Being a disciple of Jesus Christ requires obeying His command to make disciples. It is the commission He gave to everyone who would follow Him. If you do not currently understand, believe and commit yourself to obey this command, you should stop here and go search out this matter for yourself.
Those who have committed themselves to the Great Commission must realize that Jesus intends to use us as vessels and instruments, to make disciples of himself. They are not our disciples. They may be “following us," but that must only be true because we are following Him. When they look at us, it must be to behold Him as in a mirror.
Furthermore—and this is critical—we are not making disciples unless those we are discipling are also making disciples. This is a place we often get stuck, and a matter to which we should be giving more thought. For example, how do we know that they are making disciples if we only talk tot them once a week?
You may need to stop here and consider the meaning of this for your ministry. That’s OK; you can come back later.
Now, to answer the question: Why is disciple making so hard? Or, put another way: What can we do to get our people involved again in the Great Commission?
If we hear ourselves answering those questions with a focus on “them," then we are starting in the wrong place. Bear with me. What follows is not about our commitment to ministry; or our love for the people we lead. It’s about prescription—a way of equipping the saints for ministry.
I am convinced that making disciples is hard because the proper foundation has not been laid. We assume too much about those sitting in the pews—even those leading our ministry areas. Much has been lost in the last 50 years.
Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself with this very simple test. Ask your leaders to name the six elementary principles. Next, tell them where they are—Hebrews 6—and ask them to explain three of them. Ask them how many baptisms there are in the New Testament (four).
If my suspicions are correct, you have just exposed the tip of the lost foundation iceberg. Read on for a couple of the big ones.
When leaders—our leaders—are left thinking that the story is about them and those they serve, they totally miss God’s eternal purposes (i.e., His will), and they naturally cater to the opinions and pleasures of man. The story of the Bible is about HIM!! It must be told and lived from that perspective.
Similarly, how many times have you heard it said being a good Christian means putting God first, others second and yourself third? Sounds good, but let me ask you: How close of a second are others we serve to God (in our mind)?
It was with intention that Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). This was the best way He knew to describe the distance between first and second (and third). Are we willing to teach and live the same?
Honestly, I think we consider others so close a second to God that we get confused and begin acting as if they are first. This is no small matter. In doing so, are we not teaching baby Christians that their satisfaction and pleasure is quite (or most) important—to others, and to God?
Finally, does being third mean that you are dead? Was Jesus kidding when He said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). Did you know that this warning is recorded six times in the four Gospels? Is it not a matter of life and death—for ourselves and those we are called to disciple?
Consider this: Jesus is building His church where solid foundations have been laid. Making disciples cannot be measured by a number.
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Rob Streetman / Rob Streetman is the president of inLight Consulting and is author of The Map Maker. He is called to encourage, edify and equip Workplace Leaders as disciple makers and transformation agents. He began inLight in 2005, after 25+ years in the IT industry.