Tag Archives: discipleship

To Tarshish!


BT recently led a small ‘Chapel’ service where he talked about Jonah and it struck me again how much I am like Jonah, but also, considering my recent blogs, how Jonah is exemplary of the consumer church mentality.

Let me first paraphrase what BT said (as parsed through my own brain) as it’s well worth consideration. First he ran through the story and pointed out that though the beginning was a great story, it’s not the important bit. In fact this whole blog entry comes from the fact that BT shone his spotlight on the last chapter of the book, it was this chapter that held the important message not the fun story of the fish. I think that’s also true for Daniel (lion’s den versus prophecy) and is a pitfall we need to be wary of with any story we teach in Junior Church. It’s easy to remember the story from our youth and not reevaluate it as adults.

His main point was that Jonah didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved and ultimately he is bitter that God chooses to be merciful. BT then challenged those assembled to consider if there are people we don’t reach out to because we don’t want them to be saved, or don’t think they could or should be. Now originally I didn’t think this applied to me as I can’t think of anyone I dislike that much (geez, I’m holy), but his message has continued to challenge me and, I realise, I didn’t get it. It’s not so much that I don’t want people to be saved, but that there are people that I don’t try to save because I don’t like them (so never bother to talk to them) or don’t think would be interested (so don’t try) and in fact there are obviously people I don’t want saved, anyone I don’t tell about Jesus! I can say I want to see people in my community saved, but if I don’t actually go out and try to spread the Gospel then, well, my actions speak louder than words.

I guess ‘to Tarshish!’ could be the clarion call for many of us when called to share the Gospel. Haven’t we all found excuses not to tell people about Jesus? Mainly from being shy or worried they would mock us. BT pointed out in his talk that Jonah, in telling the sailors to throw him overboard, was basically saying ‘I’d rather die than go to Nineveh!’. Throwing himself to death into a stormy sea seems a little extreme… until you ask me to go door-knocking with pamphlets and then ‘To Tarshish!’ you’ll here me cry.

But Jonah wasn’t shy and socially awkward so why was he so desperate to escape his calling? For that we need a quick history lesson (I heard that groan) and it might shed a slightly more sympathetic light on Jonah. You see Nineveh was an Assyrian city (and a more likely owner of the famed Hanging Gardens) and the Assyrians were a great (and brutal) power that invaded and controlled a lot of the region. Jonah would not have been a great fan of the Assyrians and would have been happy to hear that Nineveh was going to be destroyed.

Think of it this way: I’m not a huge fan of Donald Trump (as President) and if I heard he was going to be impeached I’d be pretty happy (as I think someone with political experience would be better in the role). If God then commanded me to go to Washington and explain a few things to Mr. Trump in order to stop that impeachment, well, I’d have a hard time. Especially if I knew that he would most likely continue with his policies such as dismantling universal healthcare and travel bans.

The issue is that Jonah was still working on his own agenda. It’s an extreme example, but perhaps a lesson to us about just how far we have to go in submission to God’s plans for ourselves and the World. It strikes me while writing that the story of Jonah is an embodiment of the command to love our enemies. A tale to show us what that looks like (or what it doesn’t look like) and how difficult that command can be. Also that there is no one who is exempt from that commandment, no one who is too much of an enemy.

Sorry, tangent.

After Jonah has done his duty and preached to Nineveh he goes and sits down in a little shelter to watch it burn. Which doesn’t happen. And he’s cross. He then complains to God that He’s too nice. “See?” he says. “I knew you’d save them, that’s why I didn’t want to go.” And again it’s an extreme example, but is it, at it’s core, any different from us deciding what or how something should be done and balking at the idea that God wants it differently?

Let’s take it to an extreme the other way. The church leadership decide that the church service needs to be re-jigged. Then there are cries (at least there used to be from some of the older generations) that ‘we’ve always done it this way’ as if the layout of the church or the service is somehow an integral, dare I say holy, part of being church. Yes we might attract new members, win new converts to Christ, but not if it means leaving my comfort zone.

While Jonah waits for Nineveh’s destruction God causes a plant to grow up and shade him and then sends a worm to eat it. Jonah is happy and then back to his default angry. God challenges him on it, pointing out that Jonah did nothing to make the plant grow nor tend it. God then points out that Jonah had great concern over the plant (which had nothing to do with him) so shouldn’t God have concern over a huge city?

In both cases Jonah felt he had a right to be angry, he felt he had a say, but in both cases it had nothing to do with him. He didn’t make the plant appear and he didn’t have a say in it’s death; in the same way he had no say over the destruction of Nineveh. He just thought he should have a say when God merely called Him to do God’s work, speak on behalf of Him.

