January 31, 2008

The Lost Art of Discipleship: A Christian Tennis Missionary Stands Up Old School

Posted in ATP Tennis, Christian Discipleship, christian tennis, Christian Tennis Academy, Christian Tennis Camps, Christian Tennis Devotional Videos, Christian Tennis Mission Trips, Christian Tennis Outreach, Christian Tennis Player, christian tennis sport psychology, Coaching Articles, Cults, Faith, Florida Tennis, ICTA, ICTA Tennis, ICTA Tennis Ministry, ICTA Women's Christian Pro Tennis Team, International Christian Tennis Association, International Tennis Ministry, Junior Tennis, Leadership, Parent Coach Relationship, scott paschal, Scott Paschal Tennis, Sports Ministry, Teamwork, Tennis Athletes in Action, Tennis Devotionals, Tennis Instruction, Tennis Ministry, Tennis Missionary, Tennis Missionary Training Class, Tennis Week, Tennis Week Magazine, USPTA, WTA Tennis tagged , , , , at 1:46 pm by Scott Paschal

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ICTA Founder, Scott Paschal, and his "adopted" daughter from Ukraine, Ana! Scott is Ana's legal guardian.

I’m pretty convinced discipling is a lost art in Christianity.

Discipling, real discipling, takes commitment from both the student and the teacher. And commitment in today’s buffet of quick fix lifestyles is rare.

Most of you who know me also know I’m pretty old school. But, that’s old school in my work ethic and commitment, not necessarily in my teaching styles.

It’s old school in that when I became a follower of Jesus, I read the Bible and worked to do what it said.

As I grew in my faith, I remember finding the Great Commission where Jesus commanded his followers to… “go and make disciples of all nations… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you….”

I began changing inside. My purpose in this world was brought into clarity. One of my first reactions was to question why not one church I had ever attended had mentioned the Great Commission.

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Ana reached #1 G18 Ukraine and #5 G16 Europe. She has earned a WTA ranking and competes worldwide on the ITF Pro Circuit.

The Great Commission of Christ is at the end of the 28th chapter in Mathew’s letter for those of you clueless, of which, after nearly 10 years as a front line missionary, I believe are most, as was I.

As I read it, Jesus didn’t ask, he commanded.

Many people in the world today don’t like that. They most likely don’t want to be commanded, nor do they much appreciate me pointing out their lack. Jesus to many is usually some mix of religions, ideas, and Bible verses which, when combined, makes a person feel good. Their life revolves around them, they do what makes sense to them, and they cannot be commanded.

I understand. I really do. There is a big question of “What is truth?” in the world, today.

Let me give you an illustration of the confusion faced by today’s youth (and adults!) living in a postmodern world. Let’s say you are trapped and injured in a burning building. Smoke is everywhere. A fireman busts into the room! He see you are trapped under a heavy board, sees your leg is injured, and tells you he is going to save you. What is your normal reaction to this? Probably relief, right!? Sure. That is what my generation would say.

But, let me add to the scenario. Let’s say that as the fireman begins to walk over to you, another fireman rushes into the room. He tells the first fireman to stop! Then, he looks directly into your eyes and warns you that the first fireman is actually the arsonist who started the fire! Instantly, the first fireman points directly at the second fireman and says, “No, don’t listen to him! He’s lying! He’s the arsonist, not me!”

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Winning a Florida jr tournament.

This is the delima, as I see it, that today’s generation of kids are facing.

They don’t know truth.

And the adults around them don’t know how to reach them with truth.

I think God has given us the answer, very clearly!, to truly reaching this lost and confused generation.

I recently spoke to several friends of mine who are in Christian ministry, heavily, about an important subject. I’d like to share one conversation with you which pretty much reflects the direction of the other conversations.

A friend and I were talking one evening and I told him the main problem in Christianity, as I see it from the view God gave me, is people really don’t understand the Great Commission. He listened politely and intently.

Before I spoke further, I asked him if he knew about the Great Commission. He said sure. I then asked him to tell me where it was in the Bible. He said he knew it was in Mathew, but wasn’t sure exactly where. I asked him if he could quote the verse to me. He couldn’t.

Since he couldn’t tell me where it was and he couldn’t quote it, I asked him what he thought the whole thing meant… in a nutshell. He explained it basically meant to go “win souls”…. I then asked him what the word “disciple” meant. He explained it basically meant a Christian. I asked him about what he thought “to disciple” meant. He replied he believed it meant to go win souls, basically make people Christians.

