How exactly are Christians to make disciples? Be specific!
This was a question posed to me in response to my previous post, Common Christianity Is a Neutralized Christianity. The question is a good one. After all, disciple-making is the great task left to the Church by Jesus the Christ before He ascended to heaven. It’s been 2,000 years now. We ought to know how to do it!
My initial reply to this question was not as specific as the questioner would have liked. Disciple-making: “Helping someone along through word and deed as the Holy Spirit transforms and develops that person into an ever-growing follower of Christ. This would be in contrast to say-a-prayer-and-you’ve-got-a-ticket-to-heaven conversions where the person may or may not experience regeneration and life-transformation.” Too vague, they said.
Here’s why I believe we should pause and consider what we are dealing with before proceeding with precise plans of action for making disciples. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus is speaking to two of His first disciples. He says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The Great Disciple-Maker is our example and He began the discipleship process with the command, “Follow me.”
Pastor David Platt has written a book I recommend on this subject entitled, Follow Me. In it he offers a very helpful contrast between Christianity and major world religions. “When Jesus came on the scene in human history and began calling followers to himself, he did not say, ‘Follow certain rules. Observe specific regulations. Perform ritual duties. Pursue a particular path.’ Instead, he said, ‘Follow me.’”
Imprecision can be a good thing when it comes to Christian disciple-making because it makes room for freedom in Christ. Every disciple is a unique person gifted with their own distinctive combination of experiences, talents, passions, fruits of the Spirit, personality, life stage, temperament, and vocation. Followers of Christ are also situated in many diverse cultures which adds multiple layers of perspective and history to the journey of following Christ.
Just this week I was having a discussion with my family on what disciplines we are focusing on in our Christian formation at the start of this new year. One offered meditation, particularly focusing on thankfulness, another said reading and reflective journaling, while the other mentioned worshipful singing. Each practice reflects the passions and talents of the individual child.
The task for my wife and I is to work with each individual child and guide them with wisdom and experience as the Spirit works in their lives. There are things we all do together as a family that are the same. However, if we were to impose a uniform discipleship process on the children collectively we would be failing to stoke the unique set of gifts God has given to each child. “Follow me” is expressed differently by each of us as the process of sanctification looks different within each one of us.
“Follow” (Matthew 4), “abide” (John 15), “go” (Matthew 28), “love” (John 13), “be” (there are 74 “be” commands in the New Testament!), “believe” (1 John 3:23). There are over 1,000 commands given in the New Testament for all believers to collectively obey. How we obey these commands as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) will be uniquely expressed from one individual to another.
How exactly are Christians to make disciples? Faithfully, according to Scripture, as the Spirit leads while allowing each disciple to express their uniqueness and freedom in Christ.
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.texasenterprise.utexas.edu/article/truth-about-one-man-corporate-rule