Do you love Jesus? Are you trying to follow Him? i recently compiled a list of 40 tips on some different ways you can be a better disciple. This list is a summary of those tips with a brief explanation of each one, but if you click on each tip it will take you to longer version so you can read a little more deeply. Would love to hear which of these you found helpful in the comments below.
[i have played around with the order of them a little to give what i think is a better flow, so this was not the order in which i originally presented them and actually i will keep the numbers of the order i originally used just for context – click on any of them if you would like to be taken to the post with the fuller comment]
#1 Major in Love – It is the greatest commandment we have and something Jesus kept on talking about and continually demonstrated. The writer to the Corinthians gives us a bit of a blueprint about what that Love will look like [different to that we see around us] and we really should be focusing on that. When in doubt, Love. And ask questions relating to Love.
#33 Be still and know – This one was about taking time to pause and stop and reflect and reconnect with God. It is so easy to get caught up in the doing and sometimes we lose a lot of the being or the character development or sin dealing that should be taking place, which will in fact make the doing so much more effective and significant. Be still and be reminded again that God is God.
#18 Believe that God is bigGER! – No matter who you are, there is a tendency for us to put God into a box which limits God in some or many ways. How God speaks or doesn’t speak, who God uses or doesn’t use, what is okay and not okay in the eyes of God. While it is helpful to develop a theology and understanding of God it is important to note that a lot of the time it seems as if even God doesn’t have a theology of God. Sometimes God speaks through a burning bush, other times through a donkey; sometimes God speaks through visions and dreams, while other times God sends a prophet. Jesus heals blind people with touch, with words, with applied mud and with direct spit into the eyes. We must work on our theology but always hold space for the possibility that God might work outside of it.
#4: Reconnect your brain – We are told to love God with heart, soul, strength and mind. Too often, we ignore the mind part and focus on feelings, peer pressure or tradition, or even perhaps the fear that we might be thrown if we think about God too hard. God is the creator of everything that science seeks to understand and communicate and so we don’t need to be scared. But we do need to be responsible and approach our faith with questions and struggles and doubts and put in a little work when required.
#3: Engage with the word of God – For many people the only Bible they ever hear if from the man [or woman, if they’re lucky] during the preach on a Sunday. If we’re not spending time reading and getting to know the Bible, then we are forced to believe and agree with whatever we hear as we have nothing to test it against. But also when we are having conversations with people who don’t believe, we will carry a lot more credibility if we can prove from the Scriptures the points we are trying to make.
#5: Learn to read before and after your favourite verse – Context is often so crucial. Because the Bible uses narrative and poetry and song and prophecy and because some of it is directed to individuals and other parts of it to communities, we would be foolish to approach it all the same way. If we simply lift a verse out of the Bible because we like what it says, without doing the work of trying to understand what God or the writer was trying to say to their audience at that moment, we will end up with a lot of beliefs that are dangerous or unhelpful or even damaging as we have often seen. Context matters.
#19 Combine the Spirit and the Word – Some Sunday gatherings focus too heavily on the moves of the Holy Spirit with an almost complete absence of Scripture, while others are so Bible focused that there is no room for the Spirit to move and speak and interrupt. How do we get the best of Spirit and Word in a way that doesn’t compromise either of them. There needs to be a balance of focus given to both.
#27 Start in the mirror [speck/log] – The principle of Jesus talking about specks and logs in eyes reminds me that the work has to start with me. i always need to be inviting God through the Spirit to show me where i need to be growing or repenting or learning before i spend too much time on other people. But i also don’t need to wait til i am perfect before i engage with others in accountability and mutual reflection in ways that will help us both to grow. But emphasis begins with sorting my own crap out.
#38 Be of good character and integrity when it comes to the small things – If you show weak character or low integrity when it comes to something small that should be really easy to get right [not pushing into lines, speaking Truth] then it will be very hard for me to expect you will do any better when it comes to bigger and more important matters. If we prove faithful in small things then it is much easier for people to trust us with bigger things.
