Three Keys to Making Disciples
Imagine that the person you love most in life is about to leave for a very long time. Before they leave, he/she gives you one final sentence to remember them by - one final wish - one final request. Imagine they ask you to do something that would be proof of your love for them. Wouldn’t you hang on every word that person said? Wouldn’t you take those final words and consider them as deeply as you can?
Well, we have those final words from Jesus. Before Jesus departs to be with his Father, he leaves his disciples (and all of us) with a final request:
“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)
Make disciples... Jesus’ final call to his followers was to go out into the world and make disciples. He didn’t say, “Go therefore, and behave as well as you can.” or “Go, therefore, and make sure all the movies don’t have curse words.” Jesus gave a profound and simple call: Go out into your context, connect with people, teach them about Christ, and baptize them. What a simple yet terrifying call. I would rather Jesus just tell us to not curse, drink, and do drugs. That seems to be way easier of a command than establishing genuine relationships with people that result in them turning to Jesus.
Jesus calls us to connect and disciple. What does that mean exactly? Well, I can tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean sharing a post on Facebook. It doesn’t mean pointing out the sins in someone’s life and leaving it at that. It doesn’t even necessarily mean bringing people to church. Discipleship, as Jesus did, is much deeper. Discipleship is a patient, consistent, and intimate friendship that results in a bold heart to follow Jesus. It is ultimately a call to love like Jesus loved, teach what Jesus taught, and equip others to do the same.
Let’s first look at how Jesus discipled:
”And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:13-15)
When Jesus called his disciples, it says that he called them to do three things:
1 - He called them to be with him
All ministry begins with a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. We cannot hope to do anything for Jesus unless we have learned to be with Jesus. How on earth am I supposed to know what my wife desires if I have not first taken the time to be with her, speak with her, and hear her heart? In the same way, we ought to sit at the feet of Jesus, read his word, and seek his heart through prayer.
2 - He sent them out to preach
Jesus taught the disciples so they might be able to teach others. Jesus sent them out to proclaim the good news and encourage those that were lost. This is a crucial part of following Jesus. If the gospel has truly affected my life in a profound way, then how can I help but tell others? When my football team (Go Rams!) wins a game, I will talk about it endlessly. You can’t get me to shut up about it. Even more so the victory of Jesus needs to be on my lips continually.
3 - He gave them authority
Jesus sent his disciples out with the authority to cast out demons. For us, this can literally mean casting out demons. However, it can also mean that Jesus has given us the authority to bring his kingdom here on earth. Jesus made his disciples an extension of himself. The disciples were empowered by Jesus so they might serve God and serve others.
So how does this affect the way we disciple others? How can we build patient, consistent, and intimate friendships that result in bold hearts to follow Jesus? Simple, we follow the example of Christ. You do not need to plant a church or preach on a Sunday to make disciples. You are empowered and called by Jesus to go into your community and love like he loved.
So here are some ways you can engage in discipleship with your community:
1 - Develop Deep Friendships
Sometimes the first step to making a disciple is making a friend. I think we underestimate the power of friendship in our culture. Friendships have the potential to change lives forever. For King David, it was Jonathan. Their friendship was a source of strength for David. He felt protected and empowered by Jonathan. That provided him with boldness and clarity in his calling.
Likewise, we should try and be “Jonathans” to people. We should be inviting people to our homes, going to get coffee, or working on projects. Don’t think you need to jump straight into a deep Bible study right off the bat. Remember, Jesus first called his disciples to “be with him” and out of that relationship, the disciples were able to learn and grow.
However, make sure you do this purposefully. I know a lot of dudes that take guys surfing and call it “discipleship”. Yet they rarely talk about life, their struggles, or the truth of God. When you hang out with people, make sure to share your heart with them. Talk about your burdens and dreams for the future. Do not hide behind shallow activity. Instead, use activity to establish a meaningful connection.
2 - Speak Truth into People’s Lives
I have been the recipient of great men and women speaking truth into my life. I would have never been in ministry if it weren’t for a few people telling me I had a gift for connecting with people and communicating. My friends, this is our job as disciple-makers. When we notice the gifts of other people, we need to point them out. God has a wonderful plan for each and every one of us. So we should be looking to see how God is working in people’s lives and pointing it out. To disciple people is to show them their purpose in Jesus. Point people to him through the word of God. Then, show people how their gifts, personalities, and resources can be used to glorify Him.
Additionally, we should be lovingly pointing out areas that need to be given up to the Lord. I have been radically changed by a few good friends who pointed out certain sins in my life. However, if I didn’t know that they loved me, I wouldn’t have listened. The point is not to manage their sin. Rather, it is to turn them away from idols so they can run towards Jesus.
3 - Be an Empowerer
People need to be needed. Deep down, we all feel a call to be used for a greater purpose. Jesus gave his disciples authority to go out and help others. He gave them a call to combat the evil works of the devil with the kindness and power of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we ought to be empowering others to make positive change in the world.
Lift people up by giving them opportunities to exercise their gifts. Allow them to stumble and fail, but be there to help them. A part of making disciples is empowering others to make disciples. If you start a small group, have others lead that small group. Your effectiveness in ministry is greatly measured by your ability to empower others.
These were Jesus’ departing words… This was his call to all his followers. Until he returns, this is our call. The church is not a building or a brand, it is a movement of men and women discipling one-another.