The First Task of Discipleship

The Great Commission mandate is clear. In our going, baptizing and teaching, we are to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This has not changed for 2000 years, nor will it change until the Lord returns. The chief business of the church is to make disciples who will make disciples, and on and on it goes. In this process, disciples of Jesus Christ are continually multiplying and being reproduced.

Recently, I watched a conference video of Francis Chan. Chan is a popular speaker and writer calling the church to reconsider this critical task of discipleship. In the video and while speaking to thousands, Chan challenged the crowd (allow me to paraphrase). “Discipleship is all about multiplication, but I’m not so sure we would want to multiply this group of people here today. Many of you are angry, prideful, unforgiving, and slanderous, etc., etc.” Chan then proceeded to explain that before we make plans to multiply disciples, we must first be disciples of Jesus Christ.

Incidentally, Chan’s new book is called Multiply. If this has wet your appetite for more, you might just want to purchase a copy of the book. Whatever the case, Chan is right. The first task of discipleship is being a disciple. This means being committed to following Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. It means being committed sanctification in your life and having at least some resemblance to your Master, Jesus Christ. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master” (Matthew 10:24-25).

Ask yourself, is there evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in my life? If you are going to help others follow Jesus, it stands to reason that you must first take up your cross and follow Him. You can’t give others what you don’t already have. But as you commit yourself to discipleship, the strength of your witness will increase, and in turn, you will be more effective in helping others follow Jesus. You will be able to say, like Paul, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I am not suggesting that you need to be perfect before you can help others follow Jesus, but I am suggesting that there should be evidence of growth and transformation in your life.

Later on in the same video, Chan noted, “Some of you are going to be welcomed into Heaven and the King will say to you, (again, a paraphrase) “Well done good and faithful servant. You made 8 disciples and you had a church of 9.” Sure, we can find some humor in that, but it’s true. Helping other people follow Jesus is a lifelong task that does not happen overnight. Many of us are accustomed to a paradigm where disciples are made through programs and classes. It is designed to be almost instantaneous. This model has helped us fill our churches, but we’ve filled them with angry, prideful, unforgiving, and slanderous people, who look more like the world than the redeemed of the Lord. In other words, we’ve filled our church with pseudo-disciples and not true followers of Christ. We have multiplied, but not in the way Jesus intends us to.

My intention is not to point the finger at the modern church. It is what it is and we can’t change the church as a whole overnight. However, we can individually commit ourselves to the first task of discipleship – being disciples. We can commit ourselves to sanctification and a holiness of life that will speak volumes to those around us. And as we do that, we can more effectively come alongside other disciples and strengthen them as they pursue Christ.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10)

Training up the Next Generation of Christ-Followers

In my estimation, evangelical churches today are failing when it comes to training up the next generation of men and women. We are not mentoring and discipling younger Christians the way we should be. Discipleship happens in a number of different ways and contexts, but an important component of that is in person-to-person relationships. While giving some instructions to his young apprentice Titus, Paul makes it clear that older men and women must be willing to mentor and teach younger men and women (same gender). In other words, those with life experience and Christian maturity should desire to impart their wisdom to the next generation. And those who are young and lacking in maturity must demonstrate a submissive spirit and be willing to learn.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:1-4).

In some churches, these types of relationships are common and they are reaping the benefits. But I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that those churches are not the norm. I say that for three simple reasons. Older Christian men and women don’t feel like they have anything to offer the next generation. Secondly, the younger generation is too proud to admit they need godly counsel. Third, those in church leadership are not encouraging and facilitating Titus 2 mentoring relationships. Thus our churches lack depth and maturity – something that is essential for healthy and flourishing churches.

We need one another as Christians. As Paul Tripp has said before, God designed our spiritual growth to be a community project. We need the church and we need one another. The local church offers a way for older and wiser Christians to connect with younger, less mature Christians. It is also important to mention that age doesn’t matter when it comes to having Titus 2 relationships.  We all need a Paul (a mentor), a Silas or a Barnabas (an associate) and a Titus or Timothy (an apprentice) in our Christian walk. Even if you are younger (I’m around 30), God can still use you to mentor and disciple teens and young adults.

This brings up another important question. What about older believers who are new to faith? Is it all right to seek out someone younger, but more mature as a Christian? The answer is yes! It will take some humility, but both parties will be blessed from that type of relationship, as the Holy Spirit works in their lives.

If this is where your heart is, but you don’t know where to start, a simple place to begin is by praying. Ask the Lord to put someone in your life for you to mentor or for you to be mentored by. Sometimes finding a good match is the hardest part, but that is certainly not beyond the ability of the Creator God. So trust God in this whole process and then intentionally seek out Titus 2 relationships. Perhaps you already have someone in mind that would be a good fit.

I often remind our church of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the need to “make disciples.” There is no question that Titus 2 relationships are an important part of the disciple-making process. Let’s ensure that we are doing all we can to make this happen in our own lives and in our churches.

