Aspiring physician assistant Ryan Langdon recently started a massive discussion on social media via a blog post about how some people have an “internal monologue” in their heads while others don’t. As discussed by Langdon and his readers, most people hear an internal voice while some others don’t but instead think in pictures or printed words visualized in their brains. Some brains offer words alone without the ability to visualize anything. (I’d planned to link here to Langdon’s fascinating blog, but I just discovered he updated his post to include a video interview with questionable language.)
A former newspaper colleague shocked me by posting that she doesn’t have an internal monologue. I replied half-jokingly, “My problem is that I have several at a time.” I definitely have an internal monologue, and one challenge is that the voice in my head can drown out the voice of another person speaking to me. In fact, sometimes I feel like my brain has a dialogue — offering pros and cons and other conflicting opinions — accompanied by a soundtrack.
Yes, portions of songs play in my head at unexpected times. I sometimes have no idea what prompted my brain to recall a song I haven’t heard in years, but a major trigger can be words or phrases I encounter as I edit this magazine. The last two issue’s themes — “love God” and “love people” — had my brain constructing mental playlists, but my internal soundtrack has been eerily quiet as I edit this “make disciples” issue.
I can only think of the obscure 1982 song, “Disciple,” by the band Petra and a children’s song talking about Jesus’ disciples. There’s a band named Disciple, but I’m not sure if it sings about making disciples.
The Free Methodist Church – USA mission statement echoes Jesus’ call to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19), and plenty of other theological persuasions echo this Great Commission. So why don’t we sing about it? (Perhaps you do. Join the Light + Life Conversations Facebook group at fmchr.ch/conversations and let me know what discipleship songs I’m missing.)
One potential reason is that we may have ideas or mental pictures about what it means to love God and love people, but we may struggle to verbalize or visualize what it means to make disciples. Do you make a disciple when you introduce a person to Jesus Christ? Or is a disciple someone who has a reached a deeper level of faith?
How do you make a disciple? If discipleship includes evangelism, then it’s no wonder we don’t want to sing about it, because it sounds like hard work. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives two definitions of evangelism: “the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ” and “militant or crusading zeal.” The first definition sounds difficult, and the second sounds like the action of a zealot (defined by the dictionary as “a fanatical partisan”).
We live in a culture where it’s not normal to preach on street corners. We tend to gather in person or online with people who think like we do, and when we challenge people with competing beliefs, the efforts may be counterproductive.
If discipleship means helping people go deeper in faith, that brings risks too. Perhaps we’re not confident enough in the depth of our own faith to help others take the plunge into the spiritual deep end.
I’m probably better at asking questions here than giving answers, so I’m thankful this issue features discipleship experts such as Bishop Keith Cowart, who led the “How to Disciple” focus group last summer at General Conference 2019 in Orlando. Speaking of Florida, keep reading for the wisdom of Sunshine State residents Frank and Jeannette (Wayman) Meitz who host discipleship training workshops around the world. Switching coasts, learn how disciples are made by Coastline Church in a Seattle coffee shop. From the Midwest, we hear from Pastor R. Adam Davidson who helps many people (including me) deepen their faith through his daily “RadCast” video devotions. We cross the U.S.–Canada border for the advice of ShareWord Global’s Dave Kenny on how to move from secondhand to firsthand faith. Finally, don’t miss Publisher Brett Heintzman’s reminder that effective discipleship involves one-on-one investment more than formula.
Let’s make disciples and go deeper in our own faith — being transformed by the renewing of our minds that allows us to “test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2). These renewed minds won’t all process thoughts the same way, but join together anyway to “teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).
Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor. He also serves as a delegate for John Wesley Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis. He joined LIGHT + LIFE in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media.1