Most followers of Jesus are fully aware that our call is to make disciples. After all, this was Jesus’ final instruction he gave to his followers. Although we know this, and agree this would be a good thing to do, most don’t do it. I think the problem is that they don’t know how, or don’t feel qualified.
One morning last week I was reading the Scriptures when a friend’s face popped into my mind. I was in Luke 8, reading through the parable of the sower. In it, Jesus talks about a sower who was casting out his seed. Some of the seed – the word of God, as Jesus tells us – fell on the path, some on the rock, some in thorns and others in fertile soil.
Immediately I thought of a friend of mine who trusted Christ years ago, but who hasn’t grown in his relationship with him. In my mind, he was like the seed that fell in the thorns. It says,
And as for what feel among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” Luke 8:14
It “just so happens” I saw my friend for the first time in months the next day. What was I going to do? He is a successful businessman and well respected in our community. He is confident and direct; one of those no-nonsense type of guys. Did I really have anything to offer him?
Over breakfast I finally just asked him, “Are you growing in the grace of Jesus?” He thought about it, and then quickly blurted, “No. I need help. I don’t know how.” With that, I simply invited him. I told him, “I’d like to begin to meet with you regularly before my family moves to Arizona.” He was elated. So was I. We begin next week.
So what does it look like to make a disciple? Simple answer: It looks different for everyone.
Jesus didn’t give us a specific plan on how to do this. Discipleship, to Jesus, was about relationship. It wasn’t about communicating information. It was about shaping the hearts of his followers. I’d encourage you to read this post that gives six simple observations on how he did it. Really good.
A few things to consider about discipleship:
1. Invite someone. Jesus invited people to follow him. Paul, in his first letter to the church in Corinth told the readers, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). Probably out of insecurity, we wait for people to ask us if they could learn from us. In our minds, if nobody asks, then we are “off the hook.” There is power in invitation. Just ask.
2. You don’t have to be an expert. Better said – you will never be an expert. You will never have “arrived.” You won’t get to that place where you have it all figured out. There will always be someone who knows more about the Bible, who is more eloquent, or who has it more together than you. The longer you compare yourself to them, the longer you will remain immobilized, exactly where the Deceiver wants you.
Discipleship isn’t about teaching the Bible as an academic book. It is about leading people to Jesus over and over again. In Him is life, remember?
3. Learn with them. As relational beings, we are wired for community. Discipleship provides the opportunity for people to dig into the Scriptures together, learning from each other as they go. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers. If you were able to answer every hard question about God, then God isn’t all that awesome now, is he?
4. It’s more than Bible study. In America, we think that discipleship means a Bible, pen and Starbucks coffee. It is way more than that. Discipleship often involves Bible study, but it doesn’t begin and end there. It is more like an apprenticeship than it is like a student in a classroom.
Knowing what I know about my friend, I have a few goals for our time together over the next few weeks:
- That he would better understand the Scriptures as a whole. I think he is intimidated by them now. I hope this changes soon. This book is a great resource as a follow-up when trying to help someone understand them as well.
- That he would be “transformed by the renewing of his mind” (Rom 12:2) as he better understands his relationship to God through Jesus. We will look at what happened to him when he trusted Christ, and what defines him now.
- That he would begin to step out and join God in his mission on this earth.
First week: We will talk about his story, my story, and the story of God. I want to hear more about how he trusted Christ, share how I did, and then we will talk about the Bible as a whole. We’ll end up in Ephesians 2:1-10 and talk about that for a while.
Every so often I’ll post about my time with him, in the hopes that you might step out and invite someone to follow you as well.
What questions do you have about discipleship? What have you found helpful as you make disciples?