My first car was a 1988 Nissan Pulsar. It was black with two white racing stripes, two-doors, a T-top, and headlights that would raise and lower like a boss. It was a pretty sweet ride. I'll never forget the day I got my driver's license. As soon as I got it I took my car out for a cruise all by myself. This was the first time I drove alone, legally.
At this point I need to make a couple of confessions:
1. When my parents weren't home I'd sneak out and drive my car around my neighborhood before I got my license. I thought my car was a sports car (even though it only had four cylinders), and I would floor it down my street to see how long it took me to get from 0-60. I never made it to 60 because our street wasn't long enough for my slow car to get there.
2. My brother and I used to tell our parents we were going to go play basketball at a nearby church. But when we got there, he would go play basketball and leave me with the keys to his truck. I'd drive it all over that church parking lot and sometimes take it out on the main roads. This was when I was 14 and had no driver training at all.
Sorry Mom and Dad. This was a dumb thing to do. I could have died. I'm sure you are disappointed. I hope you can forgive me. But I really blame most of that on James (my brother).
Anyway, back to my point. Getting your license is a moment you never forget. It's one of the most significant milestones in your life. But in order to get it, there is a process you have to go through. In most states, you are required to attend a driving school. One portion of that school is in-class training. This is where you learn the head knowledge you need to drive on the road. (E.g. road signs, traffic signals, laws, etc.) The other portion of the school is on-the-road training. This is where you get in a car and actually drive with someone else guiding you and helping you.
The crazy thing is you could sit in a class forever and learn every law and rule imaginable, but you still wouldn't know how to drive. Actually, for a lot of people they never sat through a class. They simply learned how to drive from the on-the-road training.
I was thinking about all of this today and how it translates to discipleship in the church. Most often our strategy for making disciples is putting people in a class. We feel like if we give them enough head knowledge about God, the Bible, and what it means to follow Jesus then they will become great disciples. But the truth is, head knowledge isn't enough. Don't misunderstand me. It's important. It's critical. But we can't end there. It's a great starting point, but soon enough we need to move from the class to the road.
One of the best ways to make disciples is by giving people opportunities to practice what they've learned. I see this all the time in student ministry. Students grow so much more in six days on a mission trip than they do in six months of attending church. This is true for adults too. When we take the head knowledge we've learned and apply it in real life, amazing things happen to us. We come alive when we are given opportunities to take our faith out on the road. I love what Andy Stanley says about this: "Truth is a lot like paint. It's only value is in its application."
Wasn't this Jesus' model anyway? In Mark 6 we see Jesus sending his disciples out to go practice what they've learned. He understood that in order to be a great disciple, you have to get out of the class and get on the road. Can you imagine what our highways would look like if the only thing you had to do in order to get your driver's license was sit in a class and take a written exam? Yet when it comes to making disciples, it's easy for us to follow this approach.
So what does this mean for you? And what does this mean for the church? Well it doesn't mean we need to abandon all of our in-class training. But it does mean that we can't draw the finish line there. If you are a church leader, how can you get your people out of the class and on the road a little more? And if you are a disciple, a follower of Jesus, how can you take your faith out on the road? Who do you need to serve this week? Who do you need to share the Gospel with this week? Where do you need to put your faith in to practice this week?
Whatever it is, it's time to get out there on the road.