At Temple our mission is to “make disciples of Jesus who think, act, and live like Him.” In Matthew 28: 18-20 we find the marching orders of the church, what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission. These orders are straight forward–make disciples! One thing I have learned in ministry, and as a pastor, is that it’s one thing to know what we’re supposed to do, but it’s an altogether different thing to do what we’re supposed to do. So, this begs the question–what is disciple-making and how are we to make disciples?
One passage that helps us understand disciple-making is 2 Timothy 2:1-2… “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The 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.” These words of Paul to Timothy serve as a classic text on disciple-making. We are most familiar with this relationship of spiritual fatherhood and sonship between Paul and Timothy. However, a close examination of this text reveals that there are at least 4 generations of disciple-making relationships represented. Paul (generation 1) taught Timothy (generation 2) who taught faithful men (generation 3), who taught others (generation 4). Can you imagine what would have happened if Paul failed to disciple Timothy, and if Timothy failed to disciple a group of faithful men, and if those men failed to disciple others?
Consider the twelve disciples. When Jesus called these men to follow Him He did so to make them “fishers of men.” This is most clear in His call to to Peter and Andrew in Mark 1:17 as they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. This personal invitation from Jesus is extended to everyone, and for all who receive it the call to become fishers of men is a call to “join Jesus on his mission to love and reach a lost and hurting world” (p. 49, DiscipleShift by Jim Putman). Can you imagine how different history would look if the disciples would have said, “thanks, but no thanks!” One could wonder if we would be here today!
The truth is as disciples of Jesus we are the means by which God accomplishes His purpose of redemption on the earth. God chooses to use us, as disciples of Jesus, to lead people to faith in Christ and then help them grow up in maturity in Him. God’s plan is that of disciples making disciples who make disciples! It’s like connected links in a disciple-making chain!
For too long the church has confused “disciple-making” with “discipleship.” Yes, there is a difference! Discipleship is often thought of as the next Bible study or class. While there is nothing wrong with studies and classes, this is not what Jesus had in mind when He issued the Great Commission. In his book, The Complete Book of Discipleship, Bill Hull writes “The most common mistake made by well-intended leaders, particularly acute in the Global North, is turning discipleship into a curriculum that a serious disciple completes and then graduates from” (p. 36). There is most definately a place for curriculum and studies; however, disciple-making looks entirely different.
Disciple-making is the process whereby we help people come to faith in Christ, grow to maturity in their relationship with Jesus (learning how to think, act, and live like Him), and then lead others to do the same. In short, disciple-making begins with a transformation of the heart (regeneration & justification), is worked out in daily transformational living (sanctification), and is in the context of relationships.
I believe disciple-making is most effectively accomplished through what is often called “d-groups” (discipling groups). In his book, Growing Up, Robby Gallaty explains – “A d-group creates an atmosphere for fellowship, encouragement, and accountability, and it is an environment where God can work. A healthy d-group has three purposes: to help you grow in your relationship with Christ, give a defense for your faith, and guide others in their relationship with Christ” (pg. xxii).
Why d-groups? What do they look like? When do they meet? What do they do? These are a few questions I will answer in my next blog. Stay tuned…