Yesterday, we went to a retirement party, for Kenny. He has been a Barnabas, a 'Son of Encouragement', just like that man, in the book of Acts. The occasion was his retirement from 30 years at his job, but what we really celebrated was his 45 years or so of ministry, as a disciple who made disciples.
I was blessed to be one of the people whom he reached out to, to show the love of Jesus to, over 40 years ago. That 'Thank You' song by Ray Boltz, came to my mind; as I listened to the four men, including my brother, who got up and paid tribute to Kenny:
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am a life that was changed.
Thank you for giving to the Lord.
I am so glad you gave.
Kenny was and is an encourager. One of the guys who spoke yesterday, said that he has been like Barnabas. They gave this man, in Acts, that nickname, that means 'Son of Encouragement'; and that is also what our Kenny has been. Barnabas was a constant positive influence on those around him.
Kenny made disciples. Here are some of the ways his life showed how it is done.
Making disciples involves sharing life together. We have our jobs and we need to get our rest. But the remainder of our time is time we can spend together, with others.
Discipleship happens in the context of sharing life together. It is usually not a class you go to or a learned degree that you earn.
How to live in Christ is learned by living life around others who have Christ in them. We do need to encounter God alone and continue to have a one to one relationship with God. But we learn how to live through life together with other Christians.
Sharing life means eating meals together. Disciple makers are often party makers. Discipleship is about connecting people to Christ's life and to each other for Christ's life.
Sharing life also means playing together. People need play time. There is a vast spectrum of play that God has for us.
When we share life, we learn about Jesus and about how to live in him.
A disciple maker who is encouraging is simply available. Many of us are too busy and tired to be available.
Activities are for the purpose of connecting with people and connecting others to each other and to the Lord. We can't lose sight of this.
Disciplemakers sponsor people, just like in the 12-step programs. A sponsor is simply someone who encourages another person and makes themselves available to them. You sit with them and you converse with them. You help them walk.
A disciple who makes disciples is willing to take risks of faith. Along with making themselves available: having a life for the sake of others, they are willing to take a Christian risk. They are willing to try something, not knowing if it will work, or if they might be rejected.
There is a positive outlook on life that a disciple who is a disciple maker has. This is because they have roots in God and God's love for them 'no matter what'. In other words, the answer to the question, "what if you fail?", for them is, "I know God loves me, no matter what".
Another way to put it, is that a disciple who is a disciple maker is not hung up on outcomes. They know that stuff does not always work and things and people fail. That is ok with them, because they get it that God is good no matter what and that God can turn anything around and bring good out of things.
Disciples who are disciple makers know that nothing happens unless we do something. We might fail, but we can be assured that nothing good will happen if we do nothing. They are doers, active: action takers.
Disciples are givers. The first thing that Barnabas (Joe from Cypress) did was make a big gift to the church. When he became a Christian, right out of the gate, he began to give in a big way.
Whether we give big or give small, the point, idea, practice or lifestyle is to give. Just give! Be generous!
Disciples live their lives under the motto of 'give and it shall be given'. God multiplies what we give, and disciples get this and live in that paradigm.
Disciples take life as it comes. They get it that God is in charge and there are many moving pieces. Disciples do not do 'my way or the highway'. And they can embrace 'plan b', when 'plan a' does not work. They are flexible!
Disciples are servants. They get it that we are both sons or daughters and slaves. We are God's kids, but we are here to serve God, even as slaves.
Disciples live their lives at the service of God and others.
A disciple learns to be themselves. Being a giver, a lover, and a servant are marks of a disciple. But they also embrace who they uniquely are.
If you are a disciple, you learn to love yourself and be comfortable in your own skin, with who God make you to be. Barnabas was a great friend to Paul and encouraged this man who would become perhaps the most famous Christian. But these two great guys also had a blowout, a conflict where they parted ways.
They were not perfect. And they had unique, God given, personalities and passionate ideas, while both being in-Christ; yet, they had their conflict and a separation.
And they did what Jesus taught us. They reconciled. But it was after a considerable period of time.
Don't think you have irrevocably failed if you fail in a friendship or relationship. It happened to Paul and Barnabas.
Disciples who make disciples celebrate with us and weep with us. When someone calls them, who has just experienced a loss, they say, "I'm on my way".
The same person who loves to celebrate you and everything you do will also be by your side when anything negative happens to you.
A Barnabas type person is a friend to everybody, but they make you feel like you are their special friend. I have had several friends like this. As life unfolded and time went by, I saw that they had blessed others, many, many others with the same, special friendship they gave me.
We think addition, but God does multiplication. We think of that one and this one and of joining together with one person. But God takes these 'adds' and multiplies them into a woven tapestry, that is a work of art or an architectural wonder.
Disciples who make disciples are inviters and includers. They live 'the more the merrier', have 'an open door policy', and 'open invitations'. They know about hospitality and gift giving. And they treat the supposedly lowest person with love, dignity, and respect.
And encouragers also know about 'in season and out of season'. They do their thing that God has gifted them to do, throughout the seasons. Not just when the sun is shining or the wind is right.
Barnabas people know they are on their way somewhere: To Christ. The life that Christ begins in them is lived in him, for him and to him.
The encourager who is a disciple who makes disciples, does not leave much behind in terms of money and real property assets. But they leave a legacy of changed lives for Christ and they also get to take these with them into eternity.
This post has described a man that I was blessed and honored to be friends with, starting in my young Christian life. Thank you Kenny and thank you Jesus for Kenny.