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Discipleship is Job One by Phil Helfer

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’"  (Mt. 28:18-20)

The great commission is about making disciples. The problem is that most of us have a hard time defining just what a disciple is and an even harder time knowing how to make one.

If I were to ask you to bake a cake and you had never baked one before, you would probably need some instruction or at least a recipe to get the job done -- even if you know what a cake is to begin with. When it comes to making disciples, we must begin with the end in mind. What does a mature disciple of Jesus look like? Only then can we begin to understand the processes by which any person can become one.

What Is A Disciple?

A disciple is someone who has chosen to learn from and follow another. He submits himself to that teacher and patterns his life after the one he is following. When a disciple is mature, he becomes like his teacher. Jesus said as much. “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, once he is fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

Much of what has passed for discipleship training in the modern church has been about increasing knowledge about the Bible. Christians are judged as mature or immature based on how great an understanding of the scriptures they have. All Christians should have a thorough and first-hand knowledge of the Bible but this alone is a poor substitute for discipleship. Jesus said we should teach them to observe all He commanded not just know all He commanded. A mature disciple is committed to a way of life motivated and empowered by the same principles, character traits, and inner motivations that characterized the life of Jesus.

So now that we know what a disciple is; how do we make them?

We must bring them to Jesus and encourage them to make Him their lifelong teacher and Lord. If we assume the responsibility of being someone’s mentor with the goal of teaching them to become like us, we limit their ability to grow beyond us. But if we bring them to Jesus and allow Him to be their teacher, they can rise to be like Him.

Jesus is alive and present! “Lo, I am with you always.” If believers are to become mature disciples, they must tap in to this wonderful truth. We should never be content with teaching people about Jesus. We must teach people how to have a real, intimate, tangible relationship with their Lord and Savior.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” (1 Peter 2:2-4)

If we want to make disciples, let’s introduce people to Jesus, tell them of His glorious excellencies, His all sufficient grace, and His precious and magnificent promises. And let’s encourage each one to embrace the living and present Jesus as their Teacher and Lord. He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ask or think.

©2011 Phil Helfer

Originally posted in the October 2011 edition of The Messenger Newsletter for Los Altos Grace Brethren Church (Long Beach, CA)
On Twitter @PhilHelfer
Used with permission. All Scripture quotes from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

See also:Organic Church Principles in Conventional Churches - Audio with Phil Helfer
The Power of Two or Three
What does a "mature" disciple look like?
Stories of "Going Organic" for Conventional Churches - Workshop

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