Disciples of Jesus

Jesus says to his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matt 28:19-20).  The only imperative in this passage is the command to “make disciples.”  The “baptizing” and “teaching” are both clauses revealing the result of disciple making.

But let’s be clear about what Jesus says and does not say.  Jesus’ command is to “make disciples.”  Jesus does not command us to make converts to Christianity and understanding the difference between making disciples of Jesus and converts to Christianity is critical.  It is entirely possible to be a convert to Christianity as a religion but not be a disciple of Jesus and the ever present reality of nominal Christianity proves this distinction.

Further more, Jesus does not command us to make, build, and grow churches.  Jesus simply tells us to make disciples and there is a reason why.  As one recent book bluntly says, “If you make disciples, you always get the church.  But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples” (Building A Discipling Culture, 11-12).  This means the church is the result of rather than the cause of discipleship.

As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, being a disciple begins with hearing Jesus’ call to follow him (cf. Matt 4:19; Mk 1:17).  Each Gospel makes it clear following Jesus in his way of the cross has everything to do with being a disciple (cf. Matt 16:24; Mk 8:34).  In these texts we have the word opisō which is translated as “following” or “coming after” Jesus.  This is about our posture and position in relation to Jesus.  Accepting our invitation to follow Jesus, we come after him as followers walking behind him so that we learn from him and overtime learn to live our lives more and more like Jesus lives his life.

This involves two commitments.  First, overtime we learn to live our lives by the same beliefs and values Jesus lives his life by.  For what we believe and value, shapes the way we live and thus, if we are to live in the way of Jesus, we share the same beliefs and values Jesus held regarding God and life.  Second, this learning takes shape by doing as we see Jesus do.  For example, as we see Jesus attending to prayer, so also we attend to prayer.  As we see Jesus attending to acts of mercy, so also we attend to acts of mercy.

As we live as disciples of Jesus, we are able to make disciples.  This is not our work or our mission but God’s work and God’s mission among us.  So let’s hear the call of Jesus to come follow!

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5 responses to “Disciples of Jesus

  1. Good stuff. Here is what it boils down to for me. What you are talking about here is going to require more than teaching and preaching. Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time has heard it all before. They know what they are supposed to do but just don’t do it. We have to create a culture of evangelism. That is what we have been working on at Northwest for the last six months and are gaining traction. Here is some info on our approach to take this beyond just preaching and teaching – http://mattdabbs.wordpress.com/ministry-tools/church-steps-outreach-program/

    • Thanks for the link and putting all that information together. It is helpful to read what other churches are doing on the ground level to try and change their culture to a mission-minded, disciple-making community. And you are right, it is going to take more than preaching and teaching about it to bring about such changes.

  2. When I saw that book in your “currently reading” sidebar, I wanted to ask you what you thought of it. I started to read it, along with Keith Phillips “The Making of a Disiple”, but had to set both aside. I’ve been meaning to get back to them, but I really liked Breen’s book so far. Have you checked out his “Covenant and Kingdom”? Along the lines of Scot McKnight.

    Anyway, great post, and much needed topic!

    • I’m only a few chapters into “Building A Discipling Culture” which I am reading with a coaching group I am part of, so I can’t say much about it other than the fact that what I have read thus far has been great. I haven’t read his “Covenant and Kingdom” book yet.

  3. Rex,

    Once again, this is exactly where I am at. We are forming LIFE Groups at Roxbury. These are groups of people who want to be intentional and intimate about following Jesus. Triads and quads are forming and committing to a process of 25 plus weeks of weekly meetings and daily disciplines using Greg Ogden’s Discipleship Essentials. I also finished a paper this week for Northern Seminary entitled Mentoring Emerging Servants. Two things are clearer to me now than ever before. How can we ask others to live the life of a disciple if we are not doing it ourselves and Paul talks quite a bit about imitating Christ and following His (and Paul’s) example.

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