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Everyone Makes Disciples  
John A. Baugh
August 2005

In the Gospels we read the accounts of the discipling relationship Jesus maintained with those who chose to walk with him. The twelve men he named Apostles and the other men and women who were with him during those days were given an incredible opportunity to have a unique face-to-face experience with the master. Each of them was able to see and experience Jesus first hand. They were given the opportunity to learn directly from him and to begin to model their lives after his life so that in their own way; to the best of their abilities; they could become just like him. It would be easy to be very jealous of what these man and women were given.

Today, our desire is to follow him also, just like others did during the days when he walked among us. In the same manner as the twelve and the others, we want to be like him to the best of our growth and ability. We want to follow his will and please him. We have read and have some level of understanding of his great commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Our stage of growth as Christians and our individual levels of understanding of his command present a problem for many. It is the problem of his command to make disciples.

It is understandable to say, “I am not that strong in my Christian walk. I know Jesus implored us to make disciples as we are going, just like he did. I know he said he would help us in our efforts to make disciples but I have never been a good teacher. The task is too difficult. Too much of an investment is required and it is just too hard for me to do.”

However, there is a simple fact we need to realize.

If we have any influence at all, we all make disciples at some level.

Let’s look deeper into this statement and what it means by examining examples of worldly discipling in society today:

It is not a stretch of fact to say that many in today’s society disciple themselves to celebrities, social activists, political figures, sports figures, business gurus and other influential people.

One only has to pick up the Wall Street Journal or one of the other business journals to see the press time given to successful business leaders such as real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and investment guru Warren Buffett. It is a fact that many in the business world have discipled themselves to the practices and philosophy of these business leaders and others like them. The hope of these disciples is to be successful in their business endeavors by mirroring all of their business actions to what they see their chosen guru doing. If getting ahead in business is the goal, this discipling of business and investment thought to a Warren Buffett or Donald Trump type of philosophy might be smart practice.

As another discipling example, many (especially younger) people faithfully follow every cosmetic, fashion, or social nuance their favorite actor, actress or singer exhibits. Their desire seems to be to look, smell, think and act, as much as possible, exactly the same as the celebrity they admire. In their mind, they have found the perfect role model in one of the people who work in the flashy world of entertainment.

Others are equally devoted to mimicking the philosophy and actions of social activists and political figures. There are many other equally good examples of subclasses of society who have acquired a following of committed disciples.

Disciples and Discipling:

There are disciples and there are disciplers, because at the most basic level, discipling is a relational process. In fact, discipling is all about relationships. Those who choose to be disciples are learners, followers and adherents of someone else or some belief or teaching. When we disciple someone (as a discipler), we can disciple them to ourselves (if we are full of ourselves, with a strong ego driven personality) or we can disciple people to someone or something else. The success of the discipling process is almost fully dependant on the relationship that is formed between the discipler and the disciple and how well it continues.

Man is a relational being and a social creature. We desire to have and develop relationships. Most of us actively seek fellowship. Our intent is to influence those around us. In fact, that is how God wired us.

It is a fact that:

-          Parents disciple their children.

-          Children disciple their parents.

-          We disciple our friends.

-          We seek out discipling opportunities in business, social and personal relationships.

-          What we disciple others to, depends on what priorities we have on our hearts.

-          If you ever learn anything by intent or by incident or by accident from anyone else, that person has discipled you.

Since a disciple is “one who learns,” in some measure, all human beings are disciples of anyone who teaches them anything.

We seem to be happiest when we are discipling others to the things that make us happiest and give us the most gratification. For those who know Christ as their savior, the desire to disciple others to him is how God wired us.

Discipling People to Christ

The obvious intent of this study is to look at discipling people to Jesus Christ. He commanded us to make disciples of all nations. That is what the rest of this study will emphasize.

I am to disciple The World? … Was Jesus Serious?

The biblical basis for making disciples, what we know as Christ’s Great Commission, is recorded five times in the New Testament. It occurs in all four of the Gospel Accounts and in the book of Acts

-          Matthew 28: 18-20 contains the most definitive statement of what Jesus expects us to do,

"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all 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.”  (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

-          Mark 16:15-16 provides the most concise wording of what Jesus expects us to do.

"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not will be condemned."  (Mark 16:15-16 NIV)

-          Luke 24: 47 contains the most direct statement of what Jesus expects us to do,

"And repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."  (Luke 24: 47 NIV)

-          John 20: 21 contains the most simple statement of what Jesus expects us to do.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20: 21 NIV)

-          Acts 1: 8 contains the most expansive statement of what Jesus expects us to do.

