It’s difficult to decide what strategy is the most effective for making disciples. There are so many options from which to choose.. But the model that truly shines is the biblical one.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
This Pauline method can be broken down into its individual steps. First, a disciple is to abide in and be strengthened by the grace of Christ. Second, we are to implement the principles taught by Paul, Third, we are to invest what we know into faithful men. The final step in the long process of disciple-making is for those whom have been discipled to go out and replicate themselves.
Jesus Christ was adamant about making disciples. Failing to make disciples was not an option for Him since one of the primary reasons Christ was made incarnate was for establishing the kingdom. It is with the same heart as the Lord that Paul tells Timothy his strategy for building up the kingdom. In these two short verses Paul provides a genealogy of four generations of disciples. Paul taught Timothy—these are the first and second generations. Timothy is instructed to teach faithful men—this is the progression from the second to the third generation. Finally, those faithful men are instructed to teach others—the third generation gives birth to a fourth. We find four generations of disciples mentioned in this one verse. What a challenge to us today!
How many people have you personally discipled and invested in, and how many of those individuals are now repeating the process? You see, when the local church becomes an end in itself, it ends. When Sunday School, as great as it is, becomes an end in itself, it ends. When small groups ministry becomes an end in itself, it ends. When the worship service becomes an end in itself, it ends. What we need is for discipleship to become the goal, and then the process never ends. The process is fluid, living, and self-sustaining.
Every Christian could be compared to one of two bodies of water: the Jordan River or the Dead Sea. The Jordan River is an active body of water. It flows from north to south. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, has an inlet but no outlet. Water comes in from the north but does not flow out. This causes the water to become stagnant and useless for drinking or bathing.
I believe that each Christian can be compared to one of these bodies of water. You’re flowing and moving, usefully impacting lives for God, or you’re stagnant and lifeless, useful for little.
We should be like Jesus, who in John 17 states that His work was “finished” once He created a band of disciples who would make disciples. Jesus knew that the task God sent Him to accomplish was complete. You might assume that the task given to Jesus was to go to the cross and die for the sins of mankind. However, His task was to establish the kingdom while His destiny was to be crucified on behalf of all who believe.
Leroy Eims writes, “When you read this prayer in chapter 17, you’ll notice that He did not mention miracles or multitudes one time; but he mentