Discipleship Should Be Passed On
Yesteday I had a follower on Twitter ask me a question in response to a quote I posted by John Wesley. (This is a great time to mention, if you’re not following me on Twitter, you should.)
This was followed up by the following comments:
First, let me say that these type of questions are fairly common within the body of Christ. The sister from above was talking about a split between what average believers can/should share and the type of teaching that can/should happen in a church building. Even within the house church movement, I’ve met brothers and sisters who don’t believe they can make disciples or start house churches.
Much of this thinking comes from an over-complication of roles within the body of Christ. Somewhere along the way, each body seems to decide that there are certain people who could/should “lead” others and deal with difficult truth, while the rest should leave that job to those who can/should. This type of thinking keeps us from reaching the God-given potential, not just that we as individuals have, but that the body of Christ as a whole has.
Let’s start with some facts: Jesus tells the apostles that they are to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus has commanded them. Most of us think that involves things like loving our neighbor, forgiving, etc. And while all of that is true, we often forget that one of the commands of Jesus that we are supposed to teach is the one where He commands us to teach others to obey everything He commanded. The task hasn’t been completed until we’ve taught others to teach still more people to obey Christ in every way.
If you think about it, this has been happening, to some degree, for hundreds, nearly thousands, of years. Obeying Jesus is being passed from one person to another so that to this day there are still millions, if not billions, following Christ. Paul described this same process in 2 Timothy 2:2 where he told Timothy “[t]he things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul wanted the Gospel to get passed down to multiple generations of believers because he had learned from someone else that his job was to disciple the nations the way Jesus commanded.
Brothers and sisters, that command hasn’t changed. There isn’t a lack of need for that kind of obedience just because there are many churches in our cities or because we have books, podcasts, and seminaries. The whole body of Christ should be walking out the Great Commission in some way in their lives. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you should be able to fully disciple others to the place where they can disciple still more people. This is a function of maturity, not special gifting and we should all want to grow up in Christ to the place where we are discipling others.
So while I’m hugely encouraged by churches that empower believers to share the gospel and teach the basics of the faith, I long for the church to empower believers to fully disciple and raise up believers wherever they are. Its only when we do this will we reach people who would never darken the door of the church. When we live out this reality we become the movement Jesus started and intended, doing the things he commanded.
*For the record, I actually love the passion in our sister’s question, because she is taking sharing the gospel and simple discipleship seriously.
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- April 6, 2017 -
Years ago, I would have said that Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sins. And that is true. But, he really died and rose again to save us from our sins, to set us free from the power of sin, to sanctify us, to restore our relationship with him, to fill us with his Spirit and to keep us and to bring us home. His goal was not simply to make us “Christians”, it was to save us completely.
In the same way, we have drawn a false dichotomy between evangelism and discipleship. We have come to believe that we are called to evangelize the lost. Jesus told us to make disciples. We certainly are to evangelize, but evangelism is just the first step in discipleship. I think most people will come to the Lord through seeing Jesus at work in our lives as we live out being the church in our communities and neighborhoods — as they see the church loving each other and loving them. And, discipleship will be the natural next step — we love them into the Kingdom, and then love them into becoming men and women of God, who will then evangelize and disciple others as they also walk out being the church of God.