Chris Hartley: Recently I stood in front of my congregation for my ordination. I can only describe it as a truly surreal moment. Jason Lang, who was leading the service, had walked with me from the days when I had a near-agnostic attitude to becoming a baptized believer to now being an ordained pastor. God had used our relationship to bring me to that very moment in time. Had I been able to fully comprehend everything that had to line up just perfectly in both of our lives to make that happen, I likely would have been too overwhelmed to speak.
“Discipleship” or “Disciple-making” are phrases that get thrown around Christian circles a lot, but in my adult life, I have lived it, becoming the beneficiary of the Lord’s work through one of his servants. The following is just a tiny glimpse into what that looked like. Jason and I share this with you because, if we desire to be a part of a disciple-making movement, we have to understand what it looks like in people’s lives.
Jason Lang: My dad (Pastor Paul Lang) sat next to a guy named Derek while waiting in the chiropractor’s office. As they talked about phones and schedules, Derek asked, “What’s all this church stuff on your calendar?” And Paul answered, “Oh, I’m a pastor with Emmaus Road Church.” The conversation continued and Paul invited Derek to join us for worship. Derek wasn’t following Jesus at the time, but he invited his best friends to come with him. That’s how Chris and his family came to our church that Sunday.
Chris: When I first started going to church in my mid-twenties I was completely reluctant. I can say with all honesty that my wife and friends had pressured me into going.
But it was pretty much what they said it would be: good music, it wasn’t boring, the people were friendly enough, and so it was okay to go. However, after only attending Emmaus Road for about a month, a new pastor in the church (Jason) asked me out to lunch. I remember thinking, “Is this weird? I don’t even really know this guy.” But I agreed anyway. That lunch turned into an invitation for my family to come over to his house for a cook-out.
Jason: I only got to see Chris for a few minutes after Worship Gathering on Sundays, and not every Sunday, so I thought the best way to get to know Chris was to invite him to the house with his friends and family. So everyone came over.
Chris: I remember being on my guard as I entered because: “I’m at the pastor’s house; it’s time to be on my best behavior.” Yet what I saw when I went to the backyard disarmed me, completely took my defenses down. Jason was casually grilling up some food and sipping on a beer. I was blown away thinking, “Is he allowed to do that?” For the rest of that evening, I was amazed at how easy it was to talk to him and how down to earth he was. It’s not at all what I expected.
From that point on, Jason was very intentional about spending time with me, asking me a lot of questions, valuing my input, and offering opportunities for me to get involved in what was going on in the church. I felt completely valued and cared for. The Lord also used him to minister to me in incredibly difficult moments when I didn’t know where else to go.
Jason: Chris invited me over to watch an MMA fight they were streaming, I don’t watch much MMA, but I say “yes” as often as I can. We just kept hanging out with Chris and Lyssa and their kids and friends. When we started a Tweens group for 4th-6th graders I invited Chris to lead with me. He insisted he didn’t know what to do, so I said, “Just do what I do. Care for these kids, play games, have fun, open your Bible when I’m in my Bible, read what I read. When I’m eating dinner with my family, you bring your family for dinner.” Before long I asked Chris to share the message at Tweens. He insisted he didn’t know how, so we worked on it together. He was sharing the gospel as he was believing it. Tweens, Youth Group, Worship… It wasn’t long before Chris and his family found themselves believing in Jesus, and I baptized Chris and his kids, with Lyssa right there with us. We followed Jesus together.
Chris: There are hundreds of other moments I could also talk about, but as I have reflected on the road from non-believer to ordained minister (in about 10 years), I see the Lord’s leading in Jason’s life now being worked out in mine through his willingness to create a new disciple.
Jason: Chris and I are tight friends. We get to follow Jesus together, we talk about God and life, and we pray together. We are still following Jesus together even though neither of us live in DeWitt, Iowa anymore. Jesus changed Chris’ life, his family, his friends, his career, his passion. It was such a huge privilege to be a part of Chris’ ordination, walking with him on this faith journey from doing his own thing to believing in Christ Jesus, serving in the Church, growing in faith. And then to support him in Seminary all the way to his ordination as a pastor serving God and his people.
Chris, keep following Jesus and inviting people to follow him with you. That’s discipleship!
You who are reading this, you can do it too. Discipleship is following Jesus and sharing it with people around you. Invite families over for lunch, hang out with them, and follow Jesus together.
Rev. Christopher Hartley serves as associate pastor at LB Fellowship Church in Williston, North Dakota.
Rev. Jason Lang serves as pastor of Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.