This is Part 1 in the LEADERSHIP LAB blog series
Part 2: Working on your own Discipleship
Christians tell others about Christ. Disciples of Jesus are disciple-makers. Said more plainly, followers of Jesus help others follow Jesus.
We see this in the final words of Jesus in Matthew's gospel:
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.
In many instances, we've taken the Great Commission of "Go and tell" and changed it to "Come and see", assuming that if we just get an unbelieving person to come to church with us it's a win and our job is done. Worse still, in many cases, we have responded to Jesus, "no" when He has told us "go".
The final words of Jesus before His ascension are:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
The final words of Jesus should be our first work. But so often they aren't. Jesus tells us to "Go" but in many of our lives we've simply said "No". Why is that?
What Stops Me From Making Disciples?
Consider this question: "What stops me from helping others follow Jesus?" These are some of the responses I hear:
I'm An Introvert
Disciple-making isn't just for extroverts, it's for Christians. The context, volume, and circumstances may vary in what your disciple-making relationships look like. But, hear this my fellow introverts, not making a point of
"Not making a point of discipling others is not a personality issue, it's an obedience issue."
It Feels Prideful
Supposing you have something to offer others is only prideful if your posture is prideful. The reality is that if you've walked with Jesus for any amount of time there are others who have walked with Jesus less.
We ought not to approach a disciple-making opportunity with a posture of: "I have so much to teach this person" but instead: "God, in your grace, I prayerfully request that you use my feeble efforts and attempts to help others grow in Jesus".
"It's not prideful to desire and be intentional in helping others follow Jesus."
A prideful heart tells someone, "I should disciple you" (which sounds like: you need a lot of work!). A humble heart says, "I'd love to make a point of getting together to encourage each other in the faith".
It's not prideful to desire and be intentional in helping others follow Jesus.
I Don't Know Enough
If you are a true follower of Jesus, God doesn't expect you to share what you don't know but to share what you do know. We are told to make disciples by participating in two tasks: baptizing and teaching.
Baptism is an outward sign of an inward transformation (death to life). It's a reference to conversion, of coming to saving faith in Jesus. Part of discipleship then is introducing people to Jesus. Share your life with those who do not yet believe and share the gospel with them.
"God isn't asking you to be what you're not in order to make disciples, He's inviting you to be who you are in Christ and share that with others."
With brothers and sisters in the faith, it may mean initiating faith conversations by asking questions, sharing what you’re learning, opening the Bible and studying it together, and praying for them. These are all aspects of teaching them to observe all the commands of Jesus.
God isn't asking you to be what you're not in order to make disciples, He's inviting you to be who you are in Christ and share that with others.
Fear that keeps us from obeying the call to make disciples is not from God.
In Luke 12:11-12, Jesus said,
When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.
The setting is different but the scenario is similar in that it is frightening. The Holy Spirit will meet and inform us when we are put in the most frightening spots. Vibrant faith dwells here. When we step out in obedience to God's will and ways and He meets us there, we get joy and His mission advances in the world.
"Fear with forward momentum towards disciple-making...drives us to depend on Jesus. And that's a good place to be."
Where Jesus leads you, He provides.
When Jesus sent out the 72 they had no idea how things would go — even anticipating rejection — and they were blown away by Jesus. They came back rejoicing. Don't miss out on this joy because of fear!
I'm Too Busy
Being a disciple of Jesus is the highest priority of our lives. And disciples make disciples. If your discipleship to Jesus is getting squeezed out it’s time to reevaluate EVERYTHING ELSE that you do.
"If making disciples is getting squeezed out it’s time to reevaluate EVERYTHING ELSE that you do."
What If I'm Not Making Disciples?
Throughout Matthew's gospel, he forces us to ask the question: if I'm not making disciples, am I really a disciple?
Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (4:19).
Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (7:21).
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (28:19).
If you're not making disciples it begs the question, are you really a disciple? The answer is either you're sick or you're dead (subtlety is not a forte of mine).
When a couple faces the painful process of infertility they seek guidance in addressing it biologically because they recognize that something is wrong. Likewise, if reproduction isn't happening in a Christian's life there's something wrong that needs to be addressed.
Out of the gate in a process of disciple-making it’s a crucial question to ask: do I really know the value of the Gospel if I don’t desire to make it known to the world? And if I desire to make it known but don’t, that too needs to be addressed.
Abide In Jesus = Bear Much Fruit
In John 15 we are given a helpful picture of how to be fruitful disciples of Jesus.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (15:5)
Jesus is the True Vine and His disciples are the branches. Disciples of Jesus abide in Him and produce fruit. The basis of our fruitfulness is our union with Christ. In the rest of the passage, He seems to indicate that branches that don’t produce fruit aren’t true believers. Those who abide in Jesus bear much fruit not because of their independent greatness but because of their connectivity with the One who is Great!
What is "fruit"? Fruit is an image for results produced from the life of the believer as she abides in Jesus. Fruit includes the growth of Christlike character in your own like (Galatians 5:22-23), bringing benefit and blessing in the lives of others (such as contributions to people coming to faith, helping others grow in maturity in Christlikeness, to Christian unity and edification, etc.), and advancing the mission of God in the world.
"Those who abide in Jesus bear much fruit not because of their independent greatness but because of their connectivity with the One who is Great!"
Mark Dever, in his book Discipling, wrote, “When you step out of the hallway of this life into the room of eternity, what will you have left behind in the lives of others?”. Will we leave behind a bright, but fading image of ourselves — our gifts, our interests, our successes — or a bold and lasting image of Christ leading to eternal life? What will be the fruit?
I want to invite you to join us at our Leadership Labs this year as we focus on disciple-making. Above all, I invite you to be prayerfully dependent on Jesus as you commit to investing deeply in
God will get
Go make disciples... Be my witnesses...
Let's make the final words of Jesus our first work.
Click here to access the Personal Disciple-Making Plan handout that was provided at our September 2018 Leadership Lab.