Then Jesus came to them (the disciples) and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:16-20
These are the instructions Jesus gave to the leadership of the early church after His resurrection and before His ascension back to the Father.They were to go, to make disciples, to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to teach them to obey His commands. Jesus prefaced his command with a proclamation that “all authority” was His to give such a command and followed the command with a promise to be with them “to the very end of the age”.
This was and still is the primary work of the church!
However, I believe it is one of the greatest challenges facing the church today. We invite, entertain, include, educate, baptize, teach them God’s commands and add them to the membership rolls.
Now all these things are important but it seems that in our haste to move new believers along we tend to jump over the “making disciples” part. And I believe one reason we do is because we aren’t sure how to disciple because we may not have been discipled ourselves. God has been convicting me in the area of making disciples but, honestly, I didn’t know how.
Unfortunately, we, “the Church”, in varying degrees, seems to have lost the focus on “making disciples” and in many of our churches we have become more of a social club, entertainment club, and/or an educational center where we can learn many things about what Scripture teaches and the principles we are to live by but fail to move God’s truth from our heads to our hearts, our hands, and our feet. We are not often challenged to put them into practice and can become comfortable with gaining information but not walking in obedience to God’s commands and according to His principles. Therefore, we see little transformation in our lives. Some who have been Christians for years don’t know how to disciple because many have not yet been taught discipleship themselves, present company not excluded!
To many times I have been guilty of wanting to make it comfortable for new believers so I didn’t challenge them with the truths that sometimes are difficult to live by and in so doing have watered down the scriptures. After all they were saved, and were doing all the things they needed to do. They were attending church, getting involved in a ministry in the church, tithing, and the list goes on, but there was no significant maturing of fruit in lives as a result of the doing. I realize now believers should do all those things but we also need to be challenged by the God’s word to be more Christlike in our daily activities.
We have programs to increase attendance, to grow the Sunday school and children’s programs and increase membership numbers. We post attendance and offering numbers (see my blog post) Are We Counting What Really Counts There are places on our annual reports for the number of those accepting Christ as Savior and those sanctified.
But how many disciples are we making who are in turn discipling others? Do we have effective training in our churches in discipleship or are we teaching new believers just enough to make them comfortable in their salvation so they can get into heaven but possibly with the smell of smoke on their coattails?
Having been involved in both Bible Studies and Sunday school classes where the teaching on Scripture was excellent and ideas for practical application were discussed yet often where there were few testimonies shared of how God’s truth had transformed lives or the lives of others. To often the story of our conversion, important as it is, is the only testimony we have, but that should only be the beginning. God’s continued changing grace through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit adds to our testimony and God’s power can be seen in our lives as we walk in humble obedience to the principles and commands in His word every day.
However, if what we learn is not applied to everyday life; if we don’t meditate on God’s truths and let them become the guiding force in our lives, we have education but without transformation. We grow in knowledge but lack understanding and do not mature in our faith and we miss out on His best for us. If we don’t interact with God and become teachable; if we aren’t allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking and understanding; if the truths of God are not seen in our lives how can it help others believe Jesus could transform their lives.
Are our small groups and Sunday school classes just providing information or seeing transformation as a result of spending time together in the Word?
If not, why not?
As we reach out to those who are lost and share the gospel and they respond by receiving Christ as their Savior do we continue to disciple them and help them to grow in their faith? Do we share scriptural truths and God’s commands and challenge them to live by them while sharing our testimony of the challenges where He has brought us victory? Do we share our own testimony of how God has transformed our lives and the lives of so many others?
Do we really disciple?
Are we making disciples?
Just what does it mean to “make disciples”?
Got Questions Ministries web site answers that question pretty well:
“A Christian disciple is a person who accepts and assists in the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, to overcome the pressures and trials of this present life and become more and more Christlike. This process requires believers to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to examine their thoughts, words and actions and compare them with the Word of God. This requires that we be in the Word daily—studying it, praying over it, and obeying it. In addition, we should always be ready to give testimony of the reason for the hope that is within us (1Peter 3:15) and to disciple others to walk in His way.”
(© Copyright 2002-2016 Got Questions Ministries)
Just how do we go about “making disciples”?
How do we measure how we are doing in this area of the Great Commission, “making disciples”?
In any educational institution there is always a book learning aspect so we know the basic principles we are working from and then a skills lab where we are shown a demonstration of how to apply the knowledge in order to connect what we learned from the book to practical application. Along the way there are test that include both aspects to evaluate proficiency in obtaining the desired outcomes for the skill and the course.
The Bible is our text book and Jesus is our instructor for the skills lab. He made it simple for us by demonstrating how it is done. All through life there are tests used to help us to grow and obtain God’s desired outcomes in us and in His church.
We simply follow the example Jesus set as he went out and chose 12 ordinary men and made disciples out of them, praying for them, spending time with them, speaking God’s truth to them,teaching them and challenging them to obey His commands and live by His principles. This is what should be happening in our Bible Studies, our Sunday School classes, our Small Groups. Praying, teaching, training and practicing the same principles that Jesus taught, challenging and expecting those we are teaching to do the same. To follow our example as we follow Christ’s.
To make disciples we must pray for them, spend time with them, teach them from Scripture and by what the Father has given us to speak, practice what He taught and challenge them to do the same.
His disciples learned from him, watched him, saw how he taught them and followed his example. Believers in the early church followed the disciples example as they followed Christ’s and the church grew in strength and in faith and unity.
How do we measure? Not in tithes or attendance but in the strength and unity of our churches. In how we are able to reach the lost for Christ and make disciples who will go and do the same. And then we will see a steady increase in both tithe and attendance that will blow us away!
“I (Jesus) have set you and example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:15-17
Is there someone willing to come along side of you to disciple you? Ask them!
Is there someone who needs you to come along side them to disciple them? Reach out to them!
Maybe your sensing a call to begin a discipleship ministry in your church? Start one!
You will be blessed if you do!!!