Our Calling as Christ followers: Disciples vs. Converts
Although we generally accept that Discipleship is something that the Church should be busy with, meaning that the Pastor’s sermons point us in a direction of following the example our Lord Jesus had set, it remains something “outside of ourselves”. This can be ascribed to the definition that is applied to “Discipleship” – passively gaining INFORMATION about “Christianity” for reasons of ordering our lives to be socially acceptable. However, God’s declared desire for His children is far removed from gaining information – it is an intentional LIFE STYLE of following Him with our whole being.
There are many church members who have a sincere desire “for more of God” but they do not know how to “get there” or are self-conscious about asking for guidance (after all they have been church members for a long time). The process of growing from “a Christian” to experiencing God is the subject of this chapter - transformation from “head knowledge” or “information” to “personal relational experience” or “practical hand knowledge”.
The five principles we will discuss are foundational to transform “being a Christian” to a LIFE experience as an Ambassador of Christ – (disciple as Jesus intended):
God’s call is PERSONAL and very clear – we have to make it our own
The foundation to fulfilling our call is to LIVE according to HIS purpose - Representing Him
The model is multiplying in a 1 on 3 ratio of mentoring to the fourth generation
It is cyclical – restarts with new Disciples once the “current” group matures to Disciple Makers
The Disciples were always sent out two by two – never alone
When we understand that BEING a WITNESS of Christ means that we have to express what we, individually, have experienced in the RELATIONSHIP we have with Christ, the depth of impact on our commitment to Him changes dramatically. No one can be a WITNESS of something they have not seen or heard first hand, personally. The relationship occurs when we come to the understanding that we cannot earn our salvation but that it is a free gift from God to each one who BELIEVES that God provided a way for fallen man to be reconciled with a Holy God through the atoning sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, and that He has created you with a purpose (Ephesians 2: 8 -10). Building upon this FAITH BASE requires a lifestyle following the example that Jesus lived (not to be “saved” or to gain access to heaven, or the Kingdom but in gratitude for God’s grace and mercy shown in granting the reconciliation). Only in this way can we SERVE His Kingdom.
Jesus describes this basic call to all believers in Acts 1:8 & 9. Now, consider that when the Apostles were dragged before the court their TESTIMONY was of what they had seen and heard, while walking with Jesus, allowed them to render the case of their accusers ineffective.
The Great Commission (Matt 28: 19 ff) is not always fully understood: To fulfill the Commission one activity is preeminent - Make Disciples – the others are instrumental in accomplishing the great commission, 1. “GO ..” or “As you are going”; 2. MAKE DICSIPLES; 3. Baptize those who come to faith; 4. Teach them to obey all I have taught you”. It is clear that the great commission goes quite a bit further in describing what we are called to as children of God, than just listening (gaining information) in a Discipleship class. The command/promise “BEHOLD I am with you to the end of the age”, further confirms the incredible grace gift He bestowed upon His children who obediently do this.
In 2 Tim 2:2 the method for MAKING DISCIPLES is further developed for us. “… find faithful men, teach them to teach others”. Here the concept of exponential growth is encapsulated in the MULTIPLICATION principle the Apostle Paul gives to his disciple, Timothy. The dynamic effect this principle has, in conjunction with the model Jesus used to teach His Disciples, explains how the whole known world knew who Jesus was by the year 70 AD, according to early historians.
By digging into the scriptures and studying them to see why and how our Lord was able to turn His entire Ministry over to the remaining Apostles, after training them for only three and a half years, a model appears that is quite astounding. Although Jesus appointed 12 Disciples (Apostles in training) scholars agree that he spent up to 80% of His time pouring His LIFE into three of them, Peter, James and John. He took them to the mount of transfiguration, Gethsemane, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, etc. Now the question arises “Whose task was it to tell the other nine?”
A clue lies in what happened when some Greeks came and asked Philip “we want to meet Jesus” and although he was a Disciple he does not take them to meet Jesus, he guides them along to Barnabas and from there presumably further up the line to Jesus. (The rivalry and discussions about who the greatest in the Kingdom was, seems to confirm the prevalence of a “pecking order” and seems to involve Peter, James and John every time). They were however recognized as the leaders of the Disciples by all.
