One Arm Take-down
There’s a famous story about a judo master and his student who had lost one of his arms in a serious car accident. While an accident like this would end most people’s judo career, the boy became determined and the master kept training him. However, he moved his focus from the regular program to teaching the boy one very difficult move. Even though the boy was upset that he didn’t get to learn all aspects of judo like the other boys his age, they continued to practice that one move for months.
He was eventually allowed to enter a judo tournament and kept surprising everyone as he continued to advance all the way to the finals. His competitor was more experienced than the boy—he was also faster, stronger, and had two arms. Everyone was expecting the boy with one arm to lose. The boy waited for the right moment and then used his one move. The faster and stronger boy couldn’t escape.
When everyone asked how he won, the master said, “He won for two reasons: First of all, he mastered one of the most difficult moves in all of judo. Second, the only defense against that move is to grab your opponent’s left arm.”
I don’t know if that story is true or not, but it serves as a great lesson in disciple-making. What is the disciple-making, one-move take-down? The gospel.
In this society, the challenge is to be relevant—to have the newest, most cutting edge church service or disciple-making model. Because of this, many find themselves caught up in event after event without producing any fruit. The numbers may have a temporary spike, but lives aren’t being eternally changed. In an attempt to be relevant, many forget what truly matters and how to change lives.
The Relevant Gospel
The most relevant thing to articulate and communicate was, is, and will always be the gospel. The gospel sheds light on what’s wrong in the world and is the answer to every problem we find.
To paraphrase Dr. Rice Brooks, author of God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty, the gospel is the only thing to tell you what’s wrong with you, but also the only answer for how to fix it. The disciple-making, one-move take-down shows you what’s wrong in your life, but doesn’t just leave you there. The gospel is also the answer to how to turn your life around. In this one move, you can take a person from being far from God to turning around and walking toward Him.
You don’t need a fancy way to make the gospel touch lives. In Matthew 16, Jesus didn’t devise a wild story to make his disciples choose Him. He simply asked them to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. It’s that simple. That’s all people need. In the end, it’s not the words we say or the events we throw that cause people to repent and turn to Jesus—it’s Jesus working on that person’s heart and using us for His perfect will.
Rather than focus on what’s culturally relevant, let’s focus on what’s timeless—the gospel. It never changes and always connects.