Does that sound familiar? Have you ever wished God’s destruction on a city? Do we get overly concerned, even angry, about how we do church or what, and how, others are doing? Jonah was so concerned with what he wanted, what he thought was right, that he ignored not only God’s wishes, but also His sovereignty. I don’t know if that’s you (probably not, you seem pretty awesome), but it’s definitely me. Even when I am doing Kingdom work I can do what I think the people need, or worse, what I think God wants rather than letting Him lead. And of course then there’s all those times that, at best, I haven’t considered God or His plan in my decisions and, at worst, deliberately done whatever I’ve wanted knowing it’s wrong. I guess that’s kind of taking a ship to Tarshish, isn’t it? Perhaps we don’t do it deliberately, but we’ve still been going in the opposite direction to the one God wants.

We talk about giving our life to Christ, but it’s not easy is it? If you’re anything like me then you assumed that having become a Christian you were supposed to carry on with normal life, going to school/work etc etc, but you were supposed to be a good witness while you are there. And we do, don’t we? Society is such that we can’t really escape it. We can’t wander around preaching like Paul or Isaiah, we just hope that God gives us some Kingdom work to within the structure of the lives we have chosen.

And that’s not wrong, but maybe we need to expect more from God and His plan. Again, I assumed God’s plan for my life was something about getting a job I enjoyed and falling in love; it was always couched within the societal norm.

So what do we do? I hardest of hard things: try and let go. It’s like that trust exercise where you fall back and trust the person to catch you. What if God doesn’t catch us? What if it all goes wrong? But God is big enough and close enough to catch us.

So maybe it’s time for a prayer. A prayer to check our course, are we going the right way? Are we heading to Nineveh or Tarshish?

I’ll finish with what I’ve learned looking at Jonah again. I think the real lesson is that it doesn’t matter what we think or want. Life is like the plant that grows up to shade him. We get it for free and it’s good and we have no right to think we have any control over it. We have no right to complain when it isn’t as we want it. Life is God’s not ours. And you know what? Life isn’t important, it isn’t the focus. Life with God in eternity is.

A final analogy: Eternity with God is Mount Everest and life on Earth is base camp. However exciting, fun, beautiful base camp is, however nice the people are, whatever the challenges and rewards of it, it’s not the point of the expedition. The point of base camp is to prepare people to reach the summit…

Jesus Loves You (that is all)


I want to apologise. I’ve been very ranty, haven’t I? I have the habit of talking in a way that is almost accusatory; sort of suggesting that you’ve got it wrong when most likely you’re doing it better than I am. I can tell you why too. I’ve never had to temper my messages with love, there’ve always been others around me to do so. For instance, at my old church I used to preach once every two months and as the pastor was giving pastoral sermons I knew I didn’t have to. I could be the one that gave the type of hard hitting, challenging message that he (due to having to pastor) could not.

Another reason for it, if I’m getting really honest, is that I am working all this out as I write it. In a way, I’m talking to myself, challenging myself to do the things I don’t. I sometimes worry I say all this stuff and people are just thinking: “yeah, we do that, dude, you mean you don’t?”. Of course I hope that some of what I am saying is challenging you too.

What I am saying (other than sorry) is that this is my discipleship, I focus on what we (might be) doing wrong and forget to be loving. Tear down and forget to build up. If I am going to be a leader, and by releasing this podcast and writing these missives I guess I am putting myself in that position (like it or not), then I have to show people the right way, not just the wrong one.  And, hell, that goes for whether I am a leader or not, it’s what we should all be doing, isn’t it?

We’re called to love and I hate writing that sentence. I hate it because the word ‘love’ has been coloured by ideas of romantic love, that it’s something soppy. Not at all. Jesus calls us to a selfish love. He tells us to love others as we love ourselves and that isn’t a soppy, romantic love, but a fierce, loyal, passionate, determined love. Think of the urge to survive, self-preservation, the fight we put up in situations of danger. This is subconsciously how we love ourselves and that’s the kind of love we’re supposed to show to others.

So, yes, I am sorry if I’ve been ranty. My purpose for doing this podcast and these missives is to try and build you up, not tear you down. I wonder, and worry, that maybe how we do church, our traditions, are holding us back from a better understanding, and therefore better relationship, with God and that goes for me more than anyone.

Jesus loves you and He has a plan for your life. Whatever you’re going through in life right this minute, know that because, sometimes, that’s all we need to know.



(This is all me though I reckon BT and Beanz would agree with the final sentiment)

A God of Verbs


Through my stints leading Communion last year I got hooked up on the phrase ‘Do this in remembrance of Me’. I had always accepted (considering the context) that it meant remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection, but I found a new angle because questioning church and tradition is, apparently, my thing.

