Make a difference.

   A few years back after one of the major hurricanes had come up the northeast coast wreaking havoc all across the eastern seaboard. The day after the hurricane had passed; a father had brought his son to the beach to see that the danger had passed and that the sun was shining once again. That morning as two of them had crested the top of the dunes and looked out towards the ocean, they came across a sight that neither of them had expected to see. The storm had washed millions of fish up onto the shore. As far as they could see in either direction, there were dead and dying fish covering every inch of the beach. As the two of them walked past the fish to the edge of the water, the young boy picked up one of the fish that was gasping for air and tossed it back into the sea.    The father looked at his son and tried to console him a little:  There’s just too many of them, and if they’re not already dead, they will be very soon. We can’t possibly make a difference… The boy waited for a moment and then responded to his father. I made a difference to that fish. Author unknown, As told to me by James Prescott

   The scripture tells us that we will always have trials, there will always be insurmountable problems, but it also shows compassion so strong that it was willing to die for its cause. We are that cause. Jesus had every right to give up on us. Not one, not even his closest disciples stood by him. The sin in this world IS insurmountable. The pain and suffering, the senselessness of the hate and cruelty that people have towards each other is overwhelming and if you or any one of us glanced even for a second with an open heart at the depth and truth of the evil that surrounds us, it would flood us with unbearable hopelessness. 

    But we are not hopeless, and we are not helpless to make a difference.

   Jesus gave us the model for discipleship: take a very small group of loyal friends, invite them into your life for several years, teach them continuously, and then let them go to repeat the process with their own disciples.

   I didn’t grow up as a Christian. I didn’t become a Christian until my mid 20’s. If there was even one person that tried to reach out to me in my teen-years, I can’t remember one. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what might have been in my life if someone, just anyone, reached out to me to direct my path at that time. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I came in contact of a few people that reached out to help guide me along the right path. I credit those people for nudging my life from where I was destined, to where I ended up.

Almost all of those people were Christians, but very few of them attempted to persuade me that I should become a Christian too. In most cases I learned of their personal faith, after their greatest impact upon my life was over. But! I am absolutely certain, that every one of these people reached out to me and impacted my life by intent! And through them, God was nudging me “Inch by inch” into a place where I would be more receptive to His presence in His interceders. Eventually He brought me into the path of people who would actively disciple me to be a follower of Christ. But first, He sent those to till the fallow ground.

   As I look back through my life and examine the difference makers in my life, they really didn’t do all that much; some only invested just few well-connected hours; very few invested more than 20 hours. But, cumulatively it was enough to make all the difference in the world to me.

  For 35 years in ministry, I have dedicated myself to making a difference to young people, one or two disciples at a time, for as long as our paths intersected. (I seem to relate most to the age in a person’s life where they are most vulnerable, and least reached.) If I have any regrets in my life, it is that over all these years there have only been a very small handful of people that I have been able to reach out to in a meaningful discipleship roll.

Matthew 28:19-20

Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

In regard to discipleship I often fear that all we like sheep have gone astray, we have left the example of Christ and follow our own paths.

We mistake evangelism for discipleship. We focus on the noun, not the verb. (Interesting note: Disciple doesn’t even show up in the English dictionary as a verb.)

For me the process of discipleship to young people is a selfish one. It is only within the context of investing my self into nudging someone onto the right path, shining a dimly lit light towards my Lord and Savior, that I experience the second premise of Matthew 28:19-20… Be sure of this – that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.

I wish I were a better Christian; More anchored, More disciplined (No pun intended); Able to sustain my faith without it’s connection to the ministry of discipleship to kids that often don’t even seem to care or notice. But, like a light switch on a wall turns on and off a light, so is the depth of my walk associated to depth of my ministry. But I am desperately driven to make a difference. And I can’t understand, those who are not.

Be a difference maker by intent.

It really doesn’t take all that much effort.

Nudge someone a little bit closer to the right path.

Make a difference, one person at a time.