Sep 13 we will begin a new sermon series on Isaiah. So before we get started with “Isaiah: Beyond Religion” I have one Sunday to talk about discipleship. Below is a document that I created this week that I will have available to people just to help them grow in their understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
WHERE DO I BEGIN WHEN IT COMES TO BEING A DISCIPLE MAKER?
We have been talking quite a bit about being a disciple and making disciples here at New Life. Few of us would argue against the idea of making disciples because we know that Jesus commanded it in the Great Commission of Matthew 28. But you might have questions. You might wonder what it looks like to begin making disciples. Where do you begin? We can’t expect a train to run as it should unless the tracks have first been put in place. This brief paper is an attempt to put down a track on which discipleship travels throughout our church, the city of Watertown and around the world.
RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS A DISCIPLESHIP PROBLEM
We have been busy doing church in America but in too many instances that does not mean that we have been good about making disciples.
“Why is it that we see so little disciple making taking place in the church today? Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like.” –Francis Chan, “Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples”
RECOGNIZE THAT EACH ONE OF US HAS BEEN CALLED TO MAKE DISCIPLES
The phrase “make disciples” in Matthew 28 is in the imperative which means that Jesus is highlighting the importance of it. The short and sweet of it is this; every Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ to go and make disciples who make disciples. In fact, making disciples is a primary characteristic of someone who claims to know Christ.
BEGIN AT HOME
If you are a parent the place to begin making disciples is in your home. It is easy to think that if we get our kids in Children’s Ministry, Youth Group or a Christian School that we have done our job of developing our kids into disciples. The truth is that we, moms and dads, are the primary disciple makers of our kids.
Here is a great article that will encourage you when it comes to making disciples in your home: “Finding Christ in the Family Room” by Luna Simms.
IN THE CHURCH
The main mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. All of our programs, services, events need to function in such a way that people are becoming more like Christ. The American Evangelical church has become way too dependent on programs when it comes to making disciples. Discipleship (the way that Jesus did it) requires that relationships are developed. So if you don’t feel qualified to run a big ministry or lead a program, relax, you are still qualified to make disciples of Jesus Christ! Here is an excerpt from a wonderful book called “The Trellis and the Vine” that I hope challenges, encourages and inspires you when it comes to the Great Commission.
Imagine a reasonably solid Christian said to you after church one Sunday morning, “Look, I’d like to get more involved here and make a contribution, but I just feel like there’s nothing for me to do. I’m not on the ‘inside’; I don’t get asked to be on committees or lead Bible studies. What can I do?
What would you immediately think or say? Would you start thinking of some event or program about to start that they could help with? Some job that needed doing? Some ministry that they could join or support?
This is how we are accustomed to thinking about the involvement of church members in congregational life-in terms of jobs and roles: usher, Bible study leader, Sunday school teacher, treasurer, elder, musician, song leader, money counter, and so on. The implication of this way of thinking for congregation members is clear: if all the jobs and roles are taken, then there’s really nothing for me to do in this church. I’m reduced to being a passenger. I’ll just wait until I’m asked to ‘do something’. The implication for the pastoral staff is similar: getting people involved and active means finding a job for them to do. In fact, the church growth gurus say that giving someone a job to do within the first six months of their joining a church is vital for them to feel like they belong. However, if the real work of God is people work-the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another-then the jobs are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.
So you could pause, and reply to your friend, “See that guy sitting over there on his own? That’s Julie’s husband. He’s on the fringe of things here; in fact, I’m not really sure whether he’s crossed the line yet and become a Christian. How about I introduce you to him, and you arrange to have breakfast with him once a fortnight and read the Bible together? Or see that couple over there? They are both fairly recently converted, and really in need of encouragement and mentoring. Why don’t you and your wife have them over, to get to know them, and read and pray together once a month? And if you still have time, and want to contribute some more, start praying for the people on your street, and then invite them all to a barbecue at your place. That’s the first step towards talking with them about the gospel, or inviting them along to something.
Of course, there’s every chance that the person will then say, “But I don’t know how to do those things! I’m not sure I’d know what to say or where to start.”
To which you reply, “Oh that’s okay. Let’s start meeting together and I can train you.”
DOES DISCIPLESHIP ALWAYS NEED TO BE SUPER FORMAL AND STRUCTURED?
Absolutely not. There will be times when God leads you to come alongside someone in the church and meet formally for an extended period of time to teach them the basics of the Christian faith. Yet we also need to see all of our interactions with people as a discipleship opportunity. If we remember that discipleship is helping someone to become more like Jesus Christ then we will recognize that there are discipling opportunities all around us in everyday life. Asking a Jr High student about school and how you can pray for them is discipleship. Encouraging a grieving friend about the loss of a loved one is discipleship. Inviting a new couple over to your house for a meal and getting to know them and their spiritual journey is discipleship. To think more about this read “Everyday Discipleship” by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.
“The “show Business,” which is so incorporated into our Christian view of work today, has caused us to drift far from our Lord’s conception of discipleship. it is instilled in us to think we have to do exceptional things for God; we do not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. That is not learned in 5 minutes.” -Oswald Chambers
ARE THERE SOME GOOD RESOURCES IF I WANT TO DISCIPLE SOMEONE FORMALLY?
- Reading through a book of the Bible and praying is always a great place to help someone grow in their relationship with Christ. As you read Scripture together all kinds of practical questions will come up and give you the opportunity to share the truth of God’s Word in love.
- Downlinebuilder.com. It is an online resource that allows you the freedom to pick and choose biblical topics to discuss. It also encourages you to do more than just study but to be intentional about building a solid relationship with the person you are discipling.
OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
When we look at the life of Jesus we recognize immediately that he did not start making disciples with people inside the church. In Matthew 4 Jesus calls his first disciples (Simon Peter and Andrew) as they were catching fish by the Sea of Galilee. These men were not Christians yet Jesus opened up his life and spent a great deal of time with them so that they could learn what it means to be his disciple. We need to be watching for those people that God strategically brings into our life so that we can love, encourage and build relationships with them.
The first step with a person we meet outside the church is not to ask them if they want to “do a Bible study.” The first step is to get to know them. Build a relationship with them. This person is not a project, they are the lost sons and daughters of God.
THE IMPORANCE OF LIFE GROUPS
Community is the greenhouse whereby discipleship flourishes. There are many important things we can do on our own when it comes to helping a person become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Yet, our discipleship of others will never be what God intended if we are not introducing them to the community of Jesus Christ. A Christian who is not in community is in fact an oxymoron (Ephesians 2:19). One of the things we must do is encourage those we are discipling is to get involved in a Life Group so that they can experience the full body of Jesus Christ.
If we want to see the gospel move beyond our church walls, into the city of Watertown and around the world each one of us must personally own the responsibility for the Great Commission. “The successful expansion of any movement is in direct proportion to its ability to mobilize and involve its total membership in constant propagation of its beliefs, its purposes, and its philosophy.” –R. Kenneth Strachan
ARE THERE OTHER RESOURCES THAT WILL HELP ME GROW AS A DISCIPLE?
The Trellis and the Vine by Collin Marshall and Tony Payne
Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
Gospel Centered Discipleship Website (Jonathan Dodson)
Follow Me by David Platt
Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putman
The Master Plan of Discipleship by Robert Coleman