I have a cousin who enjoys rebuilding classic motorcycles in his garage. He’s been at this hobby for as long as I can remember, and he’s really good at it. He’ll buy a piece-of-junk Indian knucklehead softail from 1943 for a few hundred dollars and turn it into a work of motorized art worth several thousand. Honestly, I don’t know what all those words mean, but I do know that when he glides down the block, you’ll turn your head to look.
His dad, on the other hand, is a car guy. He, his brother (my dad), and a couple of close friends of theirs built their first car when they were in high school. They took turns driving their hand-built race car at the local track on the weekends, alternating between pit jobs and driving. Consequently, I learned how to drift long before Lightning McQueen, but that’s beside the point.
They’re all pushing eighty years old now. Although they don’t do their own work anymore, they don’t mind paying other people to work on the car projects they are forever picking up together. They all bought Studebakers a few years back, and they still like to drive to car shows together just for fun. That’s commitment!
Then there’s me. I am not a car guy. I drive a 2004 Toyota Sequoia I affectionately call Shirley, or “Shirl” for short. I am terrible with a wrench. My toolbox is Google, and if I’m really in a tight spot, YouTube. My car was assembled in a large factory by hundreds of workers who worked together to produce one of the finest SUVs ever to grace the earth (I have to say that in case Shirley reads this. She really is a great car!). Amazingly, most of those people on the assembly line did very little to make my car. Maybe they installed a few bolts or inspected some welds, but no one individual had all that much to do. The old maxim, “Many hands make light work,” comes to mind.
What Do Cars Have to Do With Discipleship?
I say all this because it reminds me of discipleship. Some of us are called to work one-on-one with people, and most of the time we pour ourselves deeply into a few. Like my cousin, we don’t produce a lot, but what comes out of our efforts will, hopefully, turn heads.
Others of us work best in small groups. We love the camaraderie and fellowship. Our goals are achieved in unison as we work together, but each one of us knows a bit about everything, and we work well as a team. Our workmanship is reflected in one another as we work intentionally to make each other better.
Then there’s the rest of us, factory workers. Maybe all we do is put the same three bolts in the same three holes on three hundred cars a day, and maybe that’s all we know how to do, but together we produce amazing results. We’re mass producers, each one contributing his or her own little piece to the puzzle that will turn out just fine in the end as long as the line keeps moving. Most of us will never see the finished product, but that’s okay, because we know the system works.
How does this translate into the life of a college ministry or local church? There are two key takeaways:
Know Your Role in DiscipleMaking
People who don’t know their role in the disciple making process of their church or ministry wind up doing one of three things:
- They do nothing. They might warm a pew on Sunday morning, but that doesn’t count for much. They’re not growing, and they’re not helping others to grow – they’re placeholders, not disciple makers.
- They do something, but they don’t do it very well. Either they’re over-competent and underused, or incompetent and doing their best, but either way they aren’t getting a lot done (and are probably frustrated about it). Worse, they may be frustrating others.
- They cause harm. Imagine trying to run a factory and having random people just wandering aimlessly about the production floor. Accidents will happen. People will get hurt. Production will be slower. The product will be inferior.
None of these things is good, and none of these things is helpful to developing mature disciples. People need to know their role. That much is clear.
Know Your End Goal in DiscipleMaking
As a leader, you need to know your “product”. My cousin knows exactly what he’s trying to roll out when he’s up to his elbows in grease working on a Harley-Davidson. Ditto our dads and their little Studebaker club. Every one of those guys knows exactly what he wants the car to look like, how it should sound, the feel of the steering and brakes in relation to the road as they drive. They are experts. And whether they’re doing the work themselves or paying another mechanic, they know what they want to produce in the end.
If you’re a ministry leader, that is a crucial and often overlooked piece of the puzzle. Part of your role is making sure everyone else knows theirs, and you can’t do that if you don’t know what you’re trying to make. What is a disciple? What does your church, your ministry, produce if someone sticks around and contributes for a couple of years? If you want people to grow, you need to know what they’re growing into—and so do they. The difference is that they’re trusting you to tell them."Part of your role as a ministry leader is making sure everyone else knows theirs, and you can’t do that if you don’t know what you’re trying to make." —Jon Smith #collegiatedisciplemaker Discipleship in the Garage of Life Click To Tweet
Discipleship in the Garage of Life
Whether as an individual, part of a small group or in a large factory, building cars and making disciples requires you to know your role and fulfill it. Cars, like disciples, don’t make themselves, and they work a lot better when the people working on them understand what they’re doing. Seeing a finished project roll off the lot is a pretty awesome experience when all the right work has been done, especially when you know what you did to make it happen.
As a ministry leader it’s your job to make sure that’s the case in your ‘garage.’