Everything that Jesus does and says is about moving forward, the language of discipleship is couched in movement, just consider ‘follow me’. And we talk about walking with Jesus; learning, teaching, preaching; we talk about prayer (active) rather than meditation (passive). Look at the amount of verbs just in Isaiah 1v17: “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”.

Let’s look at Luke  9 v.58 – 62 (or Matthew 8 v.20 – 22) where Jesus talks about having no where to lay His head. What Jesus is talking about here is the never-ending nature of following Jesus (until we get to Heaven), that there is no rest from it, you don’t get a break from it when you’re tired. In the following verses Jesus reprimands people for asking to go back and say goodbye or bury someone before following Him. There is no going back only forward

Consider again the command ‘follow me’, do we take that as an action or more along the lines of following someone on social media, a passive activity? If discipleship is meant to be an active thing full of verbs, why do many of us (in the West, at least) do so little? Why is it that in almost every church I’ve ever been to there is a small group of people who do almost everything? Turn up to support almost everything?

I appreciate that people may not have the talents needed to run a sound desk, play an instrument or speak at the front, but in my church one of the things you can do is pass out the Communion, all you need is basic hand/eye coordination and yet the roster is so small you see the same people doing it again and again. Why don’t more people volunteer? It’s a serious question we have to be asking ourselves if the Church is ever to grow. If someone new does come to church then what do they learn? That you come and sit and receive while a group of special (holy? or at least holier?) people do the work. Is that what the church in Acts looked like? (Actually it probably did, people don’t change as much as we like to think). I’ve seen too many new, excited Christians become fellow pew-warmers, but it’s no surprise, is it when that’s the culture we cultivate.

Ask this simple question, how many non-churchgoers use your church each day? Is it open to the public or locked up unless there is a church event on? Is it part of the community or just in it? Is it a place to serve or is it a hidey-hole for us to gather away from the judging eyes of the Heathen?

Back to Communion and, yes I believe the phrase ‘do this in remembrance of me’ means the cross and resurrection, but if Jesus was a man (God) of action then that alone goes against the rest of His teaching. It seems completely out of place for Him to give a reflective command. What I have come to believe is that Jesus was asking the Apostles to remember was how He lived and what He said, culminating in His actions over Easter. In that light Communion is not a time of reflection, but a call to action that ties in better with the Great Commission.

I always took Communion like this: the bread was a chance to look back and ask for forgiveness for my failings (I see Christ’s death as the end of the old way of life/the Law) and then in taking the ‘wine’ I look forward and ask God to help me do better and guide me etc (the blood being a new covenant). I still think that’s a good way of doing it, but in thinking about this I am challenged to cast aside this ME-centric Communion and see Communion as a challenge; if I’m partaking in the death and resurrection of Jesus (and reaping the benefits of it) then I should be partaking in the rest of His life’s work too.

Jesus is a God of verbs, a God of action; a God who calls us to have no home here on Earth; no excuses as to why we can’t go with Him yet. If we want to be His disciples then we need more verbs in our faith. It’s time to put our hands to the plough, no looking back.



(As ever these musings are my own and don’t necessarily reflect BT nor Beanyman’s beliefs)

Agree? Disagree? Have your own thoughts? Let’s start a conversation in the comments. Woo.

Apprentices Not Students


Let me start with a confession, I am an idiot. Thankfully for me, Christianity, or at least Jesus’ teachings, allow for that by putting God (and not me) in charge. The reason I am an idiot is because a lot of what I say in these posts and on the podcast has taken me a long time to grasp. It’s especially heinous in my case as I have had lots of experiences from which I could have/should have learned it. Why didn’t I, even when it was spelled out? Because I didn’t live it.

And the reason for me saying this is that I don’t want you to think I am preaching from my high tower, but rather from a place the same as anyone else. I don’t want you to think I am having a go at you, accusing you from my more enlightened throne. This is particularly pertinent when talking about discipleship and the themes in this post because I am not talking from experience. I have been terrible with both discipleship and evangelism, in fact, I still am.

So with that in mind, on with my rant post.

So, in the podcast we talked about the difference between evangelism and discipleship, but discipleship we (should) know leads to evangelism. Jesus sent out his disciples (12 or 72) like lambs among wolves. The two chapters here are Matthew 10 and Luke 10 (the Matt story is also told in Luke 9) and they hold some interesting points for us before I get to what I actually want to talk about.

