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Welcome back! This week we’re going to talk about letting God use us to make disciples. This episode was actually going to be a stand-alone episode on discipling others, but I realized that part of being a disciple, which is what the last two episodes were about, is letting God use us to make disciples. Jesus says that part of our being disciples is to make more disciples. This is called the Great Commission; it is found in Matthew chapter 28 verses 18-20 and is usually paired with the great commandment we talked about in the episodes on the Law of Love.
‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.’
One of the biggest misconceptions of this verse is that only people who are missionaries can do this. You Don’t Have To Be A Missionary
When Christ says, “Go to all nations” he doesn’t mean the only way to make disciples is to go to other lands. 99.99% of all Christians in the early church, and since then I assume, never went anywhere but their hometown and the church multiplied. Yes, some people will go and start churches in other lands, but most will be witnesses in their own city, town, or even on their own block. If we all went somewhere else, no one would be here. So please don’t think you have to be a missionary to make disciples.
Sometimes it’s easier to go and make disciples than it is to be a disciple. What we teach most of the time is our personal opinion or the tenants of our theology. While neither one of these is bad, neither of them has the power to change like a relationship with Christ does. Whether we go abroad or stay at home, when we begin to make disciples, we shouldn’t rely on our own knowledge and abilities. As with all parts of our lives, we rely on the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that when we go out to make disciples he is with us always and forever. If we try to do it in our own power, we end up like the Pharisees and make children of hell (Matthew 23:15) because we are teaching them to follow us or a certain dogma and not Christ.
Disciples Want To Make Disciples
I talked about this in the last two episodes so I’ll just touch on it again. If we are not being disciples, we can’t expect Christ to use us in making more disciples. We can’t give away something we don’t have. Start with the basics, read the bible, and pray every day. We have to start where we are. Don’t start with 2 hours of bible reading and prayer because that will last about two days. Start where you are and grow from there. You may want to start learning about other spiritual disciplines. There are several great books you can find on spiritual disciplines. My three favorites are The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. The best, in my opinion, is Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. (Affiliate Links)
When God is working in our lives through the Holy Spirit we will have a desire to walk the road of spiritual formation with other people. I used to get frustrated at pastors who would expect everyone to be out saving the lost. They would say that you “MUST witness for Christ” or you “SHOULD share the gospel with everyone you meet.” It doesn’t work that way. We can’t give away something we don’t have
I heard a pastor tell a story about leaving a church service and going out to witness to a person on December 31st because he had set a goal to witness to 301 people that year. He had only witnessed to 300 people and he had to reach his goal so he could be an example to his church.
We don’t have to force the process. As we begin to grow in God, people will see the change in us. They will be attracted to Christ in us through the Holy Spirit. We won’t have to force anything. Of course, we won’t see it in ourselves, but it will be there.
Being a Disciple Isn’t For Everyone
Not everyone you start working with will remain a disciple and that’s okay. Neither Jesus nor Paul nor any other disciple who set out to make disciples made 100 percent of the population into disciples. In the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13, Luke 8, and Mark 4, Jesus explains that when people hear the word of God they react in one of four ways. First, the seed falls on hard soil. These people may not understand it and the devil takes it away from them. Next, the seed falls on rocky soil. These people understand it and accept it, but fall away because they have no good ground to grow in. Third, the seed falls on soil I like to think is around the edge of the field. The seed falls into good soil but the weeds grow up and choke it out. These people hear the word and receive it and they grow, but they get caught up in the cares of the world and stop growing. Finally, the seed of the Gospel hits the good soil in the field. These people are the ones who hear the gospel and receive it. They are planted in good ground, the weeds don’t grow up around them, and they produce fruit.
I love the parable of the sower because it perfectly explains that not everyone will become a disciple of Christ. Right before he gives the great commission, it says that some of his disciples doubted. When we are disciples we want to make disciples. We want to share life with other people who want the same things we do. A lot of the time, those disciples are people in our lives that we just haven’t seen yet.
Let Yourself Be Discipled
Most of us have never been discipled. Learning to share our faith, and help another person grow isn’t a life that comes naturally. We need someone in our life who can guide us and show us how to speak the truth in love to another individual. Pray for God to put someone in your life who can show you what discipleship looks like. If you don’t have anyone in your circle, start with your priest or pastor. Ask around your church but don’t rush the process. This is not a deal-breaker. Being a disciple is our first priority. Chances are that there is someone in your congregation who is either doing discipleship or wanting to get started with discipleship that you don’t know about. It never hurts to ask. God has someone for each of us and the answer may not be obvious at first. We are looking to build a relationship and relationships built through God are the ones that are going to last.
You can always ask a friend who has the same need and start there. If neither of you has ever been discipled the good news is that there are books you can use to get started. A quick search of discipleship books on Amazon will give several options.
Where Does Discipleship Happen?
Small groups or home groups are not the type of discipleship that I am referring to. When I talk about small group discipleship, I mean groups of no more than four people. Small groups or home groups are not where this type of discipleship happens… in my opinion. A lengthy sermon is not where discipleship happens…In my opinion. This podcast, no matter how good it is, is not where discipleship happens…In my opinion.
Discipleship happens when two or three people who are committed to growing spiritually gather together and practice the spiritual disciplines of the church. They are committed to and accountable to each other and to God who is the source of our growth. The book that got me started on my journey of discipling others was Gregg Ogden’s book Transforming Discipleship. (Affiliate Link) Transforming Discipleship changed the way I thought about discipleship at every level. Before I read it, the only ways I knew to do discipleship were sermons from the pulpit or small group settings which we kept to around 10 people. The excitement I got with the triad approach was unbelievable. I still get excited about that style of discipleship and that was eleven years ago.
A triad is just like it sounds, three people. You may have four people, but to me three is the perfect number, just my opinion. While one may be the leader at first, the idea is to get the others to assume leadership roles and all grow together. While you do theoretically have a more mature Christian starting the group, that person may only have been a Christian for a couple of years. The “Leader” does not lord it over the others, it is a mutually growing process that is reproducible.
Where Do We Start?
This all starts with us and another person or two. Like I said earlier, people will see it in you and you will see the desire to grow in others. I want to suggest the two books I mentioned before. First is Celebration Of Discipline (Affiliate Link) by Richard Foster. Celebration really challenges us to be the deep people of God we can be and offers examples of how we do that. Finding what spiritual disciplines work for us as individuals is key to discipleship and spiritual growth. If you have never done anything like discipleship, Gregg Ogden’s book Transforming Discipleship (Affiliate Link) helped me tremendously when I was getting started.
As a whole, the church hasn’t done discipleship in so long that we have forgotten what it is. Sitting down with a couple of other Christians who are trying to be disciples shouldn’t instill fear in us. Like everything in life, this is a learning process. As we work together we all become better disciples and we learn more about our faith. As we learn more about our faith, we learn about ourselves and that we need to rely on God to work through us and we grow even more in Christ.
Think about it over the long term. If you and two friends start this year and each pledge to disciple two friends the next year, in five years that’s 243 people discipled. That’s amazing. Think about how fast the early church grew. Nothing is impossible for God when we let him use us.
I hope this series has been encouraging to you. And, I hope you will begin to look for others who are on the same journey as you who want to grow in Christ and start a triad with them. Next week I’m going to start a series on the Didache which is an early second-century discipleship manual also known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. I’m rewriting a late 19th-century copy of it into modern English so I want to share it on the podcast while I’m doing it.