"But you will receive power, when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  (Acts 1: 8 NIV)

Making Disciples:

In addition to many other things, the New Testament is an incredible primer on the "how-to’s" of discipling. Let’s look at a few scriptural examples of discipling. A very obvious scriptural example of one who discipled and had disciples may be found in the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth; the man we know as John the Baptist.

John the Baptist

We know from what is recorded in the scriptures that John the Baptist made disciples.

3The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. (John 1:35 NIV)

In his Gospel accounting, Luke carefully chose his words to show us that John’s disciples trusted him and followed his wishes:

1This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" 20When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' ” (Luke 7:17-20 NIV)

Luke continues in his accounting of John and his relationship with those he encountered, showing us that even Jesus acknowledged John’s discipling. The Master knew John as a "messenger", who "will prepare your way before you".

After John's messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) (Luke 7: 18-30 NIV)

Jesus was never a disciple of John. In the truest sense, Jesus was a disciple of his father, God. However, Jesus himself went to John in the wilderness at the Jordan River and was baptized by John. The scripture tells us that this act of obedience to the act of baptism by Jesus pleased God.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:9-11 NIV)

In his Gospel the Apostle John tells us that John the Baptist knew there were people who had discipled themselves to him, but that God had bigger plans for humanity than anything he or those who followed him would accomplish.  He knew he was only a messenger (“A voice in the wilderness”) and that the way and the truth lay not in following him, but in following “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”.

In fact, he was so certain that his testimony to those who had discipled themselves to him caused at least two of them (Andrew and probably John the son of Zebedee) to leave him in order to disciple themselves to Jesus. The account in John’s Gospel is long, but full of the testimony, wisdom and willingness of John the Baptist to be used by God.  The following is from the NIV Translation of John’s Gospel.

Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ."

They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?"
                        He said, "I am not."
            "Are you the Prophet?"
                        He answered, "No."

Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' "

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"

"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie."

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."

Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"

They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

"Come," he replied, "and you will see."

So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.

(John 1: 19-40 NIV)

The Apostle Paul Was a Disciple, Even Before He Met Jesus:

In the same manner as Andrew and John were disciples of John the Baptist, Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) was a disciple of someone else before he met Jesus.

Many Jews discipled themselves to scholars and rabbis in order to learn from them and to grow in their knowledge. This is in keeping with the definition of a disciple as a learner, who studies under the teaching of a learned person. In this respect, Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) was a disciple of the Jewish teacher and Pharisee, Gamaliel.

"Then Paul said: "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today."  (Acts 22:3 NIV)

Obviously, Jesus Made Disciples:

As accounted in Matthew -

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.  (Matthew 4:18-22 NIV)

From Mark’s Gospel -

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. (Mark 2: 13-14 NIV)

From the Gospel of John -

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"
      They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"

"Come," he replied, "and you will see."

So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked.

"Come and see," said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."

"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."

Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that." He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1: 35-50 NIV)

The Apostles:

One of the versions of Jesus, selecting the Apostles from those who had discipled themselves to him – from Luke’s Gospel. (The names of the Apostles are also recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Acts)

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6: 12-16 NIV)

Others:

There are other accounts in the New Testament of others who made disciples and the discipling process:

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7 NIV)

(Speaking of Paul and Barnabas) The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, (Acts 14: 20b-21 NIV)

Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:24-26 NIV)

Paul to Timothy

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV)

What happens when we make disciples?

When we disciple another person, we give a part of ourselves to that person. This is gift of love - our love for Jesus, exhibited in our love for others. As we do this we quickly recognize that discipling is a very personal commitment. It requires a great investment of personal time and effort.

Looking at the NIV translation of 2Timothy 2:2, we see Paul telling Timothy to “entrust” the things Paul has invested into (Timothy) into “reliable” men. The KJV uses the word “commit” instead of entrust and the word “faithful” in place of reliable. These discipling words are unusual (as if anything from God could be categorized as unusual!) in that they are predominately banker’s terms, normally used in reference to investments.

What do I mean with this talk of bankers?

We commit and entrust to reliable/faithful men (and women), expecting a return on the investment.

Everyone, with any influence, Disciples.

Like bankers, we commit and invest. Why? Like bankers, we expect a return on our investment.

WE DO IT FOR HIS KINGDOM – FOR THE WORLD

Look at Paul and Timothy

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2 NIV)

What an investment discipling is! So, what is the expected return from this investment?