I hear explanations like his a lot from Christians who are not full time missionaries….

I listened politely to his answers on the topic, as I had many times before to many different people, then I felt God calling me to teach… so I did. It’s important for Christianity’s front-line missionaries to reach out to our Christian leaders and guide them into having a strong understanding of the Great Commission.

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Ana's life has radically changed since she became a Christian here at ICTA.

It’s important to teach you, too.

As you can obviously see, I’m not much of a writer, so lean in and hang in there with me while I try to hit the right keys on the keyboard so this makes some sense….

In his Great Commission, Jesus didn’t command his followers to go make Christians.

He said go and make disciples. There is a huge difference between the two in terms of obedience, expectations, pressure, preparation, and ultimately, a successful outcome.

The Greek form of the word “discipulus” means pupil. Pupil, as in student. You can also chew on “discipere,” which means to grasp intellectually, analyze thoroughly.

Jesus is saying… “Go and make students….” He is saying to go invest your life’s knowledge of him in others.

Jesus then goes on to say, “… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” It takes time to teach someone how to obey everything Jesus commanded. Oftentimes, it takes more than passing out a Gospel tract or going on a prayer walk, both of which are vital to seed planting, but not so good when it comes to the real need at hand as pertaining to discipling. True discipling, or teaching, takes time and commitment, which most have spent the vast majority of their lives avoiding.chris-ana-015.jpg

As a follower of Christ, I know I can’t make anyone a Christian.

What I can do is to teach about Jesus. That is where the missionary part comes in. I teach, the Holy Spirit leads them to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

A person following the Great Commission shouldn’t set out on their journey thinking they are going to “win souls” and “make Christians.” You can’t.

If you believe you can, you are quite possibly falling into the lie Satan believed and taught. That is, you can be God. Your mission trip, though filled with hope and expectations, will most likely fall apart, and lots of people on your missions’ team will become angry with each other. Generally, few you meet during your outreach will come to know Christ, and few, whether they accept Christ or not, will become disciples of Christ’s work.

Yes, I said “whether they accept Christ or not, will become disciples.” You do not have to accept Christ to be a disciple or pupil of his life’s work. The hope and prayer is that through teaching pupils, they come to an acceptance. But, that, in all ways, has nothing to do with you, except that you are teaching.

chris-ana-002.jpgThe part my friend mentioned about “winning souls” and “making Christians” is a pretty common theme here in America. It kind of resonates with our competitive culture….

To many Christians, going on a mission trip is like attending a NCAA football game! It’s about winning.

Church people, especially the Baptists down south (of which I am one), love their sports… NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, NCAA… and they love competition. Winning and competing is a culture. But, does that competitive “winning souls” singular focus enhance or take away from missions? My experience with church people on missions is that it takes away.

Mission trips are seen as a football game, not training camp. Church missionaries are often like the “weekend warrior” who blows out his knee playing tackle football with friends, though he does no athletic training in preparation during the week…

Churches and mission leaders often keep a scoreboard of just how many points they’ve scored as they busily try to rack up souls during their big 1 or 2 week long game.

But, is this what Jesus meant in his Great Commission. I submit that it is not.

Though often well intentioned, the focus of church people towards missions is often misplaced. Successful missions outreach, in my experience, is not about “winning souls,” but I will say it can be about competition.chris-ana-012.jpg

That is, competition within oneself and with a team in preparation for excellence. Competition isn’t negative! In fact, properly channeled and purposefully planned competition can be seen as a necessity.

As a coach, I see strategies… strengths and weaknesses. As a follower of Christ, I see the same.

This Sunday, the NFL’s Super Bowl is being played! Coaches have planned, trained, and strategized every day for a year, or years, to get to this point.

chris-ana-001.jpgWhat I would give to see churches and pastors train for missions with such intensity and passion as is accomplished by the coaches and players of professional sports!

Pastors can be seen as the coaches, congregation and missions teams as the players, church support staff as the trainers….

All with an intent to share Christ and to make Satan seen as the opponent on a daily basis!

With strategies and tactics being devised and implemented daily, weekly, yearly by the church within their congregation until every Christian dripped with knowledge, and missions became like breathing the air at the summit of achieving the victory deemed impossible.

