Christianity 201

January 10, 2014

Eight Principles for Making Disciples

Matthew 28 19 Great Commission Make Disciples

Paul Kroeker is the director of Global Disciples Canada. This article is one in a series that links back and forth between the Global Disciples blog and Christian Week, an online Canadian news magazine. Not all the links were functional on the day this was posted, but the two above should work.

“Have you ever been discipled?” I asked. “I don’t think so,” was his reply. “I grew up in the church, but I don’t remember being discipled in any intentional way.”

My friend’s experience is far too common. Many people who have been raised in a Christian context can point to various programs which were significant to their Christian growth, such as Sunday school, youth group or summer camp. But were they discipled?

Many churches have strong programming, but if you ask about “discipleship,” it may not be on the agenda. Somehow we think discipleship will be accomplished through the collective activity of the Church. In other words, discipleship may be assumed, but does it happen?

I have been reading the gospels with the following question in mind: “How can we learn to make disciples in the way of Jesus?” Here are some of my observations:

Jesus began His ministry after being called, affirmed and anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism. Discipling others needs to come from a deep place of intimacy with the Father.

Prayer is central to making disciples. Persistent prayer for those who do not know the love of Jesus will “rekindle your first love” and moves you to become an active disciple-maker.

Disciples need an invitation. Jesus calls them by name. Later, He explains that each one was “given to him” by the Father (John 17:8ff). It may sound random as He walks down the beach and says, “Come, follow me,” but Jesus knew that each one had been “chosen.”

True disciples responded to the call. They were willing. Some left their nets, others their office. Following Jesus was full-time. There is no such thing as a “part-time disciple.”

Teachable moments happened anywhere: sitting at a banquet, finding a man in a tree, having an argument about being first in line, seeing a herd of pigs rush into the sea, or responding to the needs of people they met. How do you write a curriculum for that?

Disciples were introduced to the power and the presence of the Kingdom of God. It is an invisible Kingdom (for now), but as disciples of Jesus, they saw evidence daily. Evil strongholds were torn down and people were set free.

Discipleship is not a spectator sport. Disciples do stuff. What they saw the Master do, they did. When at the end of His ministry Jesus said, “Go make disciples,” His final words echoed the pattern they had seen throughout their time with Jesus. Learning always led to serving.

Disciples become like their master. Being with Jesus taught them to live like Jesus, love like Jesus and to serve like Jesus. People would refer to them as “little Christs.” Pretty strong evidence that they had been with Jesus.

Is your church doing discipleship? Does this really happen today? Recently I met two young men, Dylan and Matt. They are working with First Nations young adults, learning to make disciples in the way of Jesus. Listen to Dylan’s spoken word piece called “Walk With Me.”

“…you walked with me.
You showed me first hand, what it meant to be free
So I opened my heart and I gave you the key
And for the first time I could finally see
Why someone like Jesus would actually die for me.
You brought your Bible to life, it wasn’t just talk
You see the word “love,” it’s a verb, and so is the word “walk”
So I thank you for putting your love into action,
Because your love is what caused my internal reaction
No, my “eternal reaction”
This crazy attraction…
I finally know what it’s like to be free
Because you took the time to walk with me.”

January 30, 2011

Imitate Me, As I (try to) Imitate Christ

Jon Swanson’s blog, 300 Words a Day is one of a very few listed in this blog’s sidebar because of his consistent devotional focus.   This piece appeared there several days ago under the much simpler (!) title, Being a Model…

Am I living a life I’d want someone to copy?

Why not?

Those two sentences found their way into my journal over the weekend, as I was thinking about a presentation I’ve got coming up. I’m going to talk about being and making disciples. (That subject has shown up as my one word and in my list of 8 ways to get better at following.)

As I thought about the idea of making disciples, of developing followers, I realized that part of making a disciple is being willing to be a model.

I hate that. So do you. The last thing we want is for someone to use our life as a pattern. We know all of the ways that we fail. We know all the strategies that don’t work. We know how we don’t measure up. We know how we hurt someone we love.  We are, we think, models for spiritual failure.

But I think I’m wrong.

Paul consistently said, “Here are my failures. Here’s what I don’t do well. Here’s what God does wonderfully, sometimes in spite of me, sometimes through me.” He said this especially to Timothy, his most mentioned disciple. (A working definition of a disciple is a person who chooses to allow the life and teaching of someone to shape his/her own life.)

Helping people learn how to follow Jesus doesn’t mean being perfect.

It means being translucent, keeping the details hidden but allowing the outline of your humanity to show. It means acknowledging the failures and the forgiveness. It means showing when you let your mouth get ahead of your brain, here is how you ask forgiveness.

When you don’t know how to talk to God, here’s where you start. When you feel like you aren’t measuring up, here’s how you stop trying so hard.

~ Jon Swanson