Thursday, March 29, 2012

It Started With Earl

I picked up an excellent book at a used bookstore here in Conway a few weeks back, and just recently cracked it open. It is titled "Disciplines of a Godly Man" by R. Kent Hughes. So far, the book is great. But greater than the book, is the reminder the Lord gave me through reading what I have to this point. He reminded me of my desire to see Christian boys grow to be Godly Men. He reminded me why I desire this, in what way I can take part in this, the time frame for this happening (explanation pending), and what brought me to this point. With all of these considered, this post and the following three will explain each of these reminders. I hope that it stirs men and women alike to take part in discipleship within the Local Church and to not let social norms keep them from reaching out to the "undesirables".

Keep in mind, as you read this story, that I was much younger and immature at the point in my life that is being portrayed. I'm not proud of every method or word-choice that was used at this time, but the point of the story is what God was teaching me through this experience. Enjoy.

It started with Earl...

I started college at Central Baptist College in Conway in August of 2008. Upon my arrival, one of the first individuals I encountered was a misfit, seemingly slow [emphasis on "seemingly"] guy whose hair ran "to him and away from him, at the same time" (Gage P. Jordan). I didn't pay this guy any mind because he reminded me greatly of an annoying kid from high school that I had vowed to never come into contact with again. (Did I mention I was a christian?)

I succeeded in not having to talk to him much, but with C.B.C. being the small college that it was/is, it was impossible to avoid catching facts and vibes of how people felt about this guy, and who he was. His name was Richard Earl Rogers. He was a missions major whom apparently made not just me uneasy, but others as well.

Come to find out, Richard lived three doors down from me in William's Hall. Needless to say, it was going to be hard to avoid him forever. Our paths would cross from time-to-time but I managed to keep the conversation limited to; Me: "What's up Richard?" Richard: "Oh, not much." (in a coarse southern accent not unlike Carl from Slingblade). I kept this pace up for a couple of weeks, but little did I know things were about to change drastically, for the better.

During this time, I had become pretty good friends with my roommate, Brad. Brad was a preppy kid, which definitely didn't meet my typical "social standards", but he was the most normal guy I had met at this point. Soon I was connected with a youth pastor named Gage [quoted above]. Gage didn't quite meet my "social standards" either, but we shared very similar ideas on discontent with the state of churches and the way ministry was being done across America [because we really had a firm grasp on the situation].

Suddenly I was spending night, after night down the hall in Gage's room, discussing theology, and church, and making gay jokes. (We were keepers) I was so glad to finally be able to talk about the things that had been heavy on my heart for quite some time with someone who felt the same way. A brotherhood was established.

One night, in the middle of a Mark Driscoll podcast, there was a knock on Gage's door. Figuring it was just a student needing Gage to let them in their room (he was an R.A.) I walked to the door to let them in. When I opened the door, there stood Richard, with a goofy smile on his face. "What's up Richard?" I inquired. [We still weren't passed that point.] He then proceeded to step into the room, uninvited, and plopped down at the foot of Gage's bed. He spent the next hour pouring his heart out about not liking who he was, how people thought about him and how he didn't like it when we cussed because his mom told him that it was bad.

After listening to the whole bit, Gage and I went into discipleship mode. [We had no idea that's what it was at the time.] Gage gave Earl [We didn't like the name "Richard" so we started calling him by his middle name.] a great deal of good advice on his point of view of a lot of things. Me, being the more practical one who desired instant results, I waited for Gage to finish then grabbed Earl and took him to the bathroom and told him to sit down in a chair, and wait.

I went to my room and grabbed my hair trimmers, then to Earl's room to lay out his outfit for the next day...

That night, Earl received a complete dude makeover. His head was buzzed, his eye-brows were trimmed, and he had a fancy chin patch for a beard. The next day he wore the clothes that were picked out for him and followed the strict orders of "Do not look at anybody, unless they speak to you. Do not speak to anybody unless it is to be polite. Do your best to keep you conversations limited to 'Hi','Yes ma'am','Yes sir', 'No ma'am', and 'No sir'." Earl finished up that day overjoyed with the way people reacted to him. And from that day forward, I had a younger brother in the faith, and he an older one.

Today, Earl is continually growing as a Godly Man. I have grown, recognized some failures I made in my leadership with him, and repented. He has graciously forgiven me where I have failed, and done his best to trust me and listen to me, while above all, trusting and listening to Christ.

Here's my point...

I don't intend for you to think that I think that forcing someone to change their clothes, looks, and habits is discipleship. But I do intend for you to realize that there are times when that can be a part of discipleship. You see, we have this idea that discipleship is all about teaching the Bible to people on a scheduled rotation between our busy lives outside the church and our pathetic lives inside the church. But it's so much more than that! Christ tells us that as we make disciples, we are to teach them to "observe all that [he has] commanded [us]". (Matthew 28:20) And the Bible speaks to much more than our knowledge of what it says. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) Notice the phrases used in this popular text. Do you see how they all relate to more than knowledge. This passage tells us (along with many other things) that the Word of God really is what man shall live by alone. (Sola Scriptora) It tells us that as we follow 2 Timothy 2:2 we are, in addition to teaching scripture in word, we are to also be teaching scripture in deed. We are to be leaving an example for our disciples to follow.

And lastly, we are NOT to think, as Christians, that we are to good to love anyone. Christ proves that in the Gospel. The fact that he was willing to leave glory, to come here with and to save us filthy, sinful, unrighteous people should compel us to love the unlovable. It should cause us to desire to teach the unteachable. And most of all, it should cause us to guide the unrighteous to righteousness through Christ. The Gospel affects everyone. It is for everyone because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and therefore all are sinners, and "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" We don't know the elect of God, so let us proclaim boldly and scatter the Gospel seed faithfully! Let us make disciples of all nations and not fall into the lie of showing partiality. Because in the Gospel, there is no partiality.

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