By Jeremy Brown
Standing on the platform at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Phil Robertson spoke with conviction as the crowd hung on every word. “I’m not an ordained preacher in the way that you’re thinking—I’m just a guy who makes duck calls.” Much of the world is interested in the thoughts of the “Duck Commander” because this everyday man from the woods has chosen to use every platform afforded him over the last 30 years to introduce people to Jesus Christ—and God has allowed him a significant platform!
“I’m just trying to get America and the rest of the world to do two things: love God and love your neighbor,” he said. That statement is at the crux of our role in the incarnation, and love for our neighbor is best expressed in sharing the truth with them!
In speaking with Phil’s family, I was told “If you spend any time with Phil Robertson, you’re going to experience three things: you’ll be treated kindly, you’ll eat good food, and you’ll hear the gospel. If you respond, you’ll find your way to water behind his house.”
The purest form of being Jesus to our community is to make disciples as we take part in the Holy Spirit’s work in others. What is more incarnational than helping someone become more like Jesus? Consider Jesus’ words when he called his own disciples: “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people’” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus’ simple call gives us an idea how we are to make disciples.
Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” requires more than a moment of action—it requires a life of obedience. At Journey Church, the church I’ve had the privilege to plant and pastor for the last three years, we encourage people to “build a relational bridge that can bear the weight of truth,” and then leverage that relationship to invite a friend to become a follower of Jesus.
But it’s important to understand the process of discipleship cannot stop at conversion! It would be irresponsible to become a parent and then abandon the child—why would the process of evangelism be any different? It should become a community responsibility (not a transfer of responsibility), with one planting and another watering.
When Jesus told those young men in the boat, “Follow me and I will send you out, . . .” he was telling them he would “make” them into something. Romans 12:2 admonishes a follower of Jesus not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus. It’s not enough to love people exactly where they are in life—we need to love them enough not to leave them there!
Once a person becomes a follower of Jesus, we need to ensure they (and we) are doing what’s necessary to be formed into the image of Jesus. Praying, spending time in Scripture, attending church, and finding a group of people who will encourage your walk are not religious expression, but necessary parts of actively being formed in the image of Jesus.
What’s interesting about Jesus’ call to the disciples isn’t so much the brevity of the call as the breadth and depth of it. When Jesus said, “Follow me and I will send you out to fish for people,” he indicated the ultimate goal of our lives on earth—sharing the truth of God’s unconditional love for the people he created! When we’re being formed in the image of Jesus, we naturally become faithful to the mission of Jesus.
Proclamation and incarnation go hand in hand. What good do we do if we keep the truth of the love of God a secret? As I lead Journey Church to “be Jesus” to our community, I communicate the importance of proclaiming Christ to a lost and dying world.
Offering a cup of cold water without attaching the name of Jesus to your kindness pilfers the value from the act. To offer sustenance to a needy person without offering the bread of life is simply delaying the inevitable. They’ll ultimately die, and apart from the love of Jesus, a single day without the pangs of hunger is irrelevant. The same is true as we act in kindness to our friends and neighbors. True kindness to our neighbors includes telling them about Jesus as incarnate Christ who came to die on our behalf!
The words of the Duck Commander are simply an expression of the call Jesus made to each of us to “Love God and love your neighbor.” We need to love God enough to follow him with the goal of being formed in his image. As we’re formed in his image, the importance of our own lives pales in comparison to the value of the people around us, and we become faithful to the mission of Jesus to make disciples.
Jeremy Brown serves as lead pastor with Journey Church in Medina, Tennessee, and as a church planter coach with Stadia: New Church Strategies.