Making Disciples

One of the major changes we will see in the Church around the world in the near future comes directly from the teachings and example of the Head of the Church – Jesus Christ Himself.

Today, leaders in churches spend their time doing so many different things and need to, therefore, be good at doing a variety of very different ministries. Jesus, on the other hand, spent the bulk of His time doing two things with His disciples – modeling faith and equipping them to be true disciples and thus to be the leaders of tomorrow.  Everyone is called to ministry and Jesus saw ministry and thus the role of every disciple to be that of radically transforming the hearts and minds of people. There are two classic texts explaining this view of ministry – Matthew 28:18-19 and John 21:16

In Matthew 28 Jesus is giving His last commands to His disciples – important and powerful words. In essence He tells us to “go into all the world and make disciples…” We are challenged to make disciples because all authority has been given to Jesus by God the Father. Jesus’ command is an imperative, leaving no room for equivocation on our part. We have no choice but to “go” and disciple the world. To ignore this commission is to ignore Jesus Christ.

The same theme is recorded in Acts 1:8 by the early church at the last appearance of Jesus. “You shall be Mt witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” The word ‘witness’ means martyr. We are to totally give ourselves to take the good news to the streets! As we do this and see people come to Christ and become new creatures in Christ their hearts and minds are radically transformed. This is our first and primary ministry just as it was for Jesus and was for the early church.

The second scripture from the Gospel of John tells us it is not enough to make disciples. Jesus gives us a second imperative or command – we are to care for God’s people. We are to ‘tend,’ ‘feed,’ and ‘love’ the sheep. However, the problem is that we read this without any real knowledge of the role of a shepherd in Jesus’ day. Shepherds didn’t feed sheep. Instead, they had two basic functions. The first was to make sure that the sheep had pastures with enough grass to eat. And second, they were to keep them safe from any predators.

The key to understanding Jesus’ statement to Peter and thus our ministry as disciples today is to ask why did shepherds tend sheep in the first place. It certainly was not because they smelled good. No, the reason they tended sheep and made sure they had a safe place to graze was because they wanted them to grow and reproduce – to make more sheep. Sheep, not the shepherd, begat sheep.
Thus, what Jesus said to Peter was make sure my people are so nurtured that they are able to make disciples. Your role, Peter, it to equip them to be disciple-makers. Taken together, these two texts sum up the primary ministry and mission of all of God’s people – we are to care for and transform people so that they can then care for and transform others.

Here is the issue today and why there is a major Churchquake coming. Transforming people requires that you love them, care for them, and equip them after they have been transformed. However, too many leaders in the Church today take care of people without ever transforming anyone and a lot of Christians are happy to simply be cared for without any thought for those around them who do not know Christ. And so we have the modern church of today that Jesus is now shaking.

Christians are called by our Lord to care for on another so that all followers of Jesus are healthy and whole – strong disciples of the Lord, transformed and changed forever. And, disciples are called to make new disciples as they go into the world. To be the Church today that Jesus is building, disciples are responsible for both.

Jesus was a transformer who cared for people enough to do more than just care for them as we do in today’s church. He transformed them into people who sought God’s will and helped others do the same. In John 13:15, Jesus said, “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you.”

The journey from caregiver to transformer is the most important issue facing Christianity and the Church today. Unless more of us take this journey, most of our established churches will continue to decline and then close. Worse than that, people will continue to live and die without a clue of what God is doing in the world and what God wants them to do with their life. Such a tragedy must not be allowed to continue.

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