Speaker, Author Gives Students Crash Course in Discipleship

Pastor and author James Choung, who has worked in campus ministries for nearly two decades, is bringing a four-part message about discipleship to Palm Beach Atlantic University students this week.

The author of the books “True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In” and “Real Life: A Christianity Worth Living Out” began his talks on Tuesday evening in the DeSantis Family Chapel with a message on the topic, “What is the Gospel?”

Pastor and author James Choung speaks in the DeSantis Family Chapel at Palm Beach Atlantic University on Wednesday. PBA is a private, Christ-centered college in West Palm Beach, Fla., USA.“We’re all designed and wired to share good news,” said Choung, who serves as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s national director of evangelism and also leads a missional community called the Vineyard Underground.

“Why is it then that when it comes to sharing the core message of our faith … we get all nervous?”

Choung theorized that it is because of one of two reasons: Either Christians don’t really believe the news they have to share is good, or that they’re afraid that others won’t receive it as good news, he said.

He noted that often there is a heavy emphasis on the afterlife. “If our Gospel is only about where you go when you die,” then why worry about discipleship, he asked.

In fact, Jesus is inviting everyone to be a part of His kingdom today, Choung said. From that perspective, the objective isn’t the afterlife but rather the mission-life, he said.

Then “your lives will no longer be about yourselves, but about loving others” in the name of Jesus, he said.

To help people explain the story of God to nonbelievers — “the Big Story,” as he calls it — Choung offered a set of diagrams that he outlines in his book “True Story.”

The diagrams, which can be drawn using circles to represent the world and stick figures to represent people, show that God wants good things for us, he said. Humans are the ones who damaged the world, but through Jesus, people of faith are able to work together to make the world better, he explained.

During Wednesday’s lecture at the chapel hour, Choung spoke about developing a vision for discipleship that allows followers to take the next step, something he addresses in his book “Real Life.”

The “Real-Life Continuum” lays out how Christians can help individuals move from being skeptics to becoming world-changers, he said.

Once skeptics understand the Big Story, they become seekers, he said. In order to help seekers grow, he said, they must be challenged.

One way to do that might be to “invite them to hear God’s voice for themselves,” he said, adding that God speaks to Christians as well as non-believers.

“In love and humility, we challenge and help them think about the next steps.”

Next, they become followers, and then they become leaders, he said. To become a leader, a person must be granted both power and authority, as Jesus does with the disciples in the book of Luke, he said.

Finally, once people become leaders within the church, the can begin directing their energy outward. “Our discipleship should flow out into the world,” he said.

He also noted that the combination of gifts plus passion can lead individuals to their calling. Although not everyone is called to full-time ministry, everyone can use their talents to benefit the kingdom of God, he said.

Choung will speak again at 7 p.m. today in the chapel, where he will discuss what it means to be a follower. He concludes his series at 11 a.m. tomorrow with a discussion about making disciples. The lectures are free and open to the public, and copies of his books will be available for sale.