It’s common for church people to resist the “ways of the world” when it impacts how we do church together.  At The Effective Church Group, we are always ready for push back when we express practical advice which arises from the reality of how human nature works.

We hear “It’ll never work; or it’s not spiritual; or that’s the way businesses do things.”

Remember the words of Jesus as he sent people out into the world.  Yes, be innocent as doves, BUT be wise/cunning/shrewd as serpents.

Jesus knows better than any of us that snakes don’t have a good reputation in our human experience, beginning with the beginning in the whole Adam and Eve deal.  So what does Jesus mean by such a curious comment?

My wife and I made a bucket list trip to Alaska.  There were many wonderful experiences in our trip.  However, there is a very interesting expression of human “discipleship” that I want to share in this blog.

This discipleship wasn’t making disciples of Jesus.  This was making jewelry disciples.  It was an illustration of cunning awareness of how human nature works and how to come alongside people one step at a time to the desired goal of selling jewelry.

So we’re on the cruise ship.  When you’re out on the open seas, there are only three things to do: eat, gamble, and go to jewelry presentations.

You can’t eat all the time.  And we aren’t gamblers.  So, even though we were jewelry “unchurched”, we decided to go learn about gems.  After all, you got a free Alaska themed charm bracelet!

I learned everything there is to know about gems and the 4 C’s (jewelry’s 4 “spiritual laws” – color, cut, carat, and clarity for you jewelry unbelievers).  Okay, but if you want another charm for your bracelet, you’ve got to go to the jewelry store in the upcoming port.  Indeed, our gem mentor got a shuttle and dropped us off at the door.

Not only that, she gave us a VIP card which got us special treatment and the “best deal.”  She was available to assist us in any purchase.  Then she would even take any purchase back to the ship for us so that we didn’t need to carry it with us as we went about exploring the port city.

Did it work?  Yes, in fact it did.  We made a purchase that we have talked about for 20 years but never decided to fully pursue before.  This from a couple that couldn’t be further from the likely people to purchase jewelry.

It was unadulterated business cunning.  It made me think of the “wisdom” of a serpent.  And I marveled at the commitment to anticipating all needs of the potential “disciple” to pave the way as much as possible.

Church people tend to not understand who people are that need Jesus.  We think they are just like “us.”  But they are people like me when it comes to jewelry.  I knew almost nothing.  And I really wasn’t interested.  They met me where I was rather than trying to make me start where they are.

No less than Jesus said to be as shrewd as serpents in recognizing the realities of people’s lives to meet them where they are and use all worldly tools to help people take next steps of becoming his followers.

Church people still usually say that we’re here and if people want to join us they are welcome.  That’s not smart.  And it’s not faithful.

Internalize the missing piece of discipleship.  Meet people where they are.  Use every bit of worldly knowledge and resources.  Befriend people.  Walk with them.  Anticipate and prevent the potential pitfalls.  Visualize what each step of the discipleship path looks like – not from your eyes, but from the eyes of the one not yet a disciple.