When my mom left me in my college dorm room the Friday before my freshman year, I stood alone on the gray linoleum tile with a few clothes to unpack and a haircut I still regret. More people lived at the university than in my hometown.
I was ordinary except that my parents had raised me to appreciate God and try to follow Him. Looking for a Christian group that might help me grow, I made a few calls and left messages with them. One got back to me, the next morning. A junior named Ed knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to play flag football. I’m skinny now, but I was a rail back then. I played, avoided major internal injuries, and Ed was soon back asking me to be in a Bible study.
That whole first year Ed would stop by, hang out, talk about my classes and the Bible, and invite me along on his journey of faith. He did the same my sophomore year, building into my life. When Ed graduated, Larry helped me grow. When Larry moved, Kris stepped in. Each one committed himself personally to my growth.
When I thank God for the people that He’s used to build the Kingdom into my life, I appreciate that He was watching out for me. He must love to build His eternal Kingdom with ordinary materials like a skinny college kid, employing committed men and women with hearts for making disciples.
Changing Oil, Changing Lives
The Navigators love displaying a black-and-white photo from 1966. In their Glen Eyrie conference center’s Great Hall, young people literally pack the room to the rafters, many on temporary wooden platforms reaching about twenty feet in the air. Bob Van Zante sits on the floor near the front.
Bob was just one college guy in a room full of hundreds. In many ways, his son Brian will tell you, Bob was one in a million as a dad and a follower of Jesus. As a disciplemaker, however, Bob simply invested in young men as an everyday guy—not a great speaker who could fire up a crowd, but someone committed to God’s Word and to spending time with people, one at a time.
“Dad would disciple a guy while he helped him change the oil in his car,” Brian says. “He’d help people pack and move their stuff. A lot of his disciplemaking was just serving others and talking about life with them while he served.” He brought guys into his home to experience God’s everyday influence on the swirl of family life.
Bob worked with guys on their cars while God worked in their hearts. Bob discipled hundreds of young men, some in deep relationships, who are now doing the same in their families, neighborhoods, and churches. From the 1960s until Bob’s death from cancer in 2008, he followed Christ and helped others do the same. His investment in people has continued to grow, now far beyond one hundred times over.
Jesus “appointed twelve that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14). He would send them out for ministry later, but first He invested time in them, living life with them. As Robert Coleman writes about close association with Jesus in The Master Plan of Evangelism, “This was the essence of His training program—just letting His disciples follow Him.” Having twelve men and some other disciples follow Him around wouldn’t appeal to most leaders as the most effective way of spreading influence. But Jesus chose to invest in a handful to reach the world.
Is helping another person to maturity in Christ, investing that kind of time, worth it? In host Ethan Jasso’s “Why Disciplemaking?” podcast, Ethan asks Tammy Murden what “one thing” she wants to drive home. Tammy answers Ethan’s question with one of her own: “What is eternal? People. The souls of men and women are eternal.”
God’s still building His Kingdom, sending people to invest in others to carry out His extraordinary work. Given that we’re part of part of that eternal investment, maybe we’re not so ordinary after all.