An Ingenious Idea!
Making disciples is an intimate and difficult process. It takes love, commitment and time to walk alongside another person in order for Christ to be formed in them. Paul likens disciple making to the pains of childbirth (Gal. 4:19). I watched my wife give birth to our three children. I can tell you it looks like a lot of pain. She would tell you it feels worse than it looks! This may be a reason why many people are not engaged in disciple making.
Disciple making, like pregnancy and childbirth, is full of painful experiences and deep joy. When my wife was newly pregnant, we both were excited. Seeing the “+” on the pregnancy test always brings joy. The joy of the “+” quickly turns to physical discomforts of stomach aches, tiredness and clothes that no longer fit. As things progress in the pregnancy more back rubs are needed, more sleep is needed and more gymnastics are required to get out of a chair. Then the labor pains come. I could tell my wife was in pain during a contraction when she had to stop everything until the contraction ended. In my wife’s case, all of her deliveries required her to be induced which caused an increase in pain. But when the child was born, the amount of joy she and I felt was amazing.
Jesus’ last words to His closest friends instructed them to disciple all the nations throughout their lives. Jesus set the perfect example of what this looks like as He poured His life into His closest friends over a three year period. As we read stories of Christ’s interaction with these twelve friends, we can see lots of time spent together, lots of intimacy and lots of pain. Jesus was often frustrated with these tax collectors and fishermen as He modeled a life fully dependent upon the Father (Matthew 16:9, 17:17). Jesus often had to explain what was was taking place (John 9:1-5) and re-explain what He was talking about (Mark 4:34). When Jesus was being crucified, the only male disciple said to be present was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26-27). Jesus knew the pain of discipling, and yet, when He rose from the dead, He appeared to these close friends and gave them instructions (commanded them) to disciple, following the example He set for them (Matthew 28:16-20).
When one considers the investment of time and the inherent pain it takes to see Christ formed in people (Galatians 4:19) it isn’t hard to imagine why many choose not be engaged in this important process. Discipling is, however, a process in which every believer is required to be engaged (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15-18 & Acts 1:4-8). Jesus does not mince His words.
When Jesus instructed his eleven closest friends to disciple all nations (Matthew 28:19), He shared with them an ingenious method to accomplish this task. They were to befriend others and instruct them to obey all of the commands that Jesus had instructed them to follow. This obviously included the command to disciple as well. This genius concept meant that Jesus expected every person, who became His follower, to pour their lives into others so they could also be a disciple and repeat the process (2 Timothy 2:2). This is not optional for any believer.
One of the ways that I use to help others become like Jesus is through a Life Transformation Group (LTG). This simple tool requires a group of two or three people to do three things together: read lots of Scripture, confess sin to each other and pray for people to come to Jesus. This process creates the opportunity for LTGs to reproduce. If we engage in this type of disciple making, we will become more intimate with these friends than we can imagine and it will be contagious. We will be transformed in ways that will increase our faith dramatically.
Recently in my LTG we were repeatedly reading the book of Acts, chapters 1-6. One of my LTG partners mentioned he was intrigued by a particular word in Acts 1:2. In this passage, the Scriptures reported that Jesus gave “orders” to His eleven close friends. He was startled by the word “orders” in the New American Standard Version of the Bible. I was intrigued as well and immediately sought out what the “orders” were to which Luke (the author of the Book of Acts) was referring. As I looked into the original language of Acts 1:1-2, I noticed that the word for “orders” (enteilamenos) is actually singular. This means Luke was referring to the single command of the great commission which is to go and proclaim the gospel, making disciples of Jesus (cf Acts 1:2 with Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8).
That Jesus gave “orders” to His followers seems strong and may even sound a little abrasive. It caused me to ask the question, “How important is it to Jesus that His followers be making disciples?” The fact that Jesus “ordered” his followers should cause each of us to wrestle with this question: “Am I obeying Jesus by intentionally making disciples and instructing and teaching those disciples to do the same.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Are believers ignoring this most holy “order” by Jesus? If so, why? Does it mean that some feel a lack of competence in accomplishing this task? Why is that and how can it be changed? Whatever our answers to these questions, we must begin or continue to take responsibility to teach people to follow and obey these “orders” from Jesus. If we do, it will make a difference in our world. It really is an ingenious idea!