#28 Don’t wait for God to tell you what to do – i have a very different view than a lot of people when it comes to the idea of ‘Calling’ but not one that is very controversial at all. God has already revealed God’s will to us in so many areas [all of us need to make disciples, forgive people who hurt us, love God and people, including enemies, pursue Justice and look after the marginalised]. Once you’ve managed to do all that you can ask God if God has any specifics just for you. The reality of the Bible story is that the amount of people God actually called was really small whereas all of the Israelites in the Old Testament and followers of Jesus in the New were given clear direction as to the will of God in so many areas. i think the idea of ‘personal calling’ largely comes out of a messed up individualistic ‘personal salvation’ understanding of Christianity which doesn’t demonstrate a clear reading of Scripture.
#15 Don’t expect God’s future plans and hopes for you to be easy – If your Christianity is easy, you’re doing it wrong. But only if the lives of pretty much every person who followed God in the Bible is taken into account. How do we read a book where everyone struggled, had doubt, was fearful, experienced loss, lived in the hope of something that wasn’t realised when they were alive and more and then come to the conclusion that the life of following Jesus is about being comfortable and having all my needs met and being safe? It’s a nice idea, but it’s not the thing.
#21 Trust God without a backup plan – This is probably where the more controversial of my theology lies when i address it to insurance and medical plans and more. And it’s not somewhere i have arrived and continues to be an ongoing wrestle [especially after driving into a BMW without insurance and essentially needing other people to help bail us out – although Acts 2]. But i think it is helpful to consider how often we might say we are trusting God but with insurance and medical plans and savings in place we never really actually have to because we always have our own backs. What does this mean in the light of a Matthew 6 call from Jesus to “Seek first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”?
#9 Give Jesus your whole cake – If you imagine your life divided into different pieces of cake and God as the icing [or more accurately the flour that will be found in every single granule of the cake] then do you just give God one piece or some pieces and take control of the rest. Which parts of your life are you holding back from God and not giving God full control over?
#11 Put your money where your faith is – Christians tend to really struggle to talk about money openly and honestly and it’s no wonder the Bible calls this out specifically – you cannot serve both God and money. Have you invited God into your finances and what does this look like?
#6: Interrogate the words you sing – The lie of worship refers to the fact that we often sing words in songs in church that we would never honestly pray to God out loud. We need to be more invested in making sure that our worship is both honest and reflective of where the general gathering is on any given day.
#16 Stop Putting People on Pedestals – The throne of your life should be reserved for Jesus and any time you put anyone else [pastor, mentor, favourite Christian author or worship leader or podcaster] on that throne, it’s as if you are putting Jesus back on the cross. Jesus needs to be on the throne and each of us need to be denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily and following Him, and only Him.
#2 Church is NOT just the place you go to – Church is much more than just the place you go to on a Sunday although that can be a huge part of it. The people of God doing the things of God are how i view the church in the Bible which involved people meeting in each others’ homes and breaking bread together and it involved people meeting in the temples. If we think church is only a Sunday thing then too often our following of Jesus looks the same.
#7 Some of you need to leave the bubble – If you only ever spend time in church gatherings or with other Christians then you might as well be dead cos that’s heaven, right? How are we living well in the world – but not of the world – so that all of us are making disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them to obey the things Jesus taught us?
#10 Be on the beach – If all of us were doing the work of the church, then it would all happen. But too often it is a small percentage of the committed people doing too much of the work which leads to burnout, depression and worse. We all need to be doing some of the things instead of some of us trying to do all of the things. Is church just a once a week hobby for you, or are you invested?
#30 Tell us what you’re for – Everyone knows really quickly what Christians are against, but what are we for? If we focused on the things we are for such as strong communities of committed people, faithful marriages, looking after the marginalised, understanding God’s word and trying to live it out, the forgiveness of offences against us, then so many of the things we are against might be taken care of. Jesus used the words “The Kingdom of God is like” on so many occasions and not a single time did He start with “The Kingdom of God is not like…”
#29 Work on your smell – We are to be and leave everywhere we go the fragrance of Christ. Too often Christians leave a stench [especially in the world or art and media] and we need to do better. People should be adding daily to our number like they did with the early church when they were meeting together and looking after orphans and widows and more.
