The mangoes of the Philippines are amazingly delicious! It's their national fruit, and I've found no other mango like the queen of mangoes, the tu-od variety. I posted this photo on Instagram and Facebook a few years back, proclaiming their goodness, and saw a lot of agreement.
But there are plenty of other wonderful fruits in the Philippines and SE Asia—papayas, guavas, lanzones, jackfruit, and even durian, and much more.
Yet, the fruit I'm most excited about in the Philippines doesn't grow on trees.
Fruit that doesn't grow on trees
In the mountains above and behind our home of fifteen years is a church I've preached at and visited many times. It was established and pastored by a dear friend I've known for over twenty-five years.
He was one of my students at a Bible school I started, and also one of my teachers. So, you could say he is fruit born out of my ministry in the Philippines. And yet, I see much more fruit coming from him and the ministries he's established since serving with me and still does.
This is the way Jesus intended it to be.
My pastor friend has discipled many men and women, who in turn, disciple others. This brings me great joy and hope.
It is what Jesus had in mind as He discipled His followers, and what He told them the night He was betrayed (John 15:8, 16).
A question to consider
The question is, are we—pastors and church leaders—discipling people to disciple others, or are we just indoctrinating them?
Are we teaching them living truth important to know, or equipping them to know the truth?
What's the difference? When we indoctrinate people, we spoon feed them truth. When we disciple and equip people, they learn to feed themselves on Jesus and His word (John 6:48-51; 15:5-8).
Parents grind or chop up food for babies to eat because they have no teeth to chew food. Or, they can just open a jar of baby food. But as children grow older they learn to cut and chew their own food.
Are the believers in our churches still being fed like babies, or taught to feed themselves? I wonder.
Feeding or equipping?
I see a true disciple-maker in my pastor friend, Elmer. He oversees several churches by training the leaders to teach the people how to know the truth themselves.
In one nearby church, he has equipped four leaders who each have three assistants. He trains them, and they are to teach and train the people in the same way.
He also developed a Bible school, an oral Bible school. It's based on his inductive Bible training with me, and the biblical storying ministry of Simply the Story (STS).
This training extends beyond his work in the mountains of Negros Oriental. It's been exported to other islands in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and even Thailand.
He's also done radio ministry where he tells Bible stories and asks questions, then people text their answers and questions about the Bible to him. This leads to more training in other places.
He's also done training over a cell phone broadcast. He sets his cell phone up with a speaker, then interacts with people over the phone. Even on buses and boats, Pastor Elmer will share Bible stories, selecting ones that match the circumstance of a listener.
My friend is mindful of being an example to others of what he teaches. True discipleship is more about example than doctrine (1 Tim 4:12).
Doctrine ought to be based on what is understood from our personal study of God's Word guided by God's Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27; 2 Tim 1:13-14).
Trees produce fruit naturally because they're designed to do so by their Creator.
True discipleship is similar. When done the way Jesus intended, the fruit of more disciples will come in a natural way.
True disciple-makers are my favorite kind of fruit because they produce lasting fruit—fruit that outlasts any one person's life.
A New Year's challenge
This is how it should be. But is it? Is this what is seen in most churches today?
Here's a simple challenge for the new year—
If you haven't been discipled, seek out someone to disciple you. Find someone you trust, someone who's example you value as they follow Jesus.
Then, disciple someone yourself. Share the life you have following Jesus with someone interested in doing the same. This means building a personal relationship and committing to caring for them, meeting up with them, and walking through life as fellow Jesus-followers.
Discipleship is not rocket science, as they say, it's simple and natural when done the way Jesus did it (John 13:15).