This past week our 6 year old son, Elijah had both an insightful set of questions and then offered up an insightful answer to his questions. The questions that Elijah asked was, “When do missionaries get to come back home? Are they only able to come home once everyone in the country is told about Jesus?” Then after Elijah posed this question he came up with a strategic answer. Elijah told my wife Tia that if he were a missionary he would tell his neighbors about Jesus and tell his neighbor to tell their neighbors about Jesus who would then tell their neighbors about Jesus until everyone in the country knows about Jesus!
As a church we have some big ambitions for our city. Our hope is to fill Madison with the message of Jesus Christ; our prayer is that many in our city will come to love the message of the wooden cross and the empty tomb in the ways that we do. However, even though our ambitions are big our strategy to see our ambitions lived out are actually pretty simple—even as simple as the strategy that my 6 year old son laid out, which is for us to make disciples who in turn make disciples, which in fact is the strategy of the New Testament.
Listed below are a few thoughts for us in the simple yet profound call of Christ to be his disciples who follow him by helping others become disciples.
- Discipleship is done both formally and informally. When we hear a call to discipleship I think our minds quickly go to a formal classroom setting, where there is a teacher, a work book, and a white board. However, while a formal setting can be an important and key part of discipleship, it is not the only part. In fact, some of the most significant discipleship takes place in informal settings. We can’t underestimate the value of walking through life with others by sharing the Scriptures over a meal, in the ups and downs of life, and through our life experiences.
- Discipleship is to be done by a selection process. One of the things that I appreciated about my son’s strategy was that he realized that no missionary is able to spread the message of Jesus all by him- or herself. In the world in which we live, we are limited by time and space so we can’t disciple everyone, which means we must be selective on who we are going to disciple. One of the more helpful books I have read on discipleship is titled The Master Plan of Evangelism, which reminds its readers that even Jesus was selective in whom he invested. In addition if we don’t have some type of intentional selection process, what will most likely happen is that you will end up discipling no one! If I can encourage you, please prayerfully consider 2-3 people in whom you can truly invest yourself with the hopes of helping them become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.
- Discipleship is a joyfully painful and difficult process. I am not sure there is anything that is more rewarding as well as more painful and difficult as making disciples. Any time we work with people there is a real chance that they will let you down and disappoint you. When we read through the New Testament, especially the stories of Jesus and Paul, you can sense the deep pain they had when people in whom they invested themselves failed. Even though discipleship is critical, we can’t be naive to think that it will always be easy. However that being said, I am also not sure there is anything that is more rewarding than when you see those in whom you invested your life walking in the truth of Jesus Christ (3 John 1:4).
- Discipleship is part of our worship. Perhaps the most famous teaching on discipleship in the Scriptures is found in the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel, as Jesus famously extended his Great Commission. As you read through that account what you will notice is that the Great Commission comes right on the heels of the disciples worshipping Jesus. Even though we might not always think of doing the work of discipleship as part of our worship, in truth it might be one of the most pure ways in which we do worship. When we take time to disciple others what we are declaring is that the wooden cross and the empty tomb really do mean everything!
While I know that faithfully living out our collective work here in Madison is not as easy as Elijah’s simple strategy, what if each of us was committed to making disciples? What if each of us intentionally invested in 2-3 people with the hopes that in time each of them would invest in 2-3 people? May God help us all to strategically make disciples, for the glory of Christ, all of our days, until all have heard about Jesus!