#31 Be different – If you like, sound and behave like people around you who are not claiming to follow Jesus then you are very likely not following Jesus. There is a different kingdom we are called to and it begins with a transforming and renewing of our minds so that we can think differently and act differently and produce different outcomes.
#32 Don’t be so defensive – No, seriously, just stop it. Ask the question, ‘Is this for me? Is it True?’ and then if it is, do the work and if it’s not, move along. But too often we get defensive before we have even really listened to what someone is trying to say to us and so miss out on an opportunity for growth and healing and more.
#12 Deal with your sin – Don’t let sin remain in your life uninterrupted. Don’t live in compromise. Don’t give sin a pass. Don’t excuse it.
#24 Deal decisively with sin – We need to remember that we have an enemy who is not looking to give us a bad day, but to destroy us. So we need to get serious with the things in our life that get in the way of our relationship with God and other people. Stop toying with sin and do what needs to be done. Kill sin early or it will end up killing you in some shape or form.
#23 Stop picking some sins to major on over others – All sin is offensive to God and so it is so dangerous when a church picks a couple of sins they are against while ignoring the greed, selfishness and pride in their own ranks. All sin is not equal [different consequences, different extremes] but all sin needs to be equally harshly dealt with. Not people, though. People need grace and mercy and compassion. We need to be able to spot the difference.
#8 Recognise that everyone has been made in the image of God – Your worst enemy and the political opposition who is making decisions that you absolutely abhor and the youth leader who abused your kids and that military dictator, oh and you. All made in the image of God and all worthy of being looked at in that way so that we can get a sense of the Love God has for them and how we might hope for people’s redemption rather than their destruction.
#17 Love the sinner, be against the sin – This flows directly out of the last one. Once we recognise that people are made in God’s image we can see that each person has brokenness and flaw and hopefully find a way of separating the two.
#13 Right relationship trumps worship – God is serious about us dealing with broken relationship with people and invites us to go and put that right – or do our best – before worshipping God. In fact, if we worship God while harbouring resentment or bitterness or unforgiveness, it brings into question whether there is any worship happening at all. The ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ part of the greatest command Jesus gives, seems to be interwoven with the ‘Love God with everything part of that same command!’
#20 Husbands submit to your wives – This one is about mutual submission and about finding ways to not lord it over each other, especially in marriage, but also in the church in general. A lot of damage has been done by men misinterpreting some of the writings about women in the bible. The call on mutual submission is quite clear here and then continuing on to men being called to lay down their lives gives us a better understanding of what we should be focusing more on.
#14 Learn when to have Public vs Private conflict – Jesus publicly [and quite aggressively] took on the Pharisees and His own disciples at times when they should have known better but were getting it wrong. But He also taught a principle of going one-on-one when someone has wronged you and dealing with it quietly and hoping it can be sorted out well in that way. i do believe that when a sin has been public there often needs to be some kind of public dealing with it so that the audience has the opportunity to be taught and witness the correction as opposed to being left in confusion. But either way should always be Truth in Love and this is definitely one i have got wrong on a number of occasions. But too often things are swept under the carpet which can be hugely damaging in the long run.
#37 It’s okay to be wrong. It’s not okay to not admit it – When you’re wrong, own it. It’s okay not to know things and not be sure about things and to do the work of finding out the right answer. But when it turns out that you’re wrong about something, fight against the pride temptation to dismiss that opportunity for humility, honesty and repentance.
#39 Be okay with not being okay and create spaces for others to do the same – Following Jesus is not clear cut. Trying to follow God never was throughout the Bible and so it makes sense that there will be people who continue to doubt and wrestle and hurt and be angry and be confused and we need to be okay with that [God seems to be!]. We don’t need to try and fix everything without giving it the right space to play out and be discovered or figured out or even not.
