Before Jesus ascended into heaven He told His followers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB95).
For this reason, the Elders of Spring Creek Fellowship have affirmed the mission of Spring Creek Fellowship is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Or put another way, “The reason we exist as a church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ!”
Unfortunately, it is easy for the church to forget this most basic function. As folks come into the church in various conditions and with differing needs, and as the congregation begins ministering to them, the natural tendency is to become inward focused rather than outward. Before anyone realizes, the energy, resources, and various ministries are directed towards meeting the needs of the congregation, rather than fulfilling the mission Jesus gave to the church.
The challenge is to find the balance of ministering to people--helping them to grow in their faith in Jesus without making them the focus, or worse, turning them into the “customer.”
How do we maintain a Biblical approach to making disciples?
Perhaps the simplest model of discipleship is found in the gospel of Matthew:
Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20).
From this simple passage we learn five things about Discipleship:
First, Discipleship Begins with an INVITATION/CALL – “…He said to them”
Later in the same chapter, Jesus is speaking to two other brothers, James and John, “…He called them” (v.21).
Jesus is the one who invites a person to follow Him. Certainly God is using people to issue the call, but ultimately this is a work of God! In John 6:44 Jesus declares, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
While God uses those who are following Jesus, the task of making disciples is God’s work!
Second Corinthians 6:1 says, “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain" (NIV).
Second, Discipleship Requires a RESPONSE – “…follow Me.”
To “follow” implies submission, commitment, and change—you were going one direction, now Jesus asks you to move in a different direction!
Jesus is asking for us to follow Him!
In his book, Discipleship Essentials, Greg Ogden shares research showing people readily identify as "Christians," but are quite reluctant to call themselves, "disciples." He writes,
Why might this be? Being a Christian is easy. The only thing required is that we acknowledge our need of a savior and to receive a gift that I cannot earn nor deserve. But if I identify myself as a disciple, then I am making a statement about the quality of my followership. Being a Christian is a statement about what Christ has done for me; being a disciple is a statement about what I am doing for Christ (p.7).
In order to be a disciple of Jesus, you must follow Jesus. Which brings us to the next aspect of discipleship:
Third, Discipleship is focused on Jesus – “…follow Me.”
Discipleship is not about following a pastor, a church, or denomination. It is about following Jesus Christ and He must remain the focus!
It seems many are more concerned about who their pastor is, where they attend church, or what particular theological bent they have, rather than following Jesus Christ!
This is not to say that where a person attends or what the church believes is not important. It certainly is. The Bible has much to say about correct theology. However, it is possible to attend the finest church in your area--a church with rock solid theology, with accurate Biblical preaching, and a godly, Christ-honoring pastor, and yet still not be personally following Jesus!
Biblical discipleship keeps the focus on Jesus.
Fourth, Discipleship involves TRANSFORMATION – “…and I will make you.”
Jesus told Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). I need to be born again because, quite frankly, I am messed up. I am sinful and without the ability to fix the mess that is my life. I cannot repay all the wrongs I have done, nor can I ever be good enough to stand before a holy God.
The good news is Jesus further told Nicodemus, "For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
But God doesn't just "save us." He also changes us.
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:28).
Just as Jesus is the one who invites us to follow Him, He also is the one who makes us new!
Finally, Discipleship Results in a NEW OCCUPATION – “…I will make you fishers of men.”
In response to Jesus' call, Simon, Andrew, James, and John all “…left their nets/boats” (Matthew 4:20, 22).
A good question is, "Does Jesus require this kind of commitment to be a disciple today?"
Which is a great question. I will give two answers to in closing:
First, since Jesus is the one who calls, you must ask Him!
This may seem an avoidance, but it is not my place to call someone to be an evangelist, pastor or missionary (someone whose life work is to serve Christ).
Not everyone is called to leadership in the church. In fact, James states that “Let not many of you become teachers…” (3:1), so not everyone becomes a full time pastor or missionary, or even a leader in a local congregation. However, for some, Jesus literally changes their occupation!
For the vast majority, there is good news. The Great Commission (shared at the beginning of this article) is stated in such a way that allows everyone to be a part of making disciples no matter your occupation!
The words, “Go, therefore…” may be translated, “As you go…” or “As you are going, make disciples!”
The Apostle Paul would state it this way: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Wherever life leads, as God’s ambassador, you are to extend the invitation to follow Jesus!
One final thought on discipleship (from the last part of the Great Commission): Jesus said, “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
When a church or a believer commits to the work of making disciples, Jesus Christ is with you!