The school of obedience
Posted on May 3, 2019 by Aaron Kauffman
I love school. I’ve been a student for most of my life. If all goes well, this spring I will graduate from a doctoral program. Learning is a way of life for me.
Discipleship is about the most important kind of learning possible, learning to follow after Jesus. Yet too often, we see it as an add-on rather than an essential part of Christian faith.
Perhaps if discipleship were only a matter of acquiring information, we would be less inclined to neglect it. But it’s more than that. To truly know Jesus, we must walk in obedience to his ways. In the words of the early Anabaptist Hans Denck, “No one can truly know Christ unless they follow after him in daily life, and no one can follow Christ in daily life unless they truly know him.”
You might call this kind of discipleship obedience-oriented education. A story from Thailand illustrates the concept well.
For the better part of two decades Skip and Carol Tobin helped spark a movement of disciples among rice farmers in northeastern Thailand. Early on, Skip and his teammate Andre decided to minister as itinerant teachers, since teachers are revered in that Buddhist context. They would visit villages, offering to teach a “Life Enrichment Course for Buddhists” based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
One day, in the course of one of these visits, Skip and Andre were invited to pray for an elderly blind woman. God answered their prayers for healing in a different way than they expected. The woman did not recover her sight. Instead, she experienced freedom from night terrors when, to the shock of the watching village, Skip and Andre removed the spirit shelf from her home and prayed for her.
When Skip and Andre visited again, the whole village gathered at the woman’s home and announced, “We want you to teach us your life enrichment lessons.” Skip and Andre responded, “We can’t speak your language very well, and we can’t teach all of you at once. Choose one person from the village, someone you trust, and we will teach that person. Then, that person can teach you.” So the village chose a young man known as Uncle Skinny.
The course began with something completely unknown within the Buddhist worldview: the account of God’s actions in human history as recorded in the Bible. Uncle Skinny obediently shared the stories with his neighbors after studying each lesson.
They moved on to stories of Jesus. Again, each lesson prompted a personal response, this time to the authoritative Lord Jesus Christ, who invited and enabled everyone he encountered to follow him. Over time, Uncle Skinny and his neighbors obeyed their way into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today, Life Enrichment Church is a network of village-based churches made up of hundreds of believers whose lives have been changed by Christ. And Uncle Skinny, also known as Pastor Joi, continues to teach Buddhist rice farmers in his own country and beyond what it means to know and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
What might happen in our churches if we all enrolled in Jesus’ school of obedience?