Rebuked by the Lord

During our deployments we would have significant attendance at our Bible studies every evening. There would be joy-filled singing, worship, and attentiveness to the Word of God when it was taught. But when we entered a port and were given liberty to leave the ship, temptations presented themselves (intoxicants; prostitutes), causing many of the young believers to give in to their desires.

The “at sea sanctification” wasn’t carrying over to “in-port sanctification.” This situation was very rampant and led me to search the Scriptures for the answer to this terrible and debilitating situation.

Benteng, on the aft gun magazine hatch. July 1981

Chet, sitting on the aft gun magazine hatch.
July 1981

During my preparation for an evening Bible study, I began to lay out a lesson as to the reason why so many of the new converts turned away from Christ, even when they had had such powerful and significant spiritual experiences. Several hours prior to the Bible study, as I was preparing the lesson, I had intended to be very harsh, pointing to the lack of commitment, discipline, and love for Christ on the part of the new believers. But as my study for the lesson progressed it took a very ugly turn. What God showed me was that I was the reason these new believers were being lost at a very rapid rate. The Lord rebuked me and showed me that I was the reason for the high fallout rate.

The Lord’s rebuke helped shape the rest of my life. The revelation I received had two points:

1. In the first record of when the disciples went fishing, shortly after they had met and had been called by Jesus to follow Him, we see that their nets began to break and the boats they were filling with fish began to sink (Luke 5:1-11).

Immature Fishermen
The Lord taught his recently called disciples in this first fishing episode that they were immature, that they couldn’t retain fish (new converts) if they were caught, and that they would damage their nets, and lose the fruit of their labor.

2. In the last record of the disciples fishing after Jesus’ resurrection, we see the nets gorged with fish, but instead of breaking, or the loss of a single fish, the scriptures indicate that the entire haul was brought to shore (John 21:1-11).

Mature Fishermen
After spending 3 ½ years with Jesus, and being taught how to oversee the Church after His ascension, Jesus sent the disciples fishing again. This second fishing episode shows that the disciples were now fully trained fishermen. They skillfully cast the net; and working as a team they drew the net’s entire contents to shore. The net was not broken, and not a single fish was lost.

The reason the USS Barry Revival lost a lot of the harvest was because of immature leadership, no solid discipleship process, no leadership training, and no accountability. It takes very mature leaders to retain a harvest of souls. It also takes very mature leaders to train future leaders.

Making Disciple-Makers
Jesus’ ministry on earth was highly focused on developing His twelve disciples for future leadership responsibilities. My greatest burden is to see effective and well-equipped Disciple-Makers developed, who will in turn make more Disciple-Makers. I do believe that this is the single and most significant shortcoming of the Church. We have allowed Satan to divert our attention onto so many other good and well-intentioned efforts that the most strategic work is easily laid to the side.

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