#26 Don’t throw babies out with bathwater – This one related to some people’s fear about Easter or Christmas and links to paganism or them becoming too commercial and so just wanting to do away with them completely [Jesus was not born in December, you know! Whoops: Spoiler alert!]. For me, it’s about knowing what you believe and holding to that and trusting that while some things may need to be thrown out, others can be redeemed and really God does know our hearts and watches our actions and really just wants us to follow in a way that glorifies God. This might also mean different things to different people but Paul warns us about putting all our convictions on other people.
#36 Do something for the least of these – This is not a bonus “it would be nice if” moment for Christians. Matthew 25 sheep and goats story by Jesus seems to make it quite obvious that this is an essential part of the kingdom, if “Love your neighbour as yourself” was not clear enough for us. Justice is a huge theme of the whole Biblical narrative and of Jesus’ life and teachings as He spoke Truth to Power and called people to a new way of living.
#35 Learn to speak out the “That’s not okay!” that is needed in society – With Justice such a huge theme of the Bible and on God’s heart and an absolute playing out of “Love your neighbour as yourself” i can’t really understand why we need to be saying this. It feels like an obvious thing and there are a lot of times in history when the church has been really good at this and some other times when the church has been complicit in its silence or inaction and we need to make sure we are leading the way in terms of campaigning for Justice and Truth and Life.
#34 Stop supporting the killing of people to teach people that killing is wrong – A lot of Christians i know and love are in support of the death penalty and in the light of Jesus literally calling for forgiveness from the cross as people were killing Him and interrupting the one time when a legal death penalty situation happened in front of Him and forgiving the woman, i just don’t see the idea of killing people as one that is in line with the life and teachings of Jesus. It does get a little murkier when you take the Old Testament into account and so i can see much space for wrestling and trying to understand that the same God of the Old Testament seems to be calling for it or making use of it [and even the Ananias/Sapphira account in Acts although that had a very specific ramification to it]. But when it comes to Jesus, i just don’t see Him ever being for it and maybe to the point of that upside-down kingdom nature of ‘Even if this thing is allowed choose not to do it!’
#22 Consider that God might be a big fan of diversity – God is the God of the marginalised and the poor and those thrown to the side, at least as much as God is the God of the wealthy and sanitised and religious, but maybe even a little more so. In South Africa [and across the world, let’s be honest] the marginalised tend to be black, coloured and indian and that is enough for me to believe God wants me to care about diversity. Not for the look of it, but because there is a richness and depth to the kind of community Jesus pulls together with His disciples where they are all very different and will iron-against-iron the flaws out of each other in presumably quite uncomfortable interactions. God cares about diversity and so should we.
#25 Let go of the notion that Jesus was white. [Oh, and God is not a boy!] – This is probably not a big deal for white people because the whole world has generally been leaned in our direction, so much so that depictions of a middle eastern man who lived under the baking desert sun were white for hundreds of years. But it is a big deal for countless others around the world who have in many cases come to view God as a white man’s God and thought that this God was not for them. The patriarchal language and attitude and traditions of the church doing, in some ways, a similar thing to women…
#40 Don’t be a Dick – This one sums up the whole list really. And if the word bothers you more than the idea that you might be being one, then i think you have a bigger problem. As followers of Jesus we should be majoring in Love – it’s the way we should be known and spotted and stand out – and it’s hard for that to be the case if you’re a bit of a dick. Whether you’re male or female, the word has come to be associated with a not-nice individual who really could do a lot better. Don’t be that person.
And there you have it, 40 Tips that will hopefully help us all to become better followers of Jesus. Even as i was coming up with them day to day and more actually when i was writing out this summary list, i have been convicted of a few that need my attention and so, as always, there is work to be done. So i will stand in front of my mirror and begin with mine, and hope that these have helped you out with yours.
Please SHARE this on your social medias if you found it helpful and please tag your friends in or why not send a copy of these tips to your pastor or home group leader and see what they think…
Strength and Love and Truth and Kingdom-building to you.
love brett “Fish” anderson
[If you would like to work through the list in the order it was written, click here]
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