It seems as though we’ve done ourselves a disservice in thinking about what constitutes actual discipleship, and it’s helpful when people come around from time to time to remind us what it looks like.
In the name of the “simple gospel,” of boiling the good news down to something that can be easily understood and shared, the Church has often communicated the idea that if we believe certain things about Jesus, pray a prayer, and “accept him into our heart,” we are His people. Usually, for us, being “His people,” means we go to Heaven when we die. The problem with this oversimplified, reductionistic view of the gospel is that it undermines the wholeness of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
In Christ’s Kingdom, there aren’t a group of people known as “adherents,” or “believers,” people who only believe things about Jesus, but don’t live as He lives. As James says, “you believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that.” And, they’re terrified, because they are not His.
Only disciples of Jesus are His children, and it is to those He gives His promises- promises of His perfect presence, His power, and abundant life. People often walk through life devoid of these things, never actually realizing it’s because they aren’t really disciples. Disciples are those who live as Jesus lives, think His thoughts, feel what He feels, and whose whole lives are on mission for Him.
The Enlightenment brought about great advances in science, politics, and philosophy, among other areas, but one of the chief errors of modernity was to compartmentalize the secular from the sacred: to convey that faith and science are separate things, or that my faith has nothing to say about art, or history, or mathematics, or every other idea or aspect of creation.
For most of us, our education growing up reinforced those notions, teaching us that each of those things were separate areas of study, areas that didn’t have much to do with each other, and that our faith didn’t have anything to do with any of them. Faith was something we did on Sundays; that was worship. Work, and play, and family, and friends, and creating culture, and interacting with media, and everything else was what we did on the other days of the week.
The problem with this framework is that it isn’t real; it’s not true. We were falsely taught that ministry and worship had nothing to do with work, or how we actually live most of our lives. These ideas run counter to what God tells us being a disciple of Christ is all about. Being a disciple is loving the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, all the time. (Matthew 22:37). It is presenting your bodies (your whole selves, all of you) as living sacrifices to God as an act of worship (Romans 12:1). You are called to live lives of constant obedience and surrender to the Lord for His service in everything you do.
We’ve all heard Christians say, “I don’t really have time for ministry right now; I’m too busy at work,” or words to that effect. For a disciple of Jesus, these are words that have no meaning. One’s work should be one’s ministry, as should our play, our interaction with the people in our lives, and everything we do.
We need reminders of these truths, and that’s why I’m grateful I have people like Jon Jasper to show me how. Jon is a school grandad who went home to be with Jesus this past week. In 1992, Jon, a chemical engineer, started Engineering, Procurement, and Construction, Inc., providing solutions for the hydrocarbon industry. Over time, the business became a family venture, with his son Brent, daughter Carrie-Ann, and son-in-law Les joining the firm. In 2016, the company became known as Jasper Ventures, and grew to over 200 employees.
For Jon, life was worship. Work was worship and ministry. The Lord blessed Jon and his family financially, and he has used those resources to influence others to not only demonstrate Christlikeness at work, but to truly see work as a calling, a vocation, an act of worship. Over the years, he and his family have sponsored numerous gatherings centered around encouraging work as worship, loving and caring for employees, and helping people break down the walls we’ve all erected in our thinking between our faith and what we do for the majority of our waking hours.
Jon lived out these concepts. I watched a video shortly before Jon died in which several of his employees recorded messages for him as he went home to spend his last days with his family. It was extremely humbling and touching to watch tough, strong working men sharing their hearts regarding the things Jon taught them, and the ways he touched their lives. One man shared that, when he first started at Jasper Ventures, he was struggling with addiction and other inner demons. Over time, after watching Jon and the way he lived out his faith, loved his family, and treated and loved this man, he was inspired to seek help with his addictions, deepen his own faith, and love his family better. This particular guy’s life, and those of his family, were changed forever through Jon simply living out faith in Jesus. There are numerous stories from many of Jon’s coworkers at Jasper Ventures, a remarkable legacy of faith.
Finally, Jon was generous, and taught his family and employees to be generous. Through pay and profit sharing, he taught his employees how biblical generosity enriches their lives, as well as others. He encouraged employees to sit on nonprofit boards and learn about and serve their community. Jon and his family have donated to many of the ministries around this part of East Texas, and to many others nationally and internationally. Maybe more importantly, they have used their influence to teach others what God’s Word says about generosity, encouraging others to give, not out of guilt or obligation, but to discover the joy and freedom of not holding onto stuff and living truly open-handed lives, where everything is available for God’s use and purposes.
At Grace, we teach Jesus by presenting everything we do through the lens of God’s Word, through His Truth. We try to engage kids in learning all aspects of creation as a whole system, not as individual discrete concepts or ideas. But, we also want them to see that God speaks to every aspect of creation, and wants to speak into every aspect of their lives. Our hope for them is that “I don’t have time for ministry” will be a statement without meaning–that every part of their life is and will be ministry, and love, and life, and worship- like my friend Jon. Teaching, modeling, and loving are the three keys to transform a child’s heart. And, that’s true for all of us.