If I were coaching Team Satan, I’d spend my time and resources manipulating Christians into not offending others, and I’d force Christians into the closet. I’d make sin cool, I’d constantly split churches, I’d batter the confidence of pastors.

I would know the best way to extend my team’s time in the game would be to slow or stop the spreading of the Great Commission.chris-ana-008.jpg

If I were the coach of Team Jesus, I’d focus on instilling knowledge in my players about the facts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The entire team would learn about every known tactic Team Satan uses to win.

Our playbook, the Bible, would be proven valid beyond doubt and be studied constantly. Spiritual amour would be a lifestyle. Then, we would hone our skills in practice games locally in preparation for reaching the world.

If the focus in missions is on “winning” souls and “making Christians,” I fully believe we will find our efforts continuing to be relatively useless.

The church must get past looking at the Great Commission as a win or lose proposition. Yes, prepare like a champion. Yes, work fervently with amazing passion and excitement, as you truly are working for the God of the universe which, to me, is the definition of joy.

Yet, keep site of the fact that all pro sports teams practice much more than they ever play. Preparation is a main determining factor in success or failure. Missions is not about winning and losing. Missions is about obedience to following Christ’s command as laid out in Mathew 28.

chris-ana-005.jpgIn addition to attending a mission trip, possibly consider creating a mission life!

Jesus to me is clear… he tells us to go out and teach others about him. The coach in me, the missionary in me, and the ministry founder in me clearly understands the need for high quality preparation and a dedication for excellence.

My hope is that the ICTABLOG becomes a beacon for education and change.

Our ICTABLOG readers are like a whose who list… pastors and ministry founders; pro players, tennis coaches, and juniors; tennis industry executives from nearly every tennis clothing and racket company in the world; television and magazine founders and employees; employees from every section of the United States Tennis Association; ICTA members from over 1800 cities in over 60 countries including political leaders, industry executives, military leaders…

… you folks are literally the movers and shakers of the world. Your spheres of influence are large. If you choose to purposefully follow the Great Commission, either by discipling someone near you daily, or by attending a mission trip to a foreign country, or by founding a ministry… if you all discover the lost art of discipleship, the world will change.

Discipling others takes time and commitment. Most in today’s postmodern culture are afraid of both.chris-ana-006.jpg

Not me. I’m old school. I’ve got time because my time is Jesus’ time. My life is his. I took Galations 2:20 seriously.

When Jesus gave me my house and told me to keep the door open for the missionaries and travelers he sends my way, I make sure the door is open. My life is not my own.

All I have in this world is testimony to the fact I have nothing. My health, my ministry, my reputation… are not mine, but his to do with as he needs for his will to be done through my vapor life on earth.

I’m called to build and to disciple. This has included investing my life, my home, my money, of which I own none but am simply a manager of, towards investment in helping those God sends.

The joys and sorrows of investing in people brings the highest highs and the lowest lows. The Judases ordained by God to be in inner circles are very real, as are the Peters and Jameses. Discipling brings satanic attacks and miracles from heaven.

Yet, through it all, God gets the glory and I build up treasure in heaven whilechris-ana-007.jpg learning to walk in obedience and faith.

Personally, I feel incredibly grateful God sent people from 14 countries and 15 US states to the discipleship focused ministry I founded, International Christian Tennis Association, full time for me to invest in.

God has sent me on mission outreaches nationwide reaching over 1,000,000 in attendance at pro tennis events, and allowed me to preach internationally. And God created a missions team comprised of pro tennis players with a heart to reach and teach others about Jesus, the Savior of mankind.

God has brought me friends, and enemies, both of which have been specifically commissioned by him to grow and develop me past my every dream and expectation.

My prayer to you is that today God would begin a great work in you to open your life to discovering the lost art of discipleship.

That pastors will find even greater passion towards missions, such as NFL football coaches have towards competing in the chris-ana-017.jpgSuper Bowl, yet for a reason so much greater. That Christians realize they don’t need to win, but to simply share.

Today’s world needs a strong focused Christianity able to train the world in all that is Jesus.

Today’s postmodern generation of youth needs a big dose of Old School to pick ’em up and carry them towards Jesus.

God bless,

Scott Paschal

International Christian Tennis Association

Mathew 28: 16-21

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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8 Comments »

  1. Francis Payne said,

    May God bless you work.

