Intentional Discipleship: Getting Off the Shores of Safety

Feature image generated by AI (Canva).

By Noel Thomason
SBS Head of School

Years ago, when my two girls were still young, we went on a vacation to the Bahamas. At the time, Kingsley was around 11 and Elise 6. We enjoyed a splendid beach day, gathering shells and playing in the water. Just off the water was a small local-style restaurant that offered drinks served in a coconut (for children) and the much-revered chicken nuggets, a culinary fantasy for many children. So we sat by the waterside and enjoyed our lunch. 

Accustomed as I was to maritime elements, I noticed a small storm cell approaching us. Having spent much time on the water, our family has seen many similar storms. I love to watch the weather and have always shared this inquisitive passion of mine with the girls. So, while others began to pack up and leave the beach, we stayed put and admired the storm. 

Intentional discipleship

 

My daughters enjoying a coconut drink at the local restaurant.

As the storm approached, I noticed that a waterspout began to develop, and the girls noticed it, too. I could tell by Kingsley’s questions she was beginning to have some anxiety over the situation. Of course, I continued to comment, “Isn’t it amazing?” and “How awesome is this?” to help quell her concerns. Looking down at the girls, their eyes wide with fear, I realized they did not share my enthusiasm. Kingsley said, her voice tinged with uncertainty, “Daddy, is this a tornado? It will hurt us.”

I offered her words of solace, assuring her that fair-weather waterspouts don’t typically venture far inland if any distance at all. As long as we stay put, we will be fine. I was fairly sure that a small peninsula of land between us and the path would cause the waterspout to dissipate. And so, with coconuts in hand and nuggets at our lips, we enjoyed the spectacle. 

Intentional discipleship

Trusting as we watched the drama unfold.

The girls were nervous, yet they placed their trust in me as we watched the drama unfold in front of us. In due course, the waterspout dissipated, leaving us unscathed. In the progression of the day, both girls continued to ask a barrage of questions about the waterspout. They marveled at our ability to observe such natural wonders from the shore. A lesson of both awe and security.

Beyond Smooth Sailing

Fast forward several years later, I had sailed my boat to the Bahamas, and the girls were flying down to meet me. The plan was for Kingsley and Elise to sail back with me to the United States, both eager companions for the journey (please notice my sarcasm). Just the three of us. 

Thomason Girls 3 1

What a fun adventure, right? I can imagine the incredulous look many of you have now as you quote the common phrase, “Bless his heart.” I assure you that this was to be a journey of discovery and trust. At this time, Kingsley was 17, and Elise was 12. The plan was for us to sail from the outer banks of the Abaco islands to the West end of the island chain and then jump across to the coast of South Carolina. At least, that was the plan. 

As we left the Bahamas, the sea was lively and the wind sporty, but nothing to be too concerned about. As we crossed into the Gulf Stream, we witnessed more waterspouts than I have ever seen in one sailing passage. It was very peculiar. Each vortex brought to mind our experience on the beach in the Bahamas many years ago. But unlike that distant shore long ago, we were now vulnerable to the unpredictable nature and power of the waterspouts. 

Our control was relinquished, and instead, we would have to trust in God’s provision for safety. In these moments of uncertainty, our faith became our compass, guiding us through the challenges that lay ahead. It was a reminder that even in the midst of nature’s fury, we are never truly alone and that our journey is not just about reaching a destination, but also about the lessons we learn along the way.

Sailing into Turbulent Seas 

What does all this has to do with intentional discipleship? One of my favorite writers, A. W. Tozer, says it this way: 

Let us get it straight. Jesus Christ does not just offer us salvation as though it is a decoration or a bouquet or some addition to grab. He says plainly, ‘Throw off your old rags, strip to the skin! Let Me dress you in fine, clean robes of My righteousness – all Mine. Then, if it means loss of money, lose it! If it means loss of job, lose it! If it means persecution, take it! If it brings the stiff winds of opposition, bow your head into the wind and take it – for My sake!” 

At some point, like Peter, if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. Will you sink? Possibly, but drawing closer to Christ will be worth it. 

To embark on the path of intentional discipleship, one must first grasp the profound significance of “denying oneself” and taking up their cross—with particular emphasis on the act of denial. The pilgrimage begins by cherishing others deeply enough to jeopardize one’s own self-image, emotions, and identity for the cause of Christ. If we find ourselves complacently waiting on the shores of safety, basking in the knowledge of the Lord’s benevolence, content merely with our own security, then we have grievously misunderstood the cause of Christ. We need to muster the courage to set sail into turbulent seas to pursue Christ. 

As Tozer astutely observed, a genuine understanding of Christ’s call demands tangible action. Reflecting upon the profound sacrifice Jesus made, he was willing to lay down His life for us. Yet, if I am to be completely honest, there are moments when my patience wanes, even in the simple act of awaiting a response to a casual inquiry about one’s well-being. Such impatience is shameful and regrettable.

Setting Sail Heavenward

Intentional discipleship

So, how does all this intersect with our vision for StoneBridge? My aspiration for the StoneBridge community transcends mere association; it beckons parents to recognize their involvement as a sacred covenant. By joining this community, one is enlisting in a ministry tasked with nurturing future Christian leaders. Such a mission demands a deliberate commitment to discipleship. 

In order for us to have an uncommon unity, grace must abound. It is insufficient to find solace solely in our personal salvation; our hearts must be ready to set sail heavenward. Jesus prayed, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Our hearts must break for each other. We must share in each other’s blessings and struggles. We must value Christ enough to put to death the offenses of others and join Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. This noble endeavor necessitates the active participation of every member of our community, for without collective effort, our mission remains incomplete.

Bear with me for one last illustration. Tozer’s book Discipleship (very fitting) makes this point.

Suppose that Moses had asked the Israelites, “Do you accept the blood on the doorpost?”

They would have said, “That’s fine. Now, goodbye; I will be seeing you.”

They would have stayed right in Egypt, slaves for the rest of their lives. But their acceptance of the blood was a decision of action. Their acceptance of the blood of the Passover meant that they stayed awake all night; girded, ready, shoes on their feet, staffs in their hands, eating the food of the Passover, ready for the moving of God. Then, when the trumpet blasts sang sweet and clear, they all rose and started for the Red Sea. When they got to the Red Sea, having acted in faith, God was there to hold back the sea, and they went out, never to return! Their acceptance had the right kind of feet under it. Their acceptance gave them the guts to do something about it in the demonstration of their faith in God and His word.

In scripture, acceptance is never a passive state devoid of action; rather, it invariably beckons us to action. Intentional discipleship cannot flourish if we remain anchored to the shoreline of complacency. Eventually, we must embark upon the journey. I invite you to elevate your faith from mere consumption to active contribution. There’s no better place to commence this transformative journey than right here at StoneBridge.          

In this April 2024 issue of The Bridge, we follow the theme of being intentional in order to fully equip students to fulfill their God-given callings, parenting being the primary point of that discipleship process. Long-time StoneBridge parent, coach and current board member Kim Frost shares how StoneBridge and biblical principles directed their parenting journey with their own three children. Senior Dominic Morisi writes about the importance of taking initiative and persevering to make a vision and calling a reality. SBS Alumni Ryan Martin, Class of 2006, demonstrates the value of leading in the home, and Jasmine Reza, Class of 2022, concludes in her senior thesis the biblical solution to the absent fatherhood crisis. Finally, we share a video from author and theologian Andy Crouch touching on the calling of Christians to not just engage culture, but to become culture makers – the essence of the StoneBridge vision and mission to equip students and empower them to impact their spheres wherever God chooses to place them.