Discipleship Mythbusters #1

The first of some quick who/what/where/how/when posts on making disciples.

Matthew 28 records Jesus command to go make disciples.

Who precisely is being commanded?

Here are several answers, each of which is true and highlights a different facet of disiple-making.  The command is given to:  a) individuals listening to Jesus, b) collection of Jesus followers, aka the Church, c) church leaders, aka the apostles.

One important point:  institutions cannot make disciples.  Only individuals can make disciples.  It is well and good to tell a “church” (a modern-day congregation / institution) to engage in disciple-making, but properly speaking it is only through individuals that disciples are actually made.

It may be that such disciple-making individuals are gathered and organized in a “church”, but it is still the individuals and not the “church” that is making disciples.

Consider Romans 10:14 and 17 

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” … “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Individuals speak.  Individuals listen.  Individuals believe / call on Jesus.  Individuals are disciples.  Individuals make disciples.

Myth 1:  The church makes disciples.

We in the church get sideways when we think of the “church” as making disciples.  Facilities, events, staff members, committees, curricula, and programs can all be good resources to facilitate individuals in making disciples.  But none of these “church” things directly make disciples.

Myth 2:  We make disciples by our effort.

We also go wrong when we think that individual effort, volition, knowledge, experience, or aptitude make disciples.  Disciples are made by the Holy Spirit, working through individuals… without respect to the qualifications of the individuals.

Consider 1 Corinthians 1:26-27:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Making a disciple truly is the work of God.

Myth 3:  God makes disciples without the involvement of people.

We can get comfortable with the idea that “disciples are made by the Holy Spirit”, but ignore the last part:  “…working through individuals”.  God is almighty and omnipotent, but he chooses to work through means.  To act as though we are not means of God’s disciple-making is at best lazy, and perhaps faithless.

In the fullness of time He sent the fully-human Christ into history.  Through physical water, bread and wine he imparts faith and the forgiveness of sins.  Through individual Christians he makes disciples.

Consider Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch:  God supernaturally put Philip in the right spot at the right time.  He worked a receptive heart in the  Ethiopian.  He gave Philip the words to say, and provided water for the  Ethiopian to be baptized.  The  Ethiopian”s conversion was entirely a work of God.

At the same time, the words were spoken through Philip–not because of his planning or preparation, but because of his availability and willingness to be used by God.  Could Philip chosen to sat by the side of the road instead of jogging alongside the chariot?  Sure, but how then would God have made this new disciple?

Showing up is important in making disicples.  Be available to let God work through you.

More to follow…


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