The Critical Question
One of the most important questions facing the church today is this; is every believer called by Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples?
The Biblical Answer
If there is one passage of Scripture that Christians are familiar with it is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Just because we are familiar with a particular passage of Scripture does not mean that we fully understand it or obey it.
The phrase “make disciples” 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.
Six Reasons We Don’t Make 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”
1-Christian leaders have not been discipled
In my 43 years of being in the church I have experienced the love and encouragement of many people, yet I have never had someone disciple me like we see Jesus doing with his followers. From the conversations I have had with many people I know that I am not alone.
2-Churches are not looking for pastors who make disciples
Churches are overly focused on the show, the performance on Sunday morning. I’ve seen quite a few job descriptions for pastors in my time. I can’t honestly ever remember seeing “we are looking for a Lead Pastor who makes disciples” at the top of the list. Think about that for a moment. Frightening. Why is it that the very thing Jesus commanded each one of us to do so that the gospel would spread throughout the world we fail to make a priority for our leaders?
3-We assumed that the “church” was responsible for making disciples and failed to own the responsibility ourselves
I think there are many people who would agree with the idea that Jesus commanded us to make disciples but they believe it is the “church’s” job and don’t understand that they personally bear the burden and the joy of discipleship themselves.
4-We mistakenly thought we could make disciples through programs and worship services
Many church leaders have been trained to put together worship services and programs. Sunday morning is important and there is a place for programs, but the truth of the matter is that disciples are made in messy, gospel centered relationships. We have attempted to make disciples like Ford makes automobiles; impersonal assembly lines and mass production. Jesus modeled a very different way to create disciples.
5-We have substituted discipleship for accountability partners
There is nothing wrong with having an accountability partner; the issue is that we are not reproducing disciples. Let’s not throw out the idea of accountability, instead let’s add to it the disciple making component.
6-We don’t feel spiritually mature enough to make disciples
One obstacle is that we do not feel qualified to disciple another person. Perhaps we are painfully aware of our own sinfulness or we have not been a Christian for very long. The truth is that we will probably never feel ready. Chances are good that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead you to disciple someone who is more spiritually mature than you are. But what about your colleague at work? The neighbor at your child’s bus stop? There are opportunities all around us if we will open up our spiritual eyes.
Do you see yourself in one of the above six reasons? What other reasons can you think of for why we are not making disciples?
What Does A Church That Makes Disciples Look Like?
What would happen if a church took discipleship seriously? Imagine being done once and for all with the clergy/laity divide which has led some of us to conclude that the “professionals” are the ones responsible for discipleship. Imagine followers of Jesus who take full responsibility for the discipleship of people in and outside the church. Consider the depth of relationships and community that would exist because there is not an unhealthy dependence on programs and worship services to generate discipleship. Imagine a church where each person is reorganizing the priorities of their life with the purpose of investing in others? Imagine the people in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces that are being loved and led to Christ by ordinary disciples like you and me. Imagine the gospel spreading and people in our city becoming worshippers of Jesus Christ because of our relational investment. This is a glimpse of what would happen to a church that takes discipleship seriously.
The Way Forward
What are some first steps we can take when it comes to making disciples of Jesus Christ? How do we get started? First of all you must realize that the command to make disciples is not a spiritual gift for a few select Christians, it is a command for every Christian. Second, you must be willing to reorganize your life around disciple making relationships. If you are waiting for a time in your life when you are less busy you will find, unfortunately, life does not slow down on its own. We have to make space for things that are important. Third, pray about it. Ask God who he has placed in your life for you to love and invest in. Fourth, make sure you are very intentional about the fact that the end result of your time together is that each of you will go and make other disciples.