Only God knows what level of return is possible if the heart of the discipler is in the right place and the discipling effort is invested in reliable men!

What should our desire be when we disciple others to Jesus?

When we disciple others, our desire should be to leave the disciple, the way Jesus left the twelve. We should desire to leave the disciple the way Paul, left Luke and Titus. We should hope to leave the disciple the way Paul left Timothy,

Jesus said,

“When the process is completed, the disciple will be like his teacher”  (Luke 6:40 NIV)

The product of discipling is predictable,

The outcome of discipling is inevitable.

However, when we commit to the intentional process of discipling others to Christ, we must ask a sober question:

“Is my life worth copying?”

There is another way to put this question:

“What kind of work would Christ’s work be, If every other Christian were just like me?”

The implications of these two questions are staggering!

-          Those we disciple are molded by our Bible study.

-          They are shaped by our prayer life (prayerfulness or prayerlessness).

-          They become pictures of our attitude toward worship.

-          Their faithfulness to God's Word becomes an example of our faithfulness to His Word.

-          Their interest in discipling others mirrors our commitment to the process.

-          Their desire to impact the world for Jesus will be a picture of our desire to impact the world.

If we have no interest in building disciples who will be reproducing generations of disciples far out into the future, they will look no farther than their relationship with us.

If our vision for discipling looks no farther than our Sunday School Class, or Church group, ignoring Jerusalem (our neighborhood), Judea (people with similar interests like Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, Chicago and Detroit) Samaria (people who do not necessarily like us) and the ends of the earth (North, Central and South America, India, France, Spain, Vietnam, the Sudan, China, Japan, Zambia, etc). Their vision will be similarly near sighted.

Why do our attitudes affect those we are given to disciple?

Because (in Luke 6:40) Jesus said those we disciple emerge looking like us.

Here is another group of tough questions:

-          How would we like it if ten generations from now large numbers of people were just like us?

-          How extensive would God’s work be?

-          How strategic would God’s work be?

-          How relational would God’s work be?

-          How obedient would those people be?

Is this a reason to not disciple?

IN BIG LETTERS THE ANSWER IS  NO!

Do Not Despair. There is Good News Here Also

The Great Commission of Christ, as recorded in Matthew begins with incredible words of assurance, where Jesus says:

"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

There are only two places we need to be concerned with at this time and forever. They are here on earth and in heaven. Jesus has been given "ALL AUTHORITY" in those two places. He doesn't have 2/3rds authority. He doesn't have morning and midday authority. He doesn't have authority for dark haired men only. He has all authority.

So, how will he exercise this authority?

He says that if we "go" (the Greek words of the original text in Matthew's Gospel actually translate much better in the form "as you are going", or "since you are going anyway") and "make disciples", he "will be with us always, even to the ends of the earth."

That is the good news. We have the help we need to make disciples. If we give the work to the Holy Spirit, and try as hard as possible to keep it from becoming a "Me Thing" we already have all of the help we will ever need. This help will come straight from Jesus, the one who gave the ultimate price for us and has made us the centerpiece of his plan to spread the Gospel.

Two things are required:

-          We need to attempt to lead lives worthy of our calling as disciples of Christ.

-          We need to make disciples for him as we are going.

One of the foundational works of discipling is the book The Master Plan of Evangelism by Dr. Robert E. Coleman. In his incredible work, Dr. Coleman tells a story that I would like to loosely quote:

After his ascension, Christ was met by legions of angels in Heaven.  They praised and praised him and then one of them asked what plan he had put into place to assure his vision would continue across the world and time, as God had desired.

Jesus looked toward the brilliance of God's throne and then told the angels, "I have left a small band of laymen, mostly fishermen, who will take over my vision and deliver my message to the world. I have made these laymen "fishers of men." They will be responsible for teaching my vision to other faithful believers, who will carry on in the same manner until the end of time."

The legions of angels all looked at our Lord with wonder. Finally, one of them spoke. “What an incredible vision! … What if they fail?”

Jesus replied, “This is my vision. I have no other plan."

As Coleman tells us, Jesus has no other plan for spreading the good news of salvation from our sin. He has placed the responsibility with us. None of the disciples were pastors. They were not theological professors at nationally renowned seminaries. At best, they were common men, just like you and me.

We are his plan for spreading the Gospel of Good News to all nations, across the entire world. Everyone, with any influence at all, makes disciples. The question is what kind of disciples do we make?

 

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