You Wouldn’t Want An Ostrich For Your Mama! The Art of Disciple Making
By Carlton L. Coon
Strange title… “You wouldn’t want an ostrich for your mama!” Trust me you really wouldn’t! The Bible actually discusses it:
“Gayest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich? Which leaveth her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust, And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding. What time she lifteth up herself on high, she scorneth the horse and his rider.” (Job 39:13-18)
An ostrich is impressive:
* A mature one stands over six feet tall. God said, “She lifteth herself up on high.”
* It can outrun a horse for short distances: “she scorneth the horse.”
Yes, an ostrich is impressive, but she isn’t much of a mama. Her behavior toward her young denotes her lack of wisdom and understanding. An ostrich moves fast and stands tall things that catch the eye but she is not a pattern for maturing spiritual babies.
A young ostrich’s survival depends on chance. Maybe… perhaps… possibly the chick will survive. This is the result of poor mothering. Here are the qualities and habits that impair an ostrich’s parenting skills:
* An ostrich drops her eggs in the desert dust. No nest. Nothing just another day in the life of a bad mama. No special preparations are made. The chicks are at risk; accident or intent may destroy them.
Well now what does the “nest” for your spiritual babies look like? Is there a safe place for them to grow and be fed a diet they can digest? Where do they get to ask questions and not be treated as though their questions are foolish? How are they protected from accidental or intentional damage?
We hope for the best, but what intentional actions are we taking on behalf of spiritual babies?
* An ostrich leaves her young behind. She has something else to do. Some activity is more important than her young.
What is so important that a mother abandons her young? Shouldn’t a good mother be constantly busy responding to the needs of her little one? Where do you spend your time? What fulfills you? Are you okay with having babies and then wondering whether they lived or died?
* An ostrich is hardened against her young. It is as though they were not her own.
Interesting word: “hardened.” A mother ostrich feels no emotional attachment. There is no sense of loss if an animal eats her young. It is as though her chicks were strangers. She sees her baby as competition for available food. Do we care about spiritual babies with anything approaching the intensity we feel for our natural offspring? Do we feel a sense of responsibility for them and a passion to protect them?
* The labor she expends to lay the eggs is labor that is in vain.
Sound familiar? Great resources are expended on babies being born. There is celebration in the delivery room. Saints rejoice over the wonder of new birth. Is the baby then forgotten? Do we get so busy conceiving the next thing that we forgot to care for the last thing?
Now for some discomfort how much does your church’s mothering style resemble that of an ostrich? What are you going to do about it?
Changing An Ostrich
* Become extremely sensitive to the needs of spiritual babies. A mother is attuned to the slightest whimper of her offspring. She can hear distress that everyone else ignores.
* Accept responsibility! Paul told the saints at Thessalonica that he cared for them “like a mother caring for children.” He understood the relationship. The maturing of people became personal to him.
* Create a safe place. You probably won’t call your Discipleship efforts, “The Nest,” but that is what Disciple-making should provide.
* If your survival rate is low, do something different. Be aggressive enough to learn from a pastor or church that is doing a better job with spiritual parenting.
* Invest as much energy into caring for and developing spiritual babies as you do getting them born-again.
The Bible has a number of other illustrations of the sad things that can happen to the young.
Lamed By A Care-Giver
Remember Mephibosheth, who lived his life under the provision and protective care of King David. How did he end up a dependent?
“And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son that was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.” (2 Samuel 4:4)
Mephibosheth was lame because of his caregiver’s hurry. Her hurry became his harm. No impairment came to her because of her haste. Mephibosheth survived but was forever handicapped by her huffy.
Making disciples cannot be rushed. Each new convert is limited by natural limitations. There has to be a progressive revelation of God. Think of how little the average new convert actually knows about God and the Bible.
With that limited knowledge clearly in mind, imagine a Harvard math professor leaving his position to go teach algebra to children in kindergarten. His progress and that of the children would be limited. The failure would not be because of his lack of knowledge, but the mind of a five-year old is not prepared to deal with higher math. Math depends on a progressive education. Kids have to learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide; then comes fractions and decimals. Finally they have the ability to deal with the science of figures. What would have been difficult becomes easy. But the Harvard math professor can’t rush the process.
In a similar way we deal with the process of making disciples. If you hurry them, you will harm them. I’m not talking about ignoring their development… invest in the new baby at their level of understanding. Don’t load them with the responsibilities of mature Christianity when they -save not yet finished kindergarten.
Can I just speak plainly: we tend to fear when there are babies under our care. These spiritual infants are not yet living up to certain lifestyle expectations. Does that sort of fear make as much sense as a couple with a newborn being afraid of being criticized if their newborn dirties a diaper? Don’t harm a spiritual baby out of fear of what someone else might think of you the caregiver. Spiritual babies should not be put in harm’s way. Some have been permanently impaired because we hurried through what should have been a deliberate process.
Directions For Spiritual Nurses
* Don’t fear outside pressure. New converts are not to be hurried to responsibilities they are not ready for.
* As a pastor, equip new babies for an ongoing personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Teach them basic things. Teach about the daily things of Christian life, personal quiet times, the disciplines of prayer and fasting, church attendance, and how to reach out to their friends.
* Take your time. Be deliberate. How long does it take to develop a disciple? My personal estimate: with a focused Discipleship effort, it takes anywhere from three to five years.
* Be careful that some of the “other hands” who touch your spiritual babies don’t get in a rush. Sometimes saints who have been in the church for fifteen years want to hold a new believer up to the same expectations they are now living. Such will hurt your babies.
Threatened By Babies
People can tell if you want them around. It isn’t verbiage, it’s behavior. Pharaoh and Herod lived in different eras; both were motivated by fear. Herod and Pharoah became threatened by infants. Each newborn Hebrew was a threat. Pharaoh and Herod’s remedy: if it is a threat, kill it.
An average church operates on a delicate balance. People sit on those same seats at the end of a pew (where a guest has to climb over them) every service. Social groups are clearly defined. New people threaten the delicate balance of the average church.
Now… I know your church is far more spiritual than what I’m describing. You are thinking, “Social groupings and positioning does not come into play in our church.” Okay, as an experiment, tell your wonderful, Godly, spiritual, and kingdom-minded praise leader that for the next three weeks you decided to have someone else lead the praise. You may well discover how social groupings and positioning come into play.
Being threatened by new spiritual babies may not enter into a pastor’s thinking, but it affects the behavior of saints. Churches even young Home Missions congregations become closed social sets. In an average United Pentecostal Church, everybody knows everybody. New spiritual babies are fearful things. “Will they get more attention from the pastor? What if she is a better keyboardist? I hear he sings does he sing better than me?” You know the things I’m talking about.
One can only break into a closed social set with much effort. I am talking about the “kicking and screaming” kind of exertion. Most new converts don’t have it in them. An elder tells of a new pastor who led his church to growth; soon there was some trouble. One of the “old” saints commented, “We had a good little church till all these new people started coming!”
In a research project church dropouts were asked two questions:
1 Why did you drop out?
2 What would most influence your choice of a new church home?
The answer most commonly given to the first question was, “I did not feel part of the group.” The response to the second question (almost 75 percent), was “the friendliness of the next church’s people.” It again shows that how we respond in welcoming newcomers and making them feel a sense of “place” is important.
Remedy For Fearing The Baby
* The pastor has to be highly visible in spending time with new converts. Have coffee with them. Invite them to your home. Demystify yourself to them.
* Establish an open door approach. One of the longest words Jesus ever used was “whosoever.” The word He seemed to like the best was “come.” His idea: “whosoever will, let him come.” He aggressively welcomed all sorts of people. Be open work at it till it becomes natural.
* Learn to hug new people. Tell them, “I love you! I’m glad you are here. Thank you for letting me be – your pastor.” Even before babies understand words, they recognize the meaning conveyed by the outstretched arms of a mother. What is being conveyed by your posture?
* Draw other people into the fellowship circle and slowly coach them that these spiritual babies are what the church exists for.
* Don’t turn the “closed social set” into a squabble. Change it with your behavior and leadership outside the pulpit. When you finally address it, deal with it from a positive perspective and train the congregation on how to deal with new babies. Instead of fussing about it, coach them.
God forgive us for those we left in the dust, for the wounded sons, and for babies destroyed due to our fear . . . and please, Jesus, help us do better in the future!
We have many resources available, as well as several men trained to do seminars and workshops on Disciple-making. One four lesson component of the Apostolic Training Institute (DVD based instruction designed to train leaders) deals with Disciple-making. If I or the General Home Missions Division can help you with your desire to work in this area, contact us.
In thinking about your own Disciple-making efforts and the next Communique exactly what does a Biblical disciple look like? How do we know a disciple when we see one? Is it what our Disciple-making effort is actually aimed toward? Hint: refer to the passages where Jesus talked about disciples.
This article “You Wouldn’t Want An Ostrich For Your Mama! Disciple Making” written by Carlton L. Coon is excerpted from Director’s Communique a January/February 2008.