Who are you discipling?
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:9
These are some of the last words Jesus says before his ascension into heaven. It can very easily be broken up into two parts: go and make disciples, and I am with you. These words hold great weight. Imagine before leaving on a very long trip knowing that you would not see your children again face-to-face for quite some time the words you would say. All the wisdom that you would want to impart to them would be immense yet you would know that you would need to keep it simple for them. You would need to make it clear so there would be no confusion and short so they would remember. This is exactly what Jesus does for the disciples. If all the law can be summed up with "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,” then perhaps God’s plans for us, the church, can be summed up with Matthew 28:9.
So it is important to stop and ask ourselves “Who am I discipling?” Far too many of us put this responsibility on the church as a whole, rather than taking it as a personal call for us all. We think this is a job for the pastor and ministry leaders neglecting this is a command to each one of us. But Paul reminds us that people can not believe in what they have not heard reminding us that we, too, first heard.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15
It would be good then to remember who first discipled us. Who was it for you? For many of us we heard the good news preached in church, but it was our prayerful Grandmother that convinced us of a God worth praying to as she woke up early in the morning to cook breakfast and war in prayer for her family. It was the friend that came up beside us during a rocky time in our life and pointed us to a Jesus that never wavers. It was one mom to another mom reminding her that she is doing kingdom work and that God’s promises are for her. It was one addict to another addict telling of The Great Hope that set them free. It was one survivor to another survivor introducing them to The Peace and Comforter that restored their broken spirit. Even though many of us may have first heard God’s word preached in church, it was probably the personal relationship with a believer that showed us how that word is walked out.
Yet many of us aren’t intentional about making disciples. We encounter people all the time through work, social activities, and even our own family and friends, who are longing and looking for the real thing - and we know who that is! But many times we never really bridge the gap between friend and mentor. As we live our lives faithfully and truthfully in front of others, God will assuredly offer us these opportunities that are right before us to help others in their walk to following Jesus. But if we do not set our minds to be intentional of this very important command we will miss out. God instructs us that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Luke 10:2).” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be someone who is walking through a field ripe for the taking and unaware that it was planted there for me to harvest.
For many of us the term disciple seems antiquated. Perhaps that is why we have had a hard time seeing this command as something that fits into our modern, daily lives. After all, how we view the idea of making disciples impacts how we go about it. Maybe when you think of the term “making disciples” you conjure up an image of strangers on the street and handing out bible tracts. I remember growing up and being encouraged to share Jesus with my classmates and how informal that seemed. It was often presented to me in a way that seemed forced. I carried this idea into adulthood, as well. I often equated making disciples as abruptly bringing up Jesus and trying to work him into conversation. But I don’t believe that Jesus meant for us to coldly deliver the good news in a “gotcha” moment with friends or strangers! I believe just as we came to faith in Jesus through an awakening of our hearts to his kindness and character, we can point others to him in the same way.
But still, how do we go about it? The following are some practical tips and thoughts about making disciples.
*Pray for God to open your eyes to the people around you.
As Christians, we should not be only hanging out with other Christians - we should be actively engaging with the world. As we move around our communities we are met with many different people and opportunities. Pray for God to open your eyes to those around you. Take notice of the neighbor who lives across the street. Take notice of the coworkers who you have a chance to interact with. Those who have spiritual eyes will start to take notice of those who God has given them. We can not personally and intimately disciple large groups of people, but we can most certainly focus on the few that God has set before us. God’s word instructs us in Acts 17 that each of us is appointed for the time and place where we are today so that we may seek him. God has placed us in the lives and communities we are in to reach others for his kingdom, as well! How awesome that God would use us to reach out to others in his redemptive work? Pray that God would give you “eyes to see” the people he has placed around you.
*Sow love and friendship
We may not be so quick to confide in and listen to a stranger, but we value advice from a true friend. Jesus was a friend to his disciples. He talked with and ate with them. He traveled with them and taught them what He knew. He showed them what it meant to live a holy life pleasing to God. He understood where they were and what they needed. Likewise, discipline yourself to be a person who sees the deeper needs of those around you. Jesus always had a way of getting straight to the heart of the matter. Be someone who sees a need, whether spiritual or physical, and sows in love to meet it. Sharing life together opens doors for real and impactful opportunities to share Christ.
I believe one of the most damaging things we do as Christians is pretend that we don’t struggle and that we have it all perfectly together and figured out. We are surrounded by people who are desperate for real. They want real connection and real truth. They want to know there is real hope and what a transformed life looks like. Sharing how God is working through your struggles and weaknesses and how he has brought you through them before and continues to do so now, helps others see that God can do it for them, too.
*Speak into people’s lives.
I have had the opportunity to watch my sister disciple others over the years and it has blessed me with a great example of how to speak into people’s lives. I have seen her take lunch breaks with coworkers and point them to Christ when they admit they are struggling in life. I have seen her sit with strangers at a party and minister to their hearts with the word of God when they’ve shared about a fear or worry they have. She has taken on her role as ambassador of Christ and she has used every opportunity to speak into the lives of those around her. Because of this she has had the opportunity to share the good news and bring many others into a deeper faith. These are not forced opportunities, but natural conversations that arise organically. 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We should be ready to point others to Christ and speak truth into their lives when the time arises, but we can’t do that if we are not already of the mind of Christ. So be mindful of Christ! As we strive to put him first and grow in relationship with him, we prepare ourselves to have an answer to those around us because we are already living in that hope.
If the question, Who are you discipling?, causes our minds to go blank, then let’s hold ourselves accountable. Let's be about the Father's business.