Pastor’s Word – Radical Discipleship

Though the term “radical discipleship” may sound strange and foreign to us, Jesus expected nothing less from his followers. Apostle Paul is a great example of a radical disciple. Writing his letter to the church in Colossae from a Roman prison, Paul talks about his service to Christ. Colossians 1:24-29 seems to contain some key persuasion or beliefs that radical disciples possess. As I mentioned in my previous article, radical disciples determine in their mind that there is no price too high to pay. But they also believe that there is no call, career, or profession greater than the call to discipleship and the call to God’s service

In Colossians 1:25, Paul talks about becoming “a minister according to the stewardship from God.” The word “minister” in the Greek is διάκονος from which we get our word “deacon,” simply meaning a “servant.” So it seems that Paul has a clear sense of calling to service and stewardship. There is an idea here that we have been entrusted with something in our life, and being faithful stewards and serving others is what we are all called to do.

This call did not come because of our qualifications, education, family upbringing, abilities, or intellect, but it was given to us by God. In today’s culture we love ownership but not so much stewardship. Ownership means we are in charge; stewardship means someone else is and we are accountable to him. This call is the greatest not only because it comes from God, but because it also includes the message of God being in us and changing our lives. Paul unveils the mystery or a “hidden truth” before us stating, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” It does not matter where you came from or who you are – Christ can dwell in you.

Recently I came across a story that inspired me and reminded me one more time about the high value of our call. This story is about William Borden.

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was already a millionaire. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave him a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Borden wrote home to say, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” At the same time, he wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.”

Indeed, Borden held nothing back. During his college years at Yale University, he became a pillar in the Christian community. One entry in his personal journal that defined the source of his spiritual strength simply said: “Say no to self and yes to Jesus every time.”

During his first semester at Yale, Borden started a small prayer group that would transform campus life. This little group gave birth to a movement that spread across the campus. By the end of his first year, 150 freshmen were meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the time Bill Borden was a senior, 1,000 of Yale’s 1,300 students were meeting in such groups. Borden also strategized with his fellow Christians to make sure every student on campus heard the gospel, and he was often seen ministering to the downtrodden in the streets of New Haven. But his real passion was missions. Once he narrowed his missionary call to the Kansu people in China, Borden never wavered.

Upon graduation from Yale, Borden wrote two more words in the back of his Bible: “No retreats.” In keeping with that commitment, Borden turned down several high-paying job offers, enrolling in seminary instead. After graduating, he immediately went to Egypt to learn Arabic because of his intent to work with Muslims in China. While in Egypt, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month, 25-year-old William Borden was dead.

Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words “No reserves” and “No retreats,” he had written: “No regrets.” (Daily Bread (12-31-1988); The Yale Standard (Fall 1970); Mrs. Howard Taylor, Borden of Yale (Bethany House, 1988))

Was his life a waste? He probably could have a lived a long life had he chosen a different path. But maybe he considered God’s call is the only call worthy of dedicating his whole life to. William Borden had no regrets, because he understood the value of his call. This call is not only to spread the message of Jesus, but to manifest Jesus Himself – Christ in you the hope of glory. The biggest regret that we can have in our life is the fact that we could have fulfilled the call that God has given us but we did not do it. Radical disciples understand that the call that God places on our lives is more valuable than any other call, aspiration, or desire and it must be answered. Will you answer it?