David gave this talk at Woodside Church (Bedford) in 2015, as part of their "Grow" series. Click here to download it.
“Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last thing Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that He commanded? You’ll notice that he didn’t add, “but hey, if that’s too much to ask, tell them just to become Christians – you know, the people who get to heaven without having to commit to anything.” Francis Chan.
In Matthew, Jesus tells us the purpose of our Christian lives is to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’, yet here in the UK that seems so complicated for us. “Discipleship” has become a particular religious term associated with regular programmes and meetings but it doesn’t seem to be what Jesus had in mind.
WHAT IS A DISCIPLE?
A disciple is first and foremost a learner, not a scholar able to pass exams but an apprentice who is able to do things like his master. Often today, the education system teaches children to know and give answers but Jesus wants disciples to listen and obey both in character and doing things that Jesus wants us to do.
Imagine a carpenter who had been trained through discipleship. He/she would know how to train another apprentice. Jesus has made them into disciples – so much so, he could say ‘I am going away’ – now you do it. Disciple making is reproducing people who can do the same things and demonstrate the same character.
Jesus knew he only had a short time, he had three years and then he was leaving. But during those three years his task was to train people who know nothing about mission or about the true meaning of God, and then send them out with the power of the Spirit to do the same things and take that message of the kingdom all over the world.
HOW DID JESUS DO IT?
He first let them observe his lifestyle. This wasn’t a once in a while meeting, where Jesus checked how they were doing and sent them on their way. He intentionally travelled and ate with them, spending and investing a huge amount of time in them.
He called them with a vision. In Mark 1:16-18, Jesus said, ‘Come follow me… and I will make you fishers of men.’ People need a vision for world mission at the beginning of their Christian life rather than hoping they will get hold of it later when they mature.
He showed them His priorities: Church and Kingdom. The Church is the new people of the last days but we aren’t always the church. However, we do always live out the Kingdom of God: Taking God’s rule into the whole world, wherever that may be. So he showed his disciples how to live with this kingdom principle.
He taught them interactively. When Jesus was teaching his disciples, it wasn’t with a board and markers. He answered questions, told them stories, asked questions. He found ways to teach them that they would learn from.
He was with them as a group. God is building a church to represent him, and the church has more than one person in it. Therefore, discipling is primarily a corporate responsibility on how we relate to each other and learn together. So if we don’t get along with someone, we don’t just move on to a different group but try and work issues out.
WHAT THE DISCIPLES DID NEXT
Luke wrote 2 books of the New Testament. If the Gospel of Luke is what Jesus began to do and teach, Acts is what he continued to do and teach through his disciples. Jesus acted by the Holy Spirit, and so did the disciples. So they loved and worshipped God, were being made into disciples themselves and from that they were making disciples in all the nations of the world. Easy, right?