At present, much more attention is given to disciple making, and I'm glad for this. But it brings up some important questions.
What is the work of making disciples? How did Jesus do His work in making disciples?
The mandate of Jesus
The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples. It's called the Great Commission. As pointed out by many, it's not the "great suggestion." Jesus gave this mandate after His resurrection, before His ascension into heaven (see Acts 1:1-8).
This mandate began long before His going to the cross to provide redemption for humanity. It was embedded in His public and private ministry. What Jesus did in public ministry was training for those involved in private ministry.
I say private ministry to distinguish it from what everyone saw in the open. The more private work was done with a select group of men, and included others, even women, who were also His followers.
More informal settings is where the work of making disciples took place. His followers saw Him in real life. Conversations came about in a natural way, but these were intimate teaching and training sessions.
[bctt tweet="The Lord Jesus gave a mandate to make disciples, not a suggestion"]
The real Jesus and the real you
This more informal approach is difficult for some people to grasp as disciple making, but it is. Consider this. How can people know you are a genuine believer unless they see you in unstructured, non-formal settings? This is where they see the real you.
Jesus preaching to the crowds was instructional for His followers, but it wasn't the heart of how He made disciples. In my work as a pastor and missionary, the most effective work equipping others took place during informal, unstructured times.
People need to see our heart in every day action, so they'll catch our heart for making disciples. This is how the disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples.
[bctt tweet="The disciples caught Jesus' heart for making disciples by being with Him"]
More than instruction and training
The work of making disciples isn't just instruction or training, but sharing our inner spiritual life with those we disciple and mentor. It is this more personal, intimate sharing that has the greatest impact.
This can be seen with Jesus and the disciples—
- The disciples first personal encounter with Jesus– John 1:35-51
- Jesus with Levi and the tax collectors– Luke 5:27-32
- When Jesus walked on the water– Matthew 14:22-33
- In the garden at Gethsemane– Matthew 26:36-46
In all the accounts above, Jesus made Himself known within life as it unfolded. It wasn't staged or formalized, but raw reality. In the end, in Gethsemane, He bared His heart with those closest to Him.
[bctt tweet="Jesus made Himself known & made disciples in everyday life occurrences"]
Who's disciples are we making?
One more thing. The work of making disciples may be our work to do, but it's His mandate. Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be His disciples, not ours.
Many years ago I learned this lesson. I worked for several weeks with a few men. I taught them what I knew about studying the Bible, preparing to teach, and what it meant to serve in the church.
In my mind, I was developing leaders to help in the ministry of the church I pastored, but the Lord had other plans.
One by one, these men moved out of the area because of work opportunities. All those I invested in moved on from the church, and I had to start mentoring another group. I complained to the Lord about this, pointing out how unfair I thought it was.
[bctt tweet="Whoever we would disciple, they are always to be Jesus' disciples, not ours"]
An important lesson
I remember clearly how the Lord impressed on my heart that my job was to make disciples. His job was to distribute and place them where He wanted them.
Once I realized this it set me free from trying to hang on to anyone. Of course, I wanted to equip them and get their commitment for service where I pastored. But the ultimate commitment is to serve Jesus.
The work of making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom. As leaders, we must be careful not to make disciples of our own, for our own ministries.
[bctt tweet="Making disciples is God's work through His servants (us) for service in His kingdom"]
Something to consider
If you're a pastor or leader in God's kingdom, here are some questions to consider—
Are you intentionally engaged in the work of making disciples now?
How closely does your approach to making disciples match the way Jesus did it?
Are those you've discipled also discipling others?