    FP

  2. Amy said,

    Scotty,

    I hope the ICTA will continue to reach out to others through discipleship the old school way and to teach all those God puts in their path about Jesus, and then how they in turn can reach out to others, including those you have come across that have been abused to the point of hopelessness within the tennis world and industry. This is an active passion I rarely hear from Christian groups today. It seems to me that Christians need to not just “be there” in case someone comes for help, but to be actively “reaching out” to the lost and those who have bought into Satan’s lie that there is no hope.

    I think this BLOG on discipleship old school like in the New Testament may go over the heads of many comfortable Christians. I have not been a Christian very long, but it doesn’t take long to realize that something is wrong with today’s brand of Christianity….it doesn’t match the spirit of the early Christians in the New Testament. At first you start to doubt your connection with Jesus. Maybe you misinterpreted the joy you felt when first accepting Christ. Then you think, if this isn’t real then what is? I think this is where many new and young Christians falter and are not sure if they should continue to try and learn more about Jesus and how to follow him. Some turn back to old habits and worldly enslavements, some slip into the pew at church and go through the ritual of going to church each week and trying to sin less so God will be happy with them and them maybe bless them in this life. Some join in on those two week mission trips once in a while so that they feel some sort of passion again, at least for a little while.

    As I read the New Testament, I saw Christians who would follow Jesus anywhere, anytime. They hungered for heaven; they understood what will happen to those that do not accept Christ, and they spoke out to try and reach others with the Word even to the point of sacrificing their own lives. But we in America, who are at no risk of life or limb, sit quietly in church each Sunday, and rarely even interject our opinions in public places hoping not to offend others.

    Luckily I have found pockets of Christians out there that understand and feel the passion, pain, and sacrifice, and joy that comes when they give their lives to Christ and the Great Commission. I am thankful I found their examples in searching to make sure I understood Christianity and my own conversion experience. The author Ted Dekker said something like this in his book, The Slumber of Christianity, that people are not attracted to modern Christianity because people don’t want to be saved into a state of Coma…. And he is right, that is exactly what it felt like after I found Jesus and was so full of Joy, heading to church to find others excited to join with me to share Him with everyone else….but they weren’t there…just people routinely singing nice hymns, saying prayers regularly and trying to glean something from the sermon that will make their own lives better, or maybe help them be a better person so their shining example of routine Christianity will attract others to it…. You get the picture….because it is all over America – Sunday after Sunday, week after week.

    The passion is not there any more to reach out to others, only a rush to get settled into a nice, acceptable, non offensive, brand of Christianity, and figure out how best each new member can serve the already existing Body of Christ…..that is, if this new member and accepts the watered down, safe modern Christian lifestyle, and doesn’t instead get too discouraged by the disparity between the passion they first felt and the routine that is being offered at church, and then wonder away. Mr. Dekker’s point in his book was that today’s Christians are asleep because they have lost their passion for Heaven, and that no one understands what that means anymore. If that is your reason, then maybe reading his book will help you understand what is waiting for you again and to help renew a hunger for Heaven for yourself and for others as the followers of Jesus Christ longed for Heaven in the New Testament. The early members of the church understood that the reward was in Heaven, not here. Life may or may not be hard here, but either way, as Christians, it is our responsibility to obey Christ’s call to reach out to others. I do think each individual, if they are not actively trying to make disciples of others needs to figure out why he or she does not feel a passion to follow the Great Commission as Christ commanded.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know God wants the Body of Christ to meet together in fellowship and support of each other….but if the New Testament early church is supposed to be our example, I don’t think He wants it to stop there. We need to meet together to be able to go forth in strength…but I think that maybe we are not using that combined strength to go forth as the Great Commission commands us to do; at least not in the numbers and strength that could truly make a difference. It is my prayer that many Christians, especially those of leadership and influence, who have slipped into this new, safe and comfortable, but unimpassioned type of Christianity will realize it. Then maybe even at the risk of bad press or disapproving peers, newly awakened and empowered Christians may start to better reflect the example of the New Testament followers of Christ with the leap of faith that the God, who came down and died to save us and to show us the way back to Heaven, expects from us…..and all, at least in this free country, without losing life and limb, like the early followers of Christ did….just maybe giving up our comfort zone and some popularity, or giving up what ever it is that is holding you back…..

