My wife and teenage son went to a local restaurant for lunch yesterday. Their waiter was a teenager, probably the same age as my son. Each step of the meal seemed to have a built-in delay. First they waited to be seated in an empty restaurant. Then they waited to get menus. They already knew what they wanted and were ready to order. Instead, the waiter walked away. Ten minutes later he came back with waters. When the meals finally arrived a half hour later the fries were soggy cold, the burgers congealing globs of fat. Dessert was late too, tiny dollops of ice cream no longer frozen but sloppy puddles with fudge swirls and a cherry sunk in the middle. By this time my wife and son would be late for an afternoon appointment. My wife asked the waiter to bring the check with the dessert so things could hurry along. He failed to bring it until another fifteen minutes expired. Rather than pay him directly, my wife took the check to the front cashier. The station was unmanned until who but the waiter appears to ring her up. He meekly apologized for the delay.
I remember my first job as a teen working at fast-food restaurant. I had no idea what to do. The manager was so busy trying to maintain order in the chaos of the grand opening that he had no time to train me or any of the other teens running the store. He didn’t last long as the manager. I didn’t last long as a burger flipper.
I suspect the poor kid at the restaurant experienced the same thing.
The same thing happens when we put newborn Christians to work in God’s kingdom. As they interact with the world and the church, mistakes, delays, and other bad experiences transpire. Experience is not a good teacher. Disciple-makers are God’s commanded teachers.
A newborn is helpless in the kingdom except for one thing. They have an overflowing exhuberance of joy in their salvation. Let them use that to the utmost in witnessing to the power and person of Jesus. They are perfectly suited for that job. But teaching Sunday School? Discipling other believers? Going to the mission field? No. They are not ready. No matter how many degrees they have, what church they grew up in, who their friends are. Newborns need one thing – to satisfy their natural desire to grow on the milk of God’s Word. They need to spend time with Jesus.
A fine-dining experience is extremely satisfying and refreshing. There is no reason a few simple techniques cannot be taught even to teenagers working counter service. But time, teaching, and some travail are necessary in order to produce workers fit for God’s kingdom service. Jesus is our headmaster. He commands us to make disciples. At the same time, we should be under the discipleship of someone else for the duration of our lives.
The worst that can happen is the wreckage of lives we leave behind. My wife and son certainly won’t return to that restaurant soon. Sometimes we get only one chance to sow seed. Let’s make sure the field is ready, the plow is straight, and the seed is pure.