Friday, November 30, 2012

What Pixar taught me about...Evangelism & Discipleship

At one point in the film Ratatouille, the main character shares with his father his dream of being a chef.  As they talk it is immediately clear that this idea is in conflict with the dad's desires for the son to be part of and serve the interests of the family (the dad is the head of the rat clan).  The son says, "You didn't think I would stay forever. Eventually a bird has got to leave the nest" And the Father replies, "We're not birds, we're rats - we don't leave the nest, we just make the nest bigger."

This scene comes to mind when I think of evangelism and discipleship.  It is no secret that in this post-modern world people are more cynical and skeptical about religion.  Many assume that religious people are trying to "sell them something." They imagine all sorts of ulterior motives - "you only want me to join your group in order to serve the interests of your institution through time, talent and treasure - you just want to make your nest bigger."

This is in contrast to the patient evangelist/disciple maker whose goal is to see that person come alive in whatever context best suits them.  Now, often times that will be a part of the evangelist's own church tribe, or it may be that because of the new disciples' situation or other relationships he or she is a better fit in a different church tribe or nest.

Jesus modeled this kind of generous approach.  He didn't rush people into making a decision (think of the Samaritan woman at the well - John 4).  He didn't expect them to follow him to his own context (the man healed of a demon was told to stay and witness to his community - Mark 5). He didn't discourage people from other groups from doing good in his name (Mark 9).  And he didn't accommodate their faults in order to make his nest bigger (wouldn't the rich young ruler have been a nice status addition to the group of disciples? - Luke 18).  Instead Jesus prodded and poked and challenged people to enter into the Kingdom of God.  Jesus didn't focus his energy on making his own nest or tribe bigger - instead he saw the Kingdom as the ultimate reality that he was working for and towards. 

Here in Mozambique we sometimes encounter people who are interested in following Jesus, but  because of certain factors it wouldn't make sense to expect them to be part of our own 'nest.'  Maybe they live a great distance away and there is another church tribe closer to them, or it could be that they have important family connections within a different church tribe.  We need to be attentive to the their life situation, focusing on what kind of environment will be best suited for their thriving. We are called to sow and water, not necessarily to transplant.  The process of transplanting is risky for both the health of plants and people.

Our goal in evangelism and discipleship will ultimately become clear to those we are with.  At some point they will know whether we are in it for their own good - their own flourishing, or if we are just trying to make our nest bigger - getting them to serve the interests of our institution.

The true goal of evangelism and discipleship is much better and more expansive than "us having bigger nests."  Our goal should be to help people become the creatures they were created to be.  Often that may mean they become part of our tribe, but it may mean they will spread their wings and fly building up a different nest.  But, if we have been faithful with the opportunities we've been given to encourage and mentor, then the ultimate goal of seeing God's kingdom rule expand will be served.

At the end of the film, the head of the rat clan is convicted of the need to help his son realize his calling and he mobilizes the entire clan to help the son succeed.  My hope is that the communities we are working with will be generous in helping people fully use their gifts, even if it may not 'benefit' our own tribe.

May our ventures in evangelism and discipleship be focused less on building up our own nests and more on seeing people become who God created them to be and further the Kingdom of God. 


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