“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”—Matthew 28:18-20
This isn’t just The Great Commission—it’s Our Great Commission. And we’ve failed to live up to it. It’s time to stop failing.
Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, put it this way: “Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church…. The fundamental negative reality among Christian believers now is their failure to be constantly learning how to live their lives in The Kingdom Among Us. And it is an accepted reality.”
It’s time to stop accepting that reality and begin changing it. But first, because discipleship has fallen into such disuse in our time, we need to go back to basics. Consider these questions for yourself:
• What comes to mind when you think of the word discipleship?
• What do you think a disciple actually looks like?
• How do we actually become disciples?
• And finally, if we are disciples, how do we fulfill Jesus’ command “go therefore and make disciples”?
Now, think about your answers. What thoughts or emotions are you having right now? There’s a pretty good chance they’re not the ones Jesus was having as He gave this commandment.
When we think of discipling others, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking, “I can’t do this” for whatever reason—“I need to learn more first”; “I need to accomplish more first”; “I need to have more credibility with that person before I open my mouth.” And these might well be things we need to work on. But very often, we turn these issues into unnecessary roadblocks. If we’re being honest, it’s mostly only our fear of the unknown that holds us back. We make it about what we think we can do, rather than about what Jesus commands us to do, and what He promises to do as we step out in faith.
Look at that passage again. What does Jesus tell us about Himself? And how would believing and better understanding that help us to keep what we have to do in perspective? How might it change what we’re already doing?
Everything we do, good or bad, potentially has an eternal impact on others. Think about it: How others have loved you—or failed to—is part of the reason you are who you are today.
Therefore, there’s no point in being paralyzed by own inabilities and shortcomings. We’re already weak and incompetent—and we’re already in the deep end of the pool, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. And we’re either swimming, drowning… or, like most of the church today, simply treading water. The question now is: What are we going to do about it?
We need to develop a life and a character and devoted to Jesus—the best teacher any of us have. Then we can talk about the particular skills needed for a particular ministry. But we need to create (and become) disciples, and disciplers, first. Got it? Good.
And really, the first and maybe the biggest step to becoming an effective discipler is simply to show up and make the most of the situations God’s already put you in. God’s brought you through a lot already, hasn’t He? Well, hasn’t He? More than anything, that’s what He wants to reveal to the people around you. Not your perfect answers, your adroit leadership skills, or your unbelievable emotionalism heart, but what God’s done through you—and therefore, what He can do for them, too.
Ready? Let’s begin to dig in.