Jesus’ last command to His disciples was simple and direct: “go make disciple of all nations.” He ascended into heaven and left the rest of redemptive history in the hands of a few dozen followers. That was the strategy, the entire game plan: “Go make disciples.” There was no Plan B. To this group of unlikely revolutionaries, Jesus handed the keys to the Kingdom—relationships. He gave them the plan for the deliberate and strategic passing of the faith from one person to the next. And it worked!
If there is one thing the church must do and do well…it is to make disciples. In our contemporary church culture, we have invested tremendous resources in improving our programming and constructing buildings, and we have devoted tireless energy to debating worship styles and mission strategies. Though valuable, these activities and conversations will not bring change to a generation. Nor are they at the core of our calling. We must make disciples.
I think it’s worth noting that Jesus instructed us to “make” disciples, not simply to “find” them. We church leaders often take the easy route and expect disciples to materialize because we have dedicated a budget category and a sermon series to the idea. We insert the word “discipleship” into a mission statement that hangs on the wall and assume that we will crank out disciples as a result. Then we get frustrated when we don’t find people transforming into Christ-likeness and growing in their gifts. Somehow, we miss the part of Jesus’ command that instructs us to “make” disciples and forget that making disciples is hard work.
We must return to the story of Jesus with fresh eyes and discover some ancient truths—that discipleship is more about the journey than the destination and more about the process than the product. Discipleship is more about relationship than program. It’s more about completing spiritual workouts than completing spiritual workbooks. Making disciples focuses more on engaging in transformational conversations than on enlisting followers of rule and traditions. It requires time and relationship. And now, as then, there is no Plan B.
- How are you doing on “making” disciples? What things are you doing well? What things could you do better?
- Heather says, “Discipleship is more about relationship than program. It’s more about completing spiritual workouts than completing spiritual workbooks.” Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
- How did Jesus make disciples? How did He invest his life in His 12 disciples? Spend some time this week in the Gospels, searching for specific ways that Jesus invested his life in his disciples.
- Spend some time in prayer this week. Ask the Lord to reveal to you ways that you can walk in obedience to the things He has shown you.
[Heather Zempel is the Discipleship Pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC. She is the author of “Sacred Roads: Exploring the Historic Paths of Discipleship”]