Looking back at it, it’s been a bit of a puzzle for me to explain how my in 58+ years of involvement with churches, I hadn’t really taken this seriously! You’d think that somebody who has never known a day when they didn’t identify with Jesus and His church, even in seasons of drifting and doubts, would have picked up on a glaring omission. You’d think. But no, it slipped right by.
When we review Jesus’ final words to the disciples, he spoke what has become known as the ‘Great Commission.’ If you’ve been around God’s church for even a short amount of time, you’ve likely heard it quoted and maybe even discussed. It’s pretty simple: “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.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Pretty straightforward. Bring them to the point of surrendering their lives to Jesus. Baptize them. Then show them how to be a follower (‘disciple’) of Jesus, which includes teaching them to become disciple-makers on their own. Pretty straightforward, right? Indeed. But this points up the disconnect. In my 58 years, I’ve never been a part of a church that actually modeled this!
It’s almost embarrassing, since this is clearly what Jesus had in mind! And when it was the model, it worked very well. It’s obvious when we look at the exponential impact of the early church established by those first disciples as it rippled through the Roman Empire and created a titanic change in the culture itself. The world has never been the same. Reports of similar growth in the church in China today, while the church in the West languishes in mediocrity and decline, should cause us to ask, “What’s going on!?” Or maybe, “What’s gone wrong?”
It’s telling when we recognize that all the ideas and efforts the American church has employed over the past 30-40 years to shore up our decline haven’t really changed the outcome. We’re still waning. We tried political power, city-wide campaigns, church-growth schemes, and just about every other kind of marketing, but have little to show for it. It’s ironic is that these schemes always claimed to be the new/best way to do the Great Commission but typically side-stepped the very process Jesus described. Strange. And I still didn’t notice.
People like me have been taught to “do church” in a certain way for all of our lives and we got comfortable with it, even though only a handful of us were actually following Jesus’ stated process of making disciples who make disciples. Meanwhile, Jesus is known to fewer and fewer people, and the culture disintegrates before our eyes. And, I must confess, my tendency is to revert back to what I know simply because it’s what I know and what I’m familiar with. Something inside of me is pretty sure Jesus would suggest we get back to His process, not only because He set it in place, but also, because it’s what really works.
Disciples making disciples is the process that made that first-century church overrun the entire known world. It’s the process that is transforming China in spite of their government’s often brutal efforts to stamp it out (best estimates are that we have 100 million brothers and sisters in China!). All of this without the benefit of church buildings and paid staff. Wild!
So would you begin working through this for yourself? This isn’t a program. It’s not a scheme. It’s a process that starts with each of us looking with the eyes of Jesus around our scope of influence with the intention of becoming a disciple-maker in someone’s life. Or you might realize that you need someone to become that mentor in your life. It begins by building a reliable friendship and moves toward intentional growth. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your eyes and He will! It can happen one-on-one or in a small-group setting. It all depends on the needs and personalities involved.
As you begin, know that the Disciple-Making Team will be working diligently to prepare training, support, direction, tools and resources for your journey, even as they become disciplers, too. Stay tuned!