I’ve been thinking lots recently about what makes a disciple. Through conversations, thinking and reading, I’ve been trying to understand and wrestle with this broad, yet simple concept. So I thought I’d share some of the things that I’ve been learning. As I continue to explore this and share it a bit wider, I would love to hear what you think…
The final command of Jesus was to make disciples. What if this was the focus of our lives? And our churches?
Jesus never called us to build the church. And yet I’ve spent so much time trying to build the church! Instead Jesus said “I will build my church” and he asked us to make disciples. My job is to make disciples. Jesus’ job is to build the church.
I define a disciple as someone learning to follow the words, the works and the way of Jesus, and sharing that with the world around them. And here are some of the marks of discipleship.
1. The key thing not an extra thing
Whole life discipleship is not a new thing or even an extra thing to add to an already busy church programme – discipleship is the lens through which to view everything! There is a Biblical mandate to go and make disciples.
Discipleship doesn’t necessarily require a church or an individual to do any more new stuff. It won’t necessarily mean a whole bunch of extra programmes. Instead, it requires placing a disciple-making emphasis on everything you do, because making disciples doesn’t just happen. It needs intentionality in our message, our programmes, our language and our lives! The gap often isn’t in what is provided in our churches, but the gap is in the emphasis of what is provided. We are all being discipled by someone or something – the question is what or who are we being discipled by?
2. A message more than a method
Jesus essentially called his disciples to “Follow me”, and that remained the call throughout his ministry. The message of discipleship doesn’t change the further along the journey of faith someone travels. Disciples don’t graduate from the gospel, and so discipleship should always be about returning the disciple to Jesus as their first love.
And so there is a need for both Gospel & Community in making disciples. Gospel is the language for making disciples, while community is the environment where growing disciples can happen. Gospel is the message that will remain the same wherever someone finds themselves. Community is the place where that message can be shared and lived out.
3. An outward focus not just an inward process
The two bookends of the gospel are “Follow Me” and “Go and make disciples.” When we accept Jesus’ invitation, we are obedient to his command.
The emphasis of discipleship should always push us outwards. Growing as a disciple is not just about being better or becoming nicer, it is about becoming missional. If discipleship doesn’t have a missional edge then it becomes self-serving and so disciples should always have the desire to make other disciples. However, it is important to realise that releasing disciples outwards does not just mean filling more roles within the church! A helpful model is Up, In and Out – people find their identity in Christ, He transforms their hearts and lives and is motivated and influenced to impact the world.
Simply, we must make disciples where we are, reflect on the helpful parts of that process, communicate that, while repeating and multiplying those models elsewhere. This is how I see the role I am in – Making / Reflecting / Communicating / Multiplying. We make disciples. Jesus builds His church.