The Work of Making Disciples

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Over the past few decades, the work of making disciples seemed to get set aside for other things. What things? Bigger and better ministries, with a broader approach and appeal.

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?

How to Be an Evangelist—Without Really Trying

Photo credit: What comes to mind when you hear the word evangelist? Do you think of a fiery preacher challenging you to "Repent!"? Nowadays that might be more of a caricature than common occurrence.

How about the words personal evangelism? Do you shudder at the thought of going out to witness with gospel tracts?

If the idea of personal evangelism or trying to be an evangelist doesn't appeal to you, keep reading! There is a way to share your faith in a personal, natural and easy way.

Calling, commitment, and a command

I know a young man who has a gift and boldness to engage people in conversation about Jesus and offer to pray for them. I have friends who go into neighborhoods every couple of weeks to knock on doors and share the gospel. A neighbor friend of mine often goes out on a roadside with a placard that reads, "Jesus loves you!"

I admire my friends for their commitment and calling. I've done similar things, but it is not my personal calling. My oldest son and I traveled to Scotland on an evangelistic outreach many years ago. It was a great time of ministry, and it helped confirm that I am not an evangelist.

I'm called to disciple people.

And yet, what is called the Great Commission (Matt 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8) is not an optional suggestion, it is a command. The apostle Paul told Timothy to, " the work of an evangelist...." (2 Tim 4:5 NKJV).

So, there is a responsibility for every believer to share their faith with others. Even when it's not our calling, we can commit to do something, even when it doesn't come easily.

But, if evangelism is not your thing, here are some thoughts on how to be an evangelist without really trying.

Keep it simple

  • Start with what you know—your own life story
  • Don't worry about what you don't know
  • Stick to what you know and engage people at that point
  • Find a story in the Bible that relates to your own life story

Keep it personal

  • Engage people by asking them about themselves
  • Find a common point of interest or connection as you talk with people
  • Think of a story that connects with the person's life you have engaged to talk
  • Use plain and simple words and avoid using Christianese

Keep alert for opportunities

  • Look for opportunities in everyday life
  • Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible
  • Pray and trust God for opportunities to engage people in conversation
  • Follow up with the people with whom you share your faith

Give it a try

Over the next few weeks, I hope to dig into each of these thoughts in more depth. The broad view of it can be summed up in these three admonitions—keep it simple, keep it personal, and keep open and be ready.

I've posted on this general idea of sharing your faith before, but want to be more instructive with these new posts.

Here are a couple of posts I hope will be helpful to you—

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith?

Need Some Help on How to Share Your Faith? (Part 2)

How Does Your Story Connect with God's Story?

Tell me what you think—

What are your experiences with sharing your faith?

What are the challenges you've faced with sharing your faith?

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share this post with others!

Spiritual Laborers

Photo credit: Agrarian economies still dominate a good part of the world. Planting and harvesting are important times of the year. They impact the livelihood of many people, and how good the harvest is, or isn't, impacts everyone.

Our economy in America is more diverse. In years past, we were considered an industrial economy with an agrarian backbone. But now, technology and its counterparts created an industry of its own. Most Americans only see the effect of a good or bad harvest when it affects food prices. Unless you live in a part of the country where agriculture is king, you probably don't know when harvest time is.

Jesus' followers knew when harvest time was and what that meant—hard work. (continue reading)

This is a guest post on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's blog called Spiritual Laborers (click the link for the rest of this devotional)


Next week I'll continue the study in Proverbs

Learning to Share

bigsaleWhen we were young, really young, as toddlers and in preschool, we were told to share with others. For some of us, those who didn't learn to share so easily, we were told this a lot. Did we learn? My bet is we're still working on it. I know I am. Why is it so hard to learn how to share? In America, the land of consumerism, it's not like we don't' have enough stuff. Think about how many people have televisions, cell phones, cars, computers, and so on. I've visited plenty of nations where poverty is at a critical level. Even the poor in America are better off than most of the poor in the rest of the world.** We've got a lot of stuff and we could share some of it without any great loss.

So why is it so hard to share with others? Oh...maybe you think it's not so hard. Ok, think of a prized possession, it doesn't have to be of great value, just important to you, even something of sentimental value that can't be replaced. Imagine giving it away. How about lending it to someone and never getting it back? Be honest, gut-level honest. It's not as easy as we'd like it to be or think it should be, is it?

Not so long ago, my wife gave away a pair of my flip-flops to a young man who had no shoes. Mind you, these cost me all of $2.50. They weren't of great value to me, but they were to him. At first I was upset that she didn't ask me first. After all, they were mine not hers! Then it hit me. I could easily live without them. Still…I did really like their color and design...just kidding. I could buy another pair and I had another pair at the house. He had no shoes at all.

I've given away plenty of things and money over the years, and really not lost anything at all. In fact, many times I was blessed in the process of giving. I've loaned things expecting them back, and been disappointed more than once. The truth is, it is not natural for us to share. Why? Because we are intrinsically selfish. It (selfishness) is built into us. We didn't learn it. Sharing is something we need to learn, because it is not natural to us. Ask any preschool or kindergarten teacher.

This is what stands out about the early church we read about in the book of Acts. Sharing with others seemed natural to them. Keep in mind this was at a certain point in time. Later as the church grew (in Acts 6:1-7), they also had to deal with the problem of how to share.

What was the key to their sharing and having "all things in common" (Acts 2:44)? Was it because they did the four things mentioned in Acts 2:42? Was it right theology and sound doctrine? Uniform beliefs and practice? The power of the Holy Spirit? Was it all of the above or any of the above?

Why does the quest exist to find the perfect formula or model? I have my own opinion, but now's not the time. It's as if we humans (believers and non believers) think we can find a golden key to unlock some elusive and golden human potential that will bring world peace and harmony. It ain't gonna happen. Not that way, anyway.

44 And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common; (Acts 2:44 AMP) 32 Now the company of believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all. (Acts 4:32 AMP)

The simple truth is that the early church were all believers in one person—Jesus the Messiah. This is what united them and made them of one heart and soul.

I was reminded once again, during a time of corporate worship, that focusing on Jesus—the Messiah, Savior, Son of God, Lord of all—is the key to unity among people (God's people). It brings a oneness of mind and heart because we aren't thinking about ourselves, or our stuff.

What about you…do you find it easy or difficult to share with others (be honest, not philosophic)? *Do* you share with others on a continuing or frequent basis?

If it's difficult, maybe it's a time for a change of heart and mind. A change only God can bring about by His gracious love.


** In America, many government and private sector programs exist to assist the poor. In most of the rest of the world (MOTROW), government and NGO assistance for the poor is either very limited or nonexistent.