If we depict the first level of this model, as described, it would look like this:
For three and a half years Jesus prepared these three Disciples of His
to reproduce Disciples as He taught them to do – in an apprenticeship setting – teach them, practically, to be able to reproduce exactly what they were taught, by doing the same.
If Peter James and John each Equip, Encourage and Empower three Disciples to become Disciple Makers, the picture changes dramatically and the exponential growth has started: This second level adds 9 Disciples bringing the total to 12.
Similarly, if the third level Disciples are turned to Disciple Makers the 9 disciple Makers will produce 27 Disciples, bringing the total to 39. By the same principles the fourth level produces 81 Disciples of Christ. At this stage the total number adds up to 120, meaning that each of these groups had grown to 40 Disciple Makers.
The principle of reproducing this model to the fourth generation of Disciple Makers is found in Scripture, 2 Timothy 2:2 – Paul (first generation) writes to Timothy (second generation) to find faithful men (third generation) and to teach them so that they in turn teach others also (fourth generation). Again we are able to glean an insight to compare this description to the Biblical account, which tells us that directly after Christ ascended into heaven “all the Disciples were together in one place and there were 120”.
During their training years, as hands-on apprentices, Jesus sent His disciples out, 2 by 2, to go and practice what they had been taught in surrounding communities - He made them practice what they preach. Witnesses ensured the GROWTH of the church and through Disciple Making the spread and vibrancy of the faith was ensured. The practice of both of these foundational principles, by believers has (largely) been lost in churches today – relegated to the pastor “because we pay him” or “my faith is a private matter between God and me”. Not only discipleship (teaching the message of Scripture) but also Disciple Making (mentoring believers into mature representatives of Christ who are equipped, empowered and encouraged to evangelize their peers) is the calling of each believer in our churches to reach our communities.
The principles and model discussed above have been implemented in Mission Fields in Africa and India with great success. To structure and implement the principles of the Disciple Maker activities is only superseded by the selection of leaders who are faithful, mature believers, themselves Disciples of Jesus who have a heart for winning souls to Christ and have a robust prayer life. They also need to be able to teach the basic Biblical message of salvation in understandable terms.
Here are the foundations for serving fruitfully, starting a Disciple Making movement in your own community: (Starting with BELIEVERS first and mobilizing them to reach your own congregation, colleagues and community, works best as it gives you a known, safer environment in the beginning).
Pray for God to show you a Covenant Partner with who you meet for one hour every week called Life hour 1). At the meeting you share life experiences – victories, answered prayers, obstacles to pray for and praises for God’s provision, etc. Also pray together for God to bring three people to each of you – make sure they desire to grow in their faith walk with Christ.
Meet for a second life hour with your 3 Disciples. Again, speak about Spiritual matters that they are excited about, or that they do not understand or struggle with in their everyday life. Studying scripture can be fruitful but only to address expressed needs – we assume that people who genuinely desire to follow Christ are reading and studying their Bibles on a regular basis at home, as well as that they have a healthy prayer life. (Ministering to unbelievers or very immature believers will, of necessity require a longer period of Discipling as they need to get to know the Lord and His word, to pray and trust the truths of His promises before they can really witness on His behalf).
As the leader initiate dialogue that will Equip, Empower and Encourage your Disciples to start their own second Life Hour with three people that they prayed for, after growing in confidence under your mentoring.
Inspire them to lead their Disciples to become Disciple Makers by reproducing their own Disciples.
Note: The local Pastor oversees and visits the groups as needed but functions in the level above the Covenant Partners (Disciple Makers) to inspire and help them when questions that the Disciple Makers struggle with, arise.
A very helpful scripture portion to follow in growing yourself and others is 2 Corinthians 5:17 to 6:1. It fully encapsulates the principles spoken of:
A believer is a new creature – by God’s grace
God has given us the MINISTRY of reconciliation – of bringing fallen man to Him
For this purpose the foundations of the Salvation message is given
Believers are called to be Ambassadors of Christ – Reproducing Disciple Makers
In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Disciple Makers are recognized as co-workers of God and are given the admonishment not to be “reckless” with this calling.
Are we, Christians, losing the spiritual war for the minds and hearts of people because we set “privacy” of our neighbors before “LOVE” for them – see them forever lost rather than being witnesses of Christ to them?
We do not have the calling of producing converts; we do have the calling to MAKE DISCIPLES of Christ.