Firstly in Luke Jesus sends the 72 to all the places He would go. Now surely there’s an implication for us as disciples. That we go ahead of Jesus, though not in His place. That it is our job to ready people’s hearts and minds for when Jesus comes. It is not for us to do the converting, Jesus will take care of that, we just let people know He’s on his way.

Secondly, in verse 9 of Luke Jesus commands them to heal the sick and in Matthew v.8 he says: ‘Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils‘  with both commands being abutted with the proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. Sooo, as disciples we’re supposed to be doing stuff (we won’t get into a discussion about whether miracles have ended or not, but please feel free in the comments). Jesus didn’t tell them to just go and preach the good news, he told them to show the kingdom and then point it out.

Thirdly, MAGIC! Protestants are a pretty dour bunch compared to Catholics when it comes to the supernatural and we tend to look upon anything miraculous with suspicion, you don’t see a lot of protestant exorcisms (and it’s an argument for not seeing miracles in protestant churches). This all means we tend to overlook the more magical (for want of a better word) mentions in the Bible. One of the most obvious is the power of names. It’s mentioned a lot in the Bible, such as praying in the name of Jesus and just the idea that we would know God’s name (or not know it) is important. And I use those two examples as they are beyond the reasoning that knowing someone’s name holds a psychological importance or position of power over them.

Here the magic is in the disciples ‘peace’. Both versions of the story contain a line about letting your peace rest on finding a worthy/peaceful house and if not, letting your peace return to you. You see, though the phrase ‘Peace to this house’ was a fairly standard greeting what we’re seeing here is more than words. The peace Jesus was talking about was an actual thing that the disciples were giving to the house, an actual state of blessing rather than idle talk. In fact the construction of the sentence about letting your peace return to you seems to suggest that the peace you offered (i.e. a blessing) will befall upon you. This is awesome, we should all be offering this willy-nilly in order to get all the blessings! (Though I’m thinking trying to game God is a bad idea all round). But it’s important because again it brings up this idea that there is supernatural power in what we say and do that, I think, is ignored in the modern church.

It makes sense though that if we’re disciples of Jesus, who is God, then the things He teaches us would have the same power as He did on Earth. I’ve never thought of that before, but it makes sense that if someone teaches you a sport, you will have the same (though not as good) skills as them in it.

Well that went on for longer than I thought. So what was the point? Ahh, yes, in the podcast I was quite enamoured by the idea that when two ox were yoked together, though one was learning how to do it, it was still ploughing the field. Discipleship is an active task, though we may still be learning, we should also be doing. This story in both Luke and Matthew is in the middle of Jesus’ teaching, in Luke Jesus doesn’t even teach the Lord’s prayer until the next chapter; in fact we know that they wouldn’t be fully ready to spread the Gospel until after the Ascension. Despite this, as we saw in point 2 above, Jesus sends them out to show the Kingdom of Heaven. And that was my point when thinking about these verses, that discipleship is an active role, not a passive one where we learn. I think we tend to see discipleship as a student role, going to church and learning from the pastor.

Consumer Church. That’s what’s been on my mind and it’s why I say I’m an idiot, because for all of my life I have been consuming. And it’s not really my fault because I think church is set up for us to consume. Think about it, there isn’t really an active part in church other than singing and even then we are led in what we sing and how; I would even say that worship through song is a consuming activity for many, my chance to worship, to feel good expressing my praise. But overall, I think church is designed to be consumed because it doesn’t really lead us to action and the simple reason for that is because we don’t want it to. There are many people who, if pushed every week to do something, would find another church. Think about what is preached on most Sundays, it’s about your salvation and how you should continue to live and a reminder to be thankful for it; either that or a lesson from one of Paul’s letters on how to do church better. And we do need those things, we do need a chance to recharge and be reminded, don’t get me wrong, but part of the reason pastors preach on those things is because that’s what the congregation wants. Jesus’ message has been watered down to keep bums in pews.

Here’s a little test, have you ever considered say the men’s or women’s ministry in your church and thought ‘I’m not going to go to that this time because the topic doesn’t interest me’? If you have, or perhaps complained about the music choices or any similar such thing, then maybe you’re consuming church.

I say this because it’s not about us and what we want, it’s about ministry. These activities are not there for us to consume, but for us to participate. And let me say it again, I haven’t been doing that up until I realised all of this very recently, so I’m not having a go at you. I am socially awkward so try and avoid human interaction wherever possible, but that’s ME, about ME, and discipleship isn’t about ME, but about Jesus. Discipleship isn’t a classroom, it’s an apprenticeship.



(This post does not necessarily reflect the thoughts or position of BT nor Beanyman)

Agree? Leave a comment of encouragement. Disagree? Leave a comment and start a discussion.