applying for dozens of entry-level positions in my field without any callbacks because I “didn’t have experience,” and spending my limited free time at the gym or with friends.
Thankfully, God connected the dots for me. I took an internship in sports ministry with a church because it seemed like a good opportunity to get some experience and build my resume. Over time, God showed me that my love of sports was a good thing but Jesus needed to be my passion. This wasn’t something that happened overnight, and I still have a long way to go as God regularly reveals areas of my life that are not fully surrendered to Jesus. Like all of us, I’m a work in progress. Nevertheless, as I submitted more aspects of my life to Him, learning to live in obedience, I began to see how every part of my life was an opportunity to bring glory to God, serve others, and share the hope I had in Him.
My internship provided opportunities to share devotions with the people in our leagues. This forced me to read my Bible more often. Initially, it was because I wanted to make sure I had something to say that sounded moderately intelligent. But eventually, as God’s Word promises to do, my heart began to change. I was connecting with God through His Word and wanted to live a life that honored Him. I also slowly became less worried about what people thought of me when I talked about Him. I genuinely wanted to share what God was teaching me and how He was changing me so others could experience the love of God for themselves. The more I shared my faith with others, the easier it became. I realized I didn’t need to know much, just the simple truths that I was a sinner saved by grace, I was living in repentance and faith, and I was growing in my love for the Father as Christ was being formed in me.
Although I had no name for it at the time, my disciple-making strategy was simple. First, I started inviting people to play in a softball league with me. Since playing sports was my favorite thing to do, this was a natural way for me to connect with people. Second, whenever a coworker at either of my part-time jobs shared a challenge in his life, I would ask if I could pray for him. This threw many people off guard, but most were open to my prayers because they figured, What can it hurt?
Third, and this turned out to be a difference maker, I would follow up on those prayer requests. These were people I cared about, and more than that, I knew God loved them. So I was always excited to see how God was moving behind the scenes in response to my prayers. People were surprised when I would follow up with them. They couldn’t believe I was genuinely interested in their lives. Eventually, people would come to me with prayer requests, and I started to see an openness to spiritual conversations. Because I showed interest in their lives and their spiritual beliefs, they were open to hearing mine, and I could freely share the gospel with them.
One early spring morning I walked into work at the restaurant. The flowers were in bloom and my manager was waiting for me at the door, arms crossed. “In my office,” she said sharply. My mind raced to figure out what I could have done that would require such an urgent meeting, and I knew these scenarios usually didn’t play out well.
She shut the door behind me. “Do you want to tell me why I have thirteen servers asking me for Thursday nights off?” she asked, irritated.
“Uh . . .” I stammered.
“Because you keep inviting them to play in your softball league,” she interrupted. “Stop it!”
I went home that day ecstatic. My obedience to Jesus had led to a (small) rebuke at work. For the first time, I felt like I was being used by God to make disciples, and the only things that changed were my mindset (I believed He wanted to use me) and my willingness to obey Him (by applying His commands in Scripture to my life and sharing my faith with others). By simply noticing the people around me and making small invitations (to play and to pray), I was being given opportunities to make disciples in my everyday, ordinary settings. What’s more, my love for Jesus and relationship with God was growing as I saw Him at work around me each day.
Many people want to be used by God but become overwhelmed by the thought of making disciples. I believe one reason for this is because we’ve made discipleship seem too complicated for the average person. However, when I look at the life of Jesus in the New Testament, He practiced simple principles that allowed Him to use everyday, ordinary settings to teach others about the Kingdom of God, and I believe He invites us to do the same today. The question is, are you willing to step out of your comfort zone and step into the work of disciple-making that He has prepared for you? If so, I invite you to join me and follow Jesus on this disciple-making journey!
This is an expert from Weston Bryant’s first book, Learn From Me: How Regular People Can Make Disciples Like Jesus Did. Available on Amazon for only $0.99. Get your copy today to start practicing simple disciple-making principles and help others follow Jesus.