    Amy

  3. plugginaway4him said,

    amy,

    thanks for your comments and insight. well spoken and can easily be seen as straight from your heart.

    … you hit it right in the sweet spot. hopefully our readers will have eyes to see….

    God bless,

    coach scotty

  4. Cookie Monster said,

    Yo yo yo, 2 the yo
    I love the article coach
    I especially really like the whole fireman analogy, with both of them coming to us and one pointing out the other as the arsonist and the other seemingly there. Who are we to trust after all? well i do know i can trust you, and im not tryin to be cute. truly inspirational.
    gotta luv the pictures by the way, got some good stuff going on here i can see 😀
    anyway ive got the ball machine out of the garage n its been workin on the backhand, i spent 4 hrs today with it at the tennis courts tryin to improve it, and i gotta say it is starting to feel like a weapon. Me being totally modest of course.
    Anyway, keep up the “intent of deliverment!”
    and may the big guy up there continue to bless
    ill be prayin for u and all the girls + the mexican
    lots of love
    CMC

  5. plugginaway4him said,

    cookie monster,

    love the name! very creative and resonates with my love of oreos.

    glad you like the fireman analogy. it’s so true that today’s youth are surrounded with so many different views of truth and right/wrong. for instance, a great christian guy can get a girlfriend who is not a christian and everything seems so right… but, when he finds he begins doing things he knows are wrong, well, something has to change.

    he has to learn to stand up for what he believes in.

    in old testament days… god’s people kept breeding with locals who followed pagan gods. which then led god’s people into sin. notice in the old testament the israelites who bred with the pagan worshipers never really transformed the pagan worshipers into followers of god!? just doesn’t usually work that way on a large scale….

    big lesson here my cookie eating friend.

    keep pounding those backhands!

    but, remember, a live ball produces a greater weapon which holds up better under pressure. maybe find a couple of people who will hit 2 on 1 and have them keep pounding it to your backhand side with an occasional forehand to keep you guessing.

    God bless,

    coach scotty

  6. Coach Johnson said,

    Scotty,

    I am confronted daily with college kids who war with what the truth is. They come from many different countries and have so many questions. Most often I take them to the story in Mark 10 where it talks about the rich young ruler. He asks “what must I do” to inherit eternity.

    In this results based society we live in I agree that too many are trying to win or earn their way in to heaven. In fact when I listen to many try to carry out the Matthew 28:19 principle they often speak about what the person “MUST DO”. The fact is that Christ has already done everything that needs to be done. He is simply asking for us to believe it and put our trust in Him.

    So many times I get asked how do I explain the gospel so that a friend understands what he/she must do.

    As a part of the body of Christ we are to be a model of His love. When they want to know the difference in religions…when they want to know why they should choose Christianity and follow Christ out of all the others…and finally when they come and ask me “coach, why do you believe in Christianity more than the others” I simply and humbly share what Christ has done for me because of His love for me…and that He loves them just as much.

    Thank you again for the article. I often pray for our youth as they are bombarded with lies. Jesus said “and they will know the truth…and the truth will set them free.”

    CJ

    A reply from: Scott Paschal

    Coach Johnson, Thanks for your comments. The rich young ruler… just imagine if he had been able to accept Jesus’ offer. He would have been an original disciple, but threw it away for the security of a shadow. Great to know you are out there, CJ. Standing up for today’s youth publicly is a task not for the faint of heart. I appreciate your willingness to step above the crowd. God bless, coach scotty

  7. David said,

    Hey Bro!

    Deep thoughts, and a lot of truth there. Making disciples.

    Radical, but it just might work…

    🙂

    A reply from: Scott Paschal

    David, great to have your comment. Kind of funny how in today’s world making disciples has a radical flair! What I would give for our country and faith to wake up to a life worth living. God bless, coach scotty

  8. Laichena JKG said,

    Hi brother Scott.I thank God not only for this soul-researching article but for your attire ministry.You are a blessing.Long time when I quit drugs,I found new friends in Christians who loved sports especially Tennis.It occupied the time I would otherwise have spent with the other company.I reach out to people with the same challenges that I had to come a play.Thank God it works.Tennis being the sober game it is could be a good bridge to connect people with Jesus.We must be disciples!
    I am in a Kenya.A part where Tennis is not popular.I have been playing lots of soccer lately.I need to reconsider Tennis soon.
    God bless.
    Jacob


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