Wednesday, August 22, 2007



One of the last commands Jesus left with His followers is to MAKE DISCIPLES. Paul speaks to Timothy about finding faithful men and women to teach and train them in such a way that they will do the same thing with a few others. Jesus in His prayer to the Father in John 17 makes it clear that He had finished the work He had come to do. And, that work was to invest His life in a few to make them faithful disciples or followers.

As I see it, the myth of discipleship rests on two misunderstandings about what Jesus intended in the making of disciples. And, these misunderstandings continue to Christianize Jesus in such a way that genuine discipleship isn’t the norm, but is quite rare.

FIRST—The misunderstanding of who is to be discipled is prevalent. Since most Christians hang out in their holy huddles, the only possible people to be discipled are other Christians. Now, don’t get me wrong here. Christians need to be discipled, but I believe Jesus’ original intent was that we are to focus on non-Christians to disciple. Because of this misunderstanding, Christians tend to only talk to themselves.

SECOND—The first misunderstanding is amplified by the second. The second misunderstanding has to do with the orderly process of making disciples.

In Matthew 28 Jesus states the command—MAKE DISCIPLES, then He sets forth how to do this with three participles. So, it reads like this:
1. Make disciples by going. I see this happening as you orbit around your world of family, friends and acquaintances. You make contact with people around you by listening, caring, being helpful and loving them, not by preaching to them or debating with them. What you’ll find is that there are many more people out there who have a spiritual bent toward the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom—especially when they discover you aren’t selling some sort of religious involvement or have an agenda to push.

2. Make disciples by baptizing. You are to identify those who are interested—those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. To me this is the best second step of making disciples. Instead of taking people through a class or study before baptism, I am seeing this kind of identification happening much earlier. I see this in our trips to Israel. I invite those who are interested in following Jesus to be identified with Him by baptism. This seems to be much closer to the early scene with the first disciples of Jesus. This practice of identifying a believer who is leaning in with some kind of identification seems to be very appropriate.

3. Make disciples by teaching. The third step in making a disciple is to teach them to observe everything Jesus taught—to follow His teachings and principles.

NOW NOTE how making disciples is normally done today!
FIRST—We teach them and teach them and teach them, until we convince those who are interested in Jesus that it’s all about a set of beliefs and what you know. The “personal” relationship is subtly neglected in the process.

SECOND—After lots of teaching, we invite them to come and be baptized. This is normally more than identifying a person as a follower of Jesus; it’s more about being baptized or identified as a new member of a local big “C” Church—and by this the new member must buy into a certain set of beliefs and practices and traditions.

THIRD—Now, after being extensively taught the beliefs and traditions of the local big “C” Church and being officially identified as a member, then the “going” is introduced. But what are they going to do? To teach their beliefs and traditions or to introduce Jesus to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see?

It’s all back-assward! This is why much of the “going” today has a minimal effect upon the culture visited. Churches may be established and membership built, but the powerful dynamic of a Jesus movement doesn’t break out as we see in the book of Acts.

By the way, when the “going” step has as its goal to genuinely help the people with their greatest needs—feeding them, caring for orphans and widows, giving hope to the disenfranchised, digging wells, building homes, this is precisely what Jesus intended. To go out taking His love and His peace to those in need of the good news of the Kingdom stirs up the spiritual interest in the source of this love and this peace and good will.

I heard this approach a few years ago defined as SOUP, SOAP AND SALVATION. This is the way. Demonstrate the love of Jesus for those in need in other cultures and they will be attracted to Him. Jesus is all about attraction and not promotion! So, why not make disciples Jesus’ way? The Christianized Jesus can easily be just one more message of propaganda from the West. But the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom is more than enough to transform anyone in any culture—forever!