ave you ever been discipled by another believer? That is, did anyone help you in the process of coming to faith? After you came to Christ, did anyone help you grow more like Jesus, either informally or in some organized fashion? Or, from the other side, have you ever been in the discipling role, helping someone come to faith in Christ or grow as His disciple?
If you answered yes, you already have some level of experience with disciple making. If you answered no, fear not, for help is at hand. Help? Why do I need help? you say. I am not called to a ministry of disciple making. That’s somebody else’s job. If this is your reaction, you have lots of company. Many in the church today think that disciple making is someone else’s ministry. But Jesus doesn’t give us that option.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples, told them that universal authority had been conferred on Him, and commissioned them to a universal mission:
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 (Matt. 28:18–20).1
This was, and still is, Jesus’ plan to spread God’s kingdom throughout the world, and you and I have a part to play. Simply put, they were to reproduce themselves by taking their disciples through the same basic teaching and training that Jesus had given them in their apprenticeship with Him. Let’s look at Jesus’ call to make disciples and how we are to do it.
As we start, let’s briefly consider why making disciples is so important. First, making disciples is the great mission Jesus gave His followers before He returned to heaven. This mission, which has been passed down from generation to generation by the faithful, now rests upon you and me.
Second, Jesus’ simple, yet brilliant plan—making disciples, who would in turn make other disciples, who would make still more disciples and so on until He returns—really works! He is counting on us to fulfill our assignment, and there is no Plan B.
Third, making disciples has been neglected for so long that there is now a crisis of discipleship in the American church. Few professing Christians are living as disciples of Jesus, and fewer still are making disciples. This failure to be salt and light in our decaying society has contributed greatly to the undermining of the church, robbing us of credibility in the eyes of the world and accelerating the spiritual and moral decline in society.
A fourth reason is that at the final exam of life, Judgment Day, Jesus will ask, among other things, whether we obeyed His command to go and make disciples. As you look into His searching, all-knowing eyes, what will you say?
What Is a Disciple?
To make disciples, we first need to know what a disciple is. Many people today are confused about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and this is the root of serious problems in the church. Some think a disciple is a person in full-time vocational ministry—such as a pastor, priest, or missionary—but not an ordinary believer. Others believe a disciple is someone who has gone through a “discipleship program,” studying the basics of the Christian life for several weeks or months. Still others think a disciple is a Christian who has made an optional, higher level of commitment to Christ than the average believer.
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