Understanding the Great Commission

Who? Jesus gave this mission verbally to the first disciples, but it did not end with their deaths. As Lord of the church, he expects his followers to carry out this mission “to the end of the age.” Their mission is our mission.

 

Why? The authority for our mission comes from Christ. It is rooted in the Word of God and based on the Father’s sending of the Son. We are sent because Christ was sent, and we go in his name, under his authority.

 

What? The mission consists of preaching and teaching, announcing and testifying, making disciples and bearing witness. The mission focuses on the initial and continuing verbal declaration of the gospel, the announcement of Christ’s death and resurrection and the life found in him when we repent and believe.

 

Where? We are sent into the world. Our strategy is no longer “come and see” but “go and tell.” The message of salvation is for every people group – near, far, and everywhere in between.

 

How? We go in the power of the Holy Spirit and in submission to the Son just as he was obedient to and dependent upon the Father.

 

When? The mission began at Pentecost when the disciples were clothed with power from on high with the presence of the Holy Spirit. The mission will last as long as the promise of Christ’s presence lasts; that is, to the end of the age.

 

To Whom? The church should make disciples of the nations. We must go to every people group, proclaiming the good news to the ends of the earth.

 

Copied from page 59 of What is the Mission of the Church? By Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

Catching Men

“And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10-11)

Every time I read this verse, it always hits me hard. Here you have a total identity transformation. Simon Peter, James and John (and the other disciples) left everything to follow Jesus. It’s not that they would never fish again, it’s just that their new business was the Master’s business. And the Master’s men were in the business of catching men.

So how do you go about catching men? Obviously, salvation is totally a work of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), but God still uses us (His people) to reach others as we faithfully proclaim the gospel. When God graciously grants salvation, a remarkable transformation takes place. As Paul tells us, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away;  behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When God catches a man or woman, they inherit a new identity. The focus of their past life (whatever it was) will not be the focus of their future life. Now, a new agenda will govern their lives. In short, that agenda is other people. This is where “catching men” comes into play.

Before he left them, Jesus reminded his disciples of this. He said, “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” (Matthew 28:18-20). Thus ends Matthew’s gospel.

To summarize, the disciples were to make more disciples. The Master’s men were to catch other men and women, baptize them, and teach them the whole counsel of God. This is pretty simple, especially when it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Even today, our mission remains the same. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are in the business of making more disciples. Modern day Christianity often tries to take a simple thing and make it complicated. The so-called “church growth” experts will give you 100 different ways to build a church. But Jesus only taught us one way. He said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). How? One disciple at a time.

Are you helping other Christian’s follow Jesus?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)

In the Great Commission, we find our marching orders. The mission of the church is to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who…..you get the point. Jesus did not simply say this to the apostles. He did not simply say this to pastors and church leaders. He gave these instructions to all Christians for all time – to go and make disciples. One way to personalize this would be to ask – are you helping other Christians follow Jesus? This is a simple but important question.

Next Sunday in church, take a look at the people sitting next to you in the pew. These are your brothers and sisters in Christ and you are responsible and accountable to them. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Our desire for “one another” should be that we are more in love with Jesus this week than we were last week. More in love with Jesus this month than we were last month. And more in love with Jesus in 2012 than in 2011. As we grow in our love for Jesus, it always translates into “love and good works” and we delight to see the increase of this in other Christians.

It is truly remarkable how much influence we have on one another – both for good and for bad. Someone who is pursuing hard after God can fuel the fire in the hearts of those around him. Unfortunately, it works the other way as well. A Christian who is stagnant and not diligently pursuing God can tame the fire in the heart of a fellow believer. Even something like spreading gossip can have a destructive impact on a fellow believer and actually hinder their walk with the Lord. So ask yourself; what kind of influence I am having on the Christian’s around me? Do they see someone who is growing more in love with Christ? Or I am I being a tool of Satan and spreading negative influence?

Question: if we are responsible and accountable to one another in the Body of Christ, what do we do when we see a brother or sister who is stagnant in their walk with the Lord? Most of the time we do nothing and this is tragic. But if we truly care for them and love them, then we need to check in from time to time and even challenge them. Ask – how is your walk with the Lord? Are you staying in the Word? Are you killing the sin in your life? I realize this is hard because we live in such a privatized world where we never feel the right to challenge anyone else. But at the end of the day, I want to be able to say that I did my best to help the Christians around me to follow Jesus and sometimes that involves challenging them in their walk with God.

Friend, are you helping other Christian’s follow Jesus? What’s great is that as you help them to follow Jesus, they can help other people follow Jesus. Disciples making disciples. This was the Master’s plan all along. It is true that sometimes this process does not move along as fast as ‘we’ would like, but the plan has work marvelously for 2000 years, so why change it? Just do your best to help others follow Jesus and then trust “the Lord of the harvest” (Luke 10:2) to do His good work.