The last great command that Jesus gave to His disciples was “All authority has been given to me. Therefore, go out and make disciples of all nations, baptising them ……” Matt 28:18. He did not say – “Go out and make converts”, or “Go out and find people in need of counselling”, or “Go out and sign up some church members”. These are all laudable but they are not the Great Commission. Have we lost our call to make disciples?
The scriptures say Jesus taught His disciples. He committed time to them “He withdrew with them to the lake” Mark 3:7, “He was teaching His disciples” Mark 9:31. He challenged them to “let the little children come to me” Luke 18:16. He encouraged them “This is to my Father’ s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8. After the resurrection “He appeared to them for 40 days and spoke to them about the Kingdom of heaven.” Acts 1:3. What an incredibly rich and wonderful period that would have been, preparing the disciples for the birth of the Church and their role within it.
We started the year with the resolution that we commit to be better disciples of Jesus Christ. We have found ourselves in some tremendous times of prayer and insight as we consecrate who we are and what we are doing to Jesus. In turn, He is giving us wisdom and direction and the authority to declare change.
Some years ago, research within the seeker-friendly Church movement found they had made a grievous error. They had created baby Christians. There was a good track record of attracting people to services but a poor one in equipping people to pray, study the word, or bring others to Christ. The keenest Christians were the most disillusioned. Church had become a nursery for babies, a place for dependent people rather than a place sending independent people out to show Jesus to the world.
There is a book for cyclists called ‘The Rules: The Way of the Cycling Disciple’ with rules like #6 – Free your mind and your legs will follow. The letter to the Philippians gives us the ‘Way of Jesus disciples’ :
- He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. v1:16
- I press on towards the goal, to win the prize, for which Christ has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. v3:14
- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of others.” v2:3,4.
- Let your gentleness be evident to all. v4:5
- Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose. v2: 10.11
- Stand firm in the Lord v4.1
A friend put it to me recently “Jesus is on the throne of my heart.” As a disciple, I want Him to shape my actions, my feelings, and my life. Jesus’ standards are high. We are His servants and He wants us to serve with confidence, authority and capability. We need to understand the gifts and the abilities God has given us. Where has He called us to? We are not all the same, the body is made of many different parts. We move at different paces, are motivated by different things, work in different ways – but whoever we are, Jesus wants us to be fruitful. His servants get things done.
Disciples need to be resilient. Simon Guillebaud describes it “There’ s a battle going on for our hearts. What I watch, listen to, spend money on and give time to.” We need to keep asking the question, is Jesus on the throne of our heart? We all know we can plateau, or get stuck in the past, or on what feels comfortable.
Peer discipleship can be a very powerful tool. I have worked with two other guys for nearly twenty years. We pray for each other every week by email and reflect on what God is doing in our lives and we meet together to ensure we are being stretched and challenged. This has been an essential part of my Christian walk.
Finally, we go back to Jesus command, “Go and make disciples”. In this Time 2 Turn we anticipate many coming to faith who will need welcoming and encouraging. They may not be comfortable people, they may have a very different lifestyle or experience to us. We are not called to make comfortable people to fit into comfortable churches. Our call is to make disciples, people who have found freedom in Christ, have a fire to learn about Jesus, and represent His Kingdom. It is up to us.
Steve Botham – Director of World Prayer Centre