Written by Bob Schindler, Executive Director of CEDE Partners – an Initiative of CEDE Sports
Jonathan Dodson is the lead pastor of Austin City Life church and founder of Gospel Centered Discipleship.com. Jonathan is also the author of several books, one of which is Gospel-Centered Discipleship published in 2012. When I stumbled across some of his writing I was very impressed with his perspective on the missional church.
When his book Gospel Centered Discipleship was being released, Jonathan was kind enough to do a Q & A with us regarding sports and discipleship:
1. What advice would you give to someone who desperately wants to disciple a new believer but is struggling to know where to begin?
I encounter this struggle quite often. Many Christians struggle to make disciples, not only because they don’t know how, but also because they lack confidence in making disciples. This lack of confidence may spring from not knowing where to begin, but often the hesitation runs deeper, based on a sense of personal inadequacy. Here are a few responses:
- Commend a disciple’s eagerness to honor the Lord Jesus by making disciples of him.
- Encourage others by reminding them that, if they know Jesus, they know more than enough to disciple someone into or in Jesus. The gospel of grace is how we know Christ and how we grow in Christ.
- Be careful to not get off on the wrong foot in discipling others by trying to show them what you know. They will be changed more by who you are. Invite disciples into your life not just into Bible studies. Our disciples need to see our need for Jesus, not merely what we know about him.
- As you invite disciples into your life, create time to get to know their story (and discern how to disciple). You can do this over a meal, a drink, a run, a sport, hobby, family outing, house project, or on a mission.
- Be aware that there are three primary environments for making disciples: the classroom, the community, and the culture. Disciple in all three contexts not just classroom.
- Center your discipleship on the gospel by using a solid resource like Gospel-Centered Discipleship, The Walk, or Creed.
2. “Gospel-centered” is certainly a popular and trendy term to use these days. As with many buzzwords in the Christian world, they can begin to evolve and mean different things to different people. How would you define what “gospel-centered” means?
It depends on what facet of gospel-centeredness you mean! There is gospel-centered theology, ecclesiology, discipleship, and mission. However, all gospel-centered practice begins with a proper theological understanding of the gospel. I like to describe the gospel as:
“The good and true story that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us.”
This definition recognizes that the gospel is both narrative and proposition; it is focused on Jesus not us or our works; it is anchored in history through Jesus death and resurrection; it is keeps Jesus identity as both a sovereign Lord and a redeeming Christ; finally, it reminds us of the scope of the gospel, that it is as big as new creation and as small as you and me. To be gospel-centered is to keep a historic, Christ-centered (not works-centered), large and small scope of the good news in view that is both a grand retelling of the story of Adam and Israel and focused proclamation of the wonderful news that Jesus Christ is Lord. Concisely, the gospel is Jesus Christ is Lord.
Gospel-centered ministry, then, must keep this gospel central not only in theology but in the practice of everyday life. A primary way to do this is to be motivated by the gospel, not by religious performance or spiritual license. Gospel motivations include: promises and warnings, repentance and faith, and religious affections. All gospel motivations require a motivation behind the motivation—the person and power of the Holy Spirit. Gospel-centered ministry, then, is centering all of our ministry on Jesus by motivating disciples with the redemptive motivations and benefits of the gospel by calling disciples to believe in Jesus as Christ as they observe public obedience to Jesus as Lord.
3. If someone from your church approached you expressing a desire to use their love of sports to be missional, what advice would you give them? How could this person use sports to disciple people?
- Don’t start a Christian sports group; join an existing one in the community or city.
- Go into the sport as a humble participant; not a proud show-off. Have fun, pray, and intentionally connect with people.
- Play like your identity hangs on Christ, not if you win or lose.
- Listen to people’s stories to learn how the good news can become good to them. Where are they in need of redemption, hope, comfort, grace, joy?
- Bring the benefits of Jesus to bear on their real life as you get to know them.
- Introduce them to more of your friends and church in natural ways through games, parties, etc. Expand the gospel witness through community. Pray.
4. Matt Chandler wrote the foreword to your book. I know you’re admittedly not a sports person but if you had to pick a sport in which you could beat Matt Chandler at, what would it be and why?
Basketball because I would dunk on him all day.
If you enjoyed these questions and discussions, I would recommend you check out the book.