Give Young Disciples Some Easy Wins

Soccer Ball
(© Photoaged | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images)

I was at the C3 Church’s Sunday service Sunday night at Oxford Falls, a suburb of Sydney, when Australian talk show host Jamie Malcolm exhorted the congregation. Jamie’s words were so unforgettable, I wanted to make sure I recorded them here so I could remember and share them with you.

Jamie spoke about generosity and giving, but he did it in a way I’ve never heard before. He spoke of how to get started in giving. His point was simple: All too often, we think in terms of larger amounts rather than just starting out and doing something no matter how small.

His context verse was a familiar one—"He who is faithful in little ..."—but what was unforgettable was the story he told to illustrate his point. He talked of his Little League soccer team getting time with a professional trainer. The trainer set up a plastic cone on a spot and a soccer ball a ways away and then asked for a volunteer who could kick the ball and hit the cone.

A brave 6-year-old came forward, revved up and kicked the ball that went east instead of heading south for the cone. It was then that the trainer asked if the parents had any ideas how the child could kick the ball. One said, "Maybe he should kick the ball with the side of his foot," and others offered their own advice. Naturally, they did it in a way that would not further embarrass the boy who was already self-conscious from having missed the target.

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Then the trainer took the boy by one hand and held the ball in the other. He placed the ball half a foot away from the cone and asked the boy, “Now can you hit it from here?” The little boy peeped sheepishly upwards to the trainer and said, “Yes.” He kicked, and the cone went “tonk.” The trainer then moved the ball another foot and asked the boy, “Can you hit it again?” The boy obliged, and the cone went “tonk.”

After a few more moves, the ball was where it originally was when the boy missed the cone the first time. But this time, the combination of the boy’s confidence, aim and readjusted muscle memory made the cone go “tonk.”

Jamie then made his point: We should learn to start small in our giving and gradually allow God to move us onward. Powerful stuff, I thought.

As I left church that evening, I could not help but think of how this illustration is so true about making disciples. Often we make people who are new to the faith try to hit targets that are just out of reach. Jamie’s story reminds us that we need to help people who still don’t believe or have just begun to believe to see that a transformed life is not an unreachable goal but a reality that grows as we continue to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Jesus and His gospel.

The words of James to the leaders in Jerusalem on what to say to the early church and how to engage those who are not of the faith captures the heart of Jamie’s story: “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19, NIV).

Don’t make it difficult for people who are turning to God. Give them opportunities to hit the cone. For sure, the sound of “tonk” makes them feel more confident. As they refine their aim to follow Christ, in time they will have good muscle memory in the ways of the Spirit.

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