A guy I know has a curious way of getting acquainted with strangers. He’ll meet someone, perhaps a young person serving in a restaurant, who states she’s working part-time to help pay college expenses. After learning what she’s majoring in, he’ll ask something like, “When you graduate, then what?” The server will likely respond she hopes to find a job aligned with what she’s studied. Then the customer will ask, “Then what?”
Perhaps she’ll reply she hopes to get married, buy a house, build a career, maybe have kids, and the usual stuff. After each response, the man will again ask, “Then what?” His goal is to eventually guide the person to considering the ultimate, “Then what?” When we die, then what?
This line of inquiry is interesting, since we tend to focus on where we are in life at the moment, rarely considering the “then what?” of the next stage.
There’s another question, however, that’s as important, in some ways maybe even more significant.
When people receive Jesus Christ into their lives, it is just the initial step in a lifelong journey of spiritual transformation. For many new believers, whether they “prayed a prayer,” walked an aisle, got baptized, raised a hand, or made some other faith declaration, what they need to know is, “Now what?”
Because just as the moment of physical birth is only the beginning of one’s visible and – hopefully – productive life, being “born again” is simply the start of one’s spiritual adventure with God. In fact, in His Great Commission, Jesus instructed His followers to “make disciples…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Those new in the faith need nearly as much care and attention as newborn babies. Whether they articulate the question or not, they all want to know, “Now what?”
Too often all they get is a schedule of church activities, receive encouragement to attend worship services (staring at the backs of people’s heads, singing songs, and listening to a sermon), and maybe being recruited for some form of church work. None of those things is bad, but it’s hardly what Jesus meant by “making disciples.”
If we use His example, we understand the intense, highly personal approach to disciple-making He employed. Jesus selected a handful of devoted followers, spent three years with them 24/7, and demonstrated by action as well as words what it means to serve God. And His disciples, despite some missteps along the way, held to that pattern.
The apostle Paul, writing to believers in the church at Philippi, said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). And to Timothy, his young protégé, Paul exhorted, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
These were not “show up whenever the church doors are open” directives, but instructions to live out and pass along what has been learned in the presence of older, more mature followers of Christ.
Sometimes we confuse “converts” – people who have turned from the direction they had been taking to face a different direction – with disciples who are not only learning but also putting their lessons into action, and ultimately starting to teach others.
When we commit our lives to Jesus Christ, it’s a determination to lifelong learning, “continuing education” if you will, that ends only when the Lord calls us home from this earthly life. “Now what?” involves, as Romans 12:2 tells us, not “conform[ing] any longer to the pattern of this world, but be[ing] transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” And to grow in this process, we all need help.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.