“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
It’s clearly evident throughout scripture, more specifically the New Testament, that we are to make disciples. This is the command of Jesus himself. But the question is asked, “What is a disciple? What is discipleship?” Is the command to make disciples one to make converts or one to make committed followers of Jesus? Further more, we must as ourselves, “Has my faith stopped at conversion or am I a committed disciple, making more disciples?” I feel that the present church has strayed from the command of making disciples and has gravitated towards the idea of making converts. Church, this must change.
Today we see a church growing in converts (numbers), but not in commitment. The church has substituted the word discipleship for the word conversion; we feel the command of Jesus in Matthew 28 is a command to preach the gospel, preach salvation, and win people to Jesus. While all of this is an essential part to making disciples it is still just that, a part of making disciples.
The dictionary defines disciple as follows: a follower or student of a teacher, leader. Disciples are not just followers of Jesus Christ, they are students! Jesus said that we must teach them all He has commanded us. (Matt. 28:20) A disciple is one who sits on the edge of his/her seat intensely listening to every word the teacher is teaching, and then immediately puts into practice what he/she has learned. If we are truly disciples we will apply all we have ben taught, thus making disciples.
The problem with making conversions and stopping there is this: We fail in fulfilling the command of Jesus to teach. If we do not teach those who come to Jesus, if we do not disciple them, then they will never be fully equipped to teach and disciple others. Thus we fail in discipleship.
So what is discipleship? What does it mean to disciple?
Discipleship is modeling and teaching followers of Jesus the precepts of the Bible. We, as Christians, should burn with a passion to be discipled and to disciple others. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Again, discipleship is modeling and teaching followers of Jesus the precepts of the Bible, and to disciple is to model and teach followers of Jesus the precepts of the Bible.
Jesus whole ministry was around preaching the kingdom of God, and making disciples. He entrusted the future of the church, the future of the advancement of the Kingdom of God, to the hands of his disciples. So church, I ask you, how are we handling that which Jesus has entrusted to us? Are we making converted followers or committed ones?
To those who feel their faith has stopped at conversion: Be encouraged! Praise God that salvation has come to you! I urge you to seek discipleship. Never look down upon yourself because of a lack of knowledge or wisdom. James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) Let the lack of wisdom and knowledge push you and encourage you for more of it!
To those who feel they are committed followers: Make. Disciples. Disciple younger Christians in their walk. Strengthen them, encourage them, and build them up. I urge you to do this for Jesus and for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Therefore church, I urge you as Jesus did, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”