But the truth is that to be a disciple-making church means the church must be filled with disciples who embrace the call to make disciples. That was the first of the objectives I mentioned last week – we must embrace our purpose. And the second objective stems from the first – we must make disciples. So, why don’t we? Let me provide three overarching reasons. I am starting in a negative sense today, but I plan to turn to the positive shortly.
Three Reasons Why We Don’t Make Disciples
1. We don’t understand Jesus. What don’t we understand? That making disciples is our responsibility. We know the Great Commission, but we feel that the words were meant only for the disciples who were with Jesus when He said it. OK. If that is the truth then why should we think any of the Bible applies to us? Can we be saved or was that only for the people of Jesus’ day? Granted some aspects of the Bible are descriptive – they tell us what happened, but much of the Bible is prescriptive – it applies to us today. Being saved is for anyone who believes. John 20.24-29 clearly states that those who have not seen Jesus, yet believe, are indeed blessed.
2. We don’t believe God. Please notice I did NOT say we don’t believe in God…of course, that is a reason not to make disciples. But my comments are to the Church – presumably people who confess a belief in God. The truth is that all of us seek comfort over God at some point. Many of us do this often – self included! And part of that comfort is not being harassed and persecuted. Jesus made it clear that if people sought to harm Him, they will seek to do the same to us. (READ John 15.20-21.) Let’s face it, those are sobering words. But God also said that God’s children “have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4). Do you believe that? If you do it should impact everything we do. If it doesn’t impact you then perhaps it is because you don’t really believe the promises, and truths, of God.
3. We don’t love Jesus. OK, I realize many of you bristle at this statement. No good Christian would admit that they don’t love Jesus. We would likely admit that we don’t love Him as much as we should, but to say we don’t love Him – well, that’s just not true. Or is it? In John 15.13, Jesus says that our obedience to His commands is a testimony of our love to Him. Certainly, I cannot suggest that any of us are perfect in keeping His commands. And Jesus gave several commands, but He qualified loving God as the greatest, loving others as an expression of loving God, then commanded the disciples to love one another. Love, love, love. And then as He said His final words He said we are to make disciples in large part because of that love. So, do you love? Do you make disciples? If not, are you obeying His commandments? If not, then by Jesus words, you (and I) must change our approach to show we truly love Him (and others).
Now, having looked at three major reasons many people, and therefore churches, do not make disciples, let me pick through Paul’s letters to the churches who were to make disciples and show some specific reasons. These reasons will be covered in more detail in the coming weeks. Each of these reasons can be true for an individual with his/her relationship with Jesus, but also true of churches because of their relationship with one another.
- A lack of trust (1 Corinthians)
- A culture of shame and doubt (Philippians)
- A lack of initiative (2 Corinthians)
- A lack of know-how or feelings of inferiority (Ephesians)
- A lack of understanding identity (Galatians)
- A lack of intimacy (Colossians)
- A stagnant culture (Romans)
The result of these issues leads to despair (as opposed to integrity) which is evidences in the church of Sardis (Revelation 3). Over the next eight weeks, I will share the issues faced by these churches, how they may apply to us, and what we can do about it to make sure we are fulfilling our ultimate calling to make disciples for Jesus. (For those familiar with human development theory, you will notice that these eight stages reflect Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development. Comparing Erikson’s theory against the letters Paul wrote to these churches served as the basis for my dissertation.)
Now, before I turn to the positive portion of what a true disciple is, I want to take the time to review the various components of our GPS (God’s Plan for Servants) for the purpose of helping us to better remember them and embrace them.
To be A large church in a small town. (Matthew 5.13-16)
- Exalt the Savior (John 12.32).
- Equip the Saint (Ephesians 4.11-13).
- Evangelize the Sinner (Acts 1.8).
- Jesus (Matthew 16.18-19) – The One worth following.
- Observe (Colossians 1.28-29) – Following the commands of Jesus.
- Unite (1 Corinthians 1.10) – Being one in fellowship with other believers.
- Revere (John 12.32) – Worshipping God in all aspects of our lives.
- Nurture (Ephesians 4.12-13) – Building up others for the work of ministry.
- Engage (Acts 1.8) – Stirring the hearts of all people with the Gospel.
- You (Matthew 15.15-16) – The one who decides to follow.
- Learn With Each Other (Acts 17.10-12)
- Live For Each Other (Romans 15.1-2)
- Love God and All Others (Matthew 22.37-39)
- Lead One Another (to Follow Jesus) (2 Timothy 2.2)
- (Leave) When Called by the One True Other (Acts 13.1-3)
Note: This week’s teaching moment looks more specifically at the Strategy component of Observe.
The True Disciple
As we transition, let’s look at a few facts about Jesus’ ministry.
- At the beginning of His ministry, He called people to become disciples.
- Before He turned toward Jerusalem the final, time, His disciples proclaimed Him as Messiah.
- During the last week of His life, Jesus revealed which commandment was greatest.
- Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, Jesus told his disciples what they should do.
- One day, all mankind will stand before Jesus. Many will be turned away. His disciples will receive a reward.
Each of these aspects of Jesus ministry contain a common thread – His disciples are nearby. Thus, what is it that we can take from these moments. That is, what can learn from these moments about the nature of a true disciple. Well, first I must remind us that the word disciple means “one who learns.” So, if disciple means someone who learns, then what must a disciple learn?
To Respond to the Call to Follow Jesus.
We must choose this response each day – that is why I say it must be learned. To follow tomorrow will require something different than following today. To follow next year, will require more than it will to follow next month. We must always be seeking Jesus and seeking to be more like Him.
Responding to the Call of Jesus, the true disciple must:
- Learn, following the Savior by making a Great Commitment (Matthew 4.19; Mark 1.17).
- Live, knowing the truth of the Great Confession (Matthew 16.16).
- Love, striving to obey the Great Commandment (Mark 12.29-31).
- Lead, seeking to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20; Acts 1.8).
- Leave, hearing our Master give the Great Commendation (Matthew 25.21, 23).
The first four items are what a true disciple must do. The fifth item is what awaits those disciples who are faithful in the first four.
Imagine a church filled not with people who come to hear about Jesus, but rather come to serve and lead others to Jesus. As Paul says to his younger protégé – “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2.1-2)
Paul taught Timothy who taught men who would teach others. Making disciples who make disciples – that is what we are called to do.
Please understand, if we choose to make disciples, the enemy will not be pleased. Satan is powerful, and will defeat us, if we do not stand with Christ. Satan wants us to be passive as Christians. In fact, it has been said that Satan won the battle in many churches long ago. Now, he has a demon perched on the steeple of many churches with a simple instruction, “If the church begins to wake up, you let me know.”
Ladies and gentleman, I want this church to put the devil on notice. I cannot do it alone, but together we can do mighty things. The old axiom is to let a sleeping dog lie. Well, if we are to follow Jesus, we cannot do that. Satan will attack. He will throw obstacles at us as individuals, at our families, at our church, at our friends. But again, we must choose to believe God who tells us that the one in us is greater than Satan.
So, will you be a true disciple? Will you learn and live and love and lead? If so, when the time is right and you leave this life, then you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”