First, allow me to point out my intent is not to be nasty or crass against those churches that have opted to cast Christ’s Great Commission (To make disciples – Matthew 28:18:20) aside. But, with that stated, I must question their decision and their motives. For the very Christ-life in me, I cannot understand how such so-called Christian churches are able to justify such a crucial decision that brings with it eternal consequences. As the church, are we more committed to packing pews rather than penetrating our culture? If this is so, what in God’s kingdom are we doing?
Christian discipleship is about “transformation” and “multiplication.” That is, we are to learn the way of the Master (Jesus Christ) and we are to go and make disciples. According to Barna Research, many of today’s Christian-labeled individuals feel and believe making disciples is “the pastor’s job!” An essential fact that is unbeknownst to most church attendees is that every Christian is called to “go and make disciples.” Jesus’ commandment is for everyone who claims to have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – being born again.
These five qualities summarize what a disciple should be:
- A disciple must submit to a teacher who teaches us “how” to follow Jesus.
- A disciple must learn the words of Jesus.
- A disciple must learn Jesus’ way (method) of ministry (service).
- A disciple must imitate the life and character of Jesus.
- A disciple locates and then teaches other disciples who also follow Jesus.
The sad news is, of these five Christian disciple qualitities, numbers 2 through 4 get most of the attention, while numbers 1 and 5 are commonly unpracticed by today’s church members – Christians at large. This is a notable problem relative to the economy of Christ because discipleship qualities 1 and 5 are essential at being a disciple and at making discipleship work according to God’s plan.
Taking a Closer Look at Qualities 1 and 5
1. “A disciple must submit to a teacher who teaches us “how” to follow Jesus.”
In Ephesians 5:21, Paul taught that submission was for everyone. In order to attain spiritual maturity, our character is developed through community; and that occurs only with submission. For example, when attending school, we submit to a teacher, instructor, or professor. Our teacher is the one, who leads us, by our own submission into a deeper understanding of a given academic subject while keeping us accountable for what we have learned through testing and grading. In much the same way, this teacher-student relationship must be applied in the lifelong process of disciple-making. Without humbly submitting ourselves to this type of community, well-spirited believers float adrift and wind up in a spiritual coma; numbed by years or even decades of religious activity without productivity (transformation).
5. “A disciple locates and then teaches other disciples who also follow Jesus.”
Without reproduction, discipleship fails. Remember, Christian disciple-making is about “transformation” and “multiplication.” As a challenge, the next time you attend church, look around and what you will likely see is other church attendees sitting in their same location, chatting with the same people, and doing so at about the same time before and after the service. Even the pastor’s message, the praise and worship team’s songs, and the testimonies will be about the same as the week before, too. Do we find ourselves doing much the same? Once we are raised up in disciple-making (being fully taught), we must then go and make more disciples for Jesus. That is what the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is about, “I have trained you, now go and do the same thing.” Most Christians do not follow Jesus in the same way. As disciples of Jesus, we are to go and reproduce more disciples for Jesus – to make new disciples through our own relational networks.
Let us go and be less about packing the pews and more about penetrating our culture – for this is at the very cornerstone of Christian discipleship (Hull, 2006).
“Christianity with discipleship is always Christianity without Christ” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
Bonhoeffer, D. (1959). The Cost of Discipleship. Translated by R. H. Fuller, (rev. ed.). New Nork, NY: Touchstone.
Hull, R. W. (2006). The complete book of discipleship. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.