For the past few weeks on Sunday mornings we have been talking about how the church must turn inside out. Meeting on the “inside” is not our goal. It is necessary as we obey the Scripture’s call to meet together and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25). But our goal – our assignment – is to make disciples. The future of the healthy church will be found in obedience to Jesus’ command to go and make disciples.
We must be intentional about making disciples. Jesus began his earthly ministry by going out and inviting potential disciples to follow him. He went out to where the people were. He was at the lake, he was in the market, he was in the synagogue, he ate meals in homes, and he repeated this in towns and villages over and over again. He called the Twelve to be his apostles, but there were many, many disciples. Will we be as intentional as Jesus was in making disciples?
Discipleship is about relationships. Jesus built relationships with people. Some of his disciples knew Jesus for a year before Jesus called them to follow him as his disciple. In Mark chapter two, when Jesus called Matthew the tax collector to follow him, a friendship began (or possibly continued) between Jesus and Matthew. And that friendship led Matthew to introduce many other friends to Jesus (even the sketchy tax collector kind of friends!). Discipleship begins in a relationship with Jesus and it continues with relationships with other disciples as well as with people who are not yet disciples of Jesus. When Jesus calls us to be a disciple, he calls us to make disciples.
Discipleship is about growing spiritually. Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. But before we can go, we must grow. When we follow Jesus and receive salvation we are spiritual infants, knowing very little but learning, and completely dependent on others. A healthy infant grows into childhood. Growth during childhood is exciting but also requires more learning and even discipline and correction. Childhood is also marked by self-centeredness and sometimes rebellion. The healthy spiritual (or physical) child will not remain a child. However some people get stuck in childhood, both emotionally and spiritually. The next stage is spiritual adulthood. This is where we mature to the point of loving God, loving others, use our spiritual gifts and are eager to serve and put others first. But even here there is more growth to come! The goal of every disciple must be spiritual “parenthood.” This is where we lead someone else to become a disciple and to begin their journey of following Jesus and growing to spiritual maturity, becoming a disciple-maker themselves.
Discipleship must be reproducible. What Jesus did with his disciples, he called for them to do with others. So what did Jesus do that we also are to do? We start by simply making friends and interacting with the people God has already put into our lives. We are to connect with people and in doing so we are to connect them with Jesus. We serve people by meeting needs. We are to share the truth that Jesus is the Messiah, our Savior, our hope, and our future. We are to invite friends and family to follow Jesus as we make the commitment to help them follow Jesus and teach them to ultimately become disciple-makers.
Discipleship doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t automatically happen because we are sitting in a church building. Discipleship begins to happen when we turn “inside out” and decide to follow Jesus outside our routine, outside our comfort zone, outside our church building. I am praying for a new generation of disciple-makers!