A young missionary living overseas posted a political opinion on a popular social media site. One person responded in agreement. A few people responded with a different opinion, as did I. After I replied, I then began to get notifications that other people were commenting; and several of them were also “liking” the comment I made.
I sent a private message to this missionary to explain a concern. As missionaries, either abroad or at home, we are usually dependent on the financial support of others who care about our mission. Many of these supporters connect to us through social media. Like it or not, everything that we post there can be an extension of our ministry.
I explained that I am quite careful not to post controversial topics on my social media. I suggested that he might consider doing the same. It’s simply not worth upsetting prayer supporters or losing financial support just to express our latest political opinion.
His response to me was that he’d known the people who are replying for at least a decade. He was sure that they would not respond to him negatively. This might be true. The people who are responding might not be negative toward his opinion. But what about the people who read the post and do not respond? How does he know what they are thinking?
In choosing a man to disciple, an essential element is that he be teachable. If someone doesn’t stop long enough to consider what you’re trying to communicate to them, call it stubbornness if you’d like, you won’t make progress in helping him grow into a disciple of Jesus.
There’s a pretty good chance that if a man doesn’t listen to you, especially when you’re speaking out of love and concern, he may also not be willing to listen to Jesus (who speaks not only through the Bible but also through other believers). This doesn’t mean that he has to do everything you say, but he should at least hear you out.
If someone doesn’t appear to be teachable, take things slow and address this most important of topics. Try to help him or her understand that being teachable flows from an attitude of humility – a trait that the Bible often focuses on (Proverbs 6:3; 11:2; 15:33; 16:19; 18:12; 22:4; and 29:23 from just one book!).
Give him or her the opportunity to develop some teachability. But if after a few tries and a couple of months things have not improved, invest yourself in someone else. The missionary mentioned above responded this way: “I’m not going to be silenced just because someone might be offended.”
This is not just being unteachable. No where in Scripture do we get the opportunity to be offensive. This stubbornness has its roots in pride. Until someone’s character trait is transformed (Romans 12:2), trying to disciple (or mentor or coach) a man or woman like this will be fruitless.
Teachable men can be difficult to find. Men who are faithful, available, and teachable are especially hard to find. But better to look for a F.A.T. man than waste valuable portions of your life on someone who won’t heed your discipling.
In the end, it’s not how many men you’ve discipled; it’s how well you’ve invested the things that you’ve been given. That’s when we will get to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
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