Jesus is in the business of making all things new, which is glorious to realize since we are each in desperate need of an overhaul. All will share the same product of transformation, but the process will be unique based upon the individual. The Spirit has work to do in each one of us, but the type of work varies from individual to individual.
Disciples are never assembled on conveyor belts but instead crafted by intentional workers.
The gospel teaches us that God made a good creation, we made a bad decision, and yet God had a plan for our redemption. Like new automobiles dazzling on the car lot, we were pristine until the moment we drove onto the road. Our sin totaled our lives to an unrepairable state. Disfigured from the original glory we were supposed to display and damaged to the point of functional immobility, our destiny was to join all the other dilapidated vehicles in the junkyard.
Remarkably, the vehicle designer visited the automobile cemetery. While others couldn’t see past the cost of repair, he couldn’t escape the value of redemption. He purchased the hunks of junk and decided to make them new again. His unwavering desire was to renew both their vitality and functionality.
While the designer paid the steep price for their restoration, he also provided his trusted car shops with mechanics who possessed all the knowledge and resources they would need to do further work. Something odd happened though in many of these shops. With the tremendous demand for work, they decided to speed up the process. They designed a conveyor belt to process the vehicles at a quicker pace.
These mechanics looked at the first car in line and evaluated its specific needs. The initial vehicle needed a new transmission, front headlights, wheel bearings, and a working muffler. They carefully designed machines to address those very issues. The first car went through successfully, and so they began to put the next vehicles on the line to do the same work.
The only problem was that the next vehicle didn’t require that exact type of work. It instead needed a new alternator and some back tires. Yet once the machine got going, there was no stopping it. Every car was going to get the same type of treatment. After all that innovative type of thought and effort, only a few vehicles could drive away repaired.
Just like the vehicles in this illustration, each of us demands complete restoration, but none of us require the same steps to get there.
In our churches, we attempt to put every single person on the same spiritual conveyor belt, but not everyone needs the same work done. While we were all rightfully classified as spiritually totaled, we need different types of tuneups. Even if we meet the restoration expectations after some considerable work, we still require regular maintenance and diagnostic troubleshooting. With every passing year, further issues need to be addressed to keep the car running.
Discipleship will never be entirely effective if we use generalized approaches on people with particular needs. Our lives are too complicated for a conveyor belt – we require intentional mechanics who discover what we specifically need to get going again and work relentlessly until that becomes a reality.
We misrepresent individuality as the enemy of simplicity. Just because the process requires specific work does not imply that it is too complex to undertake.
The process is undeniably simple: discover what is most broken within any given individual and get to work in that exact area at this specific time.
This article is an excerpt from chapter 2 of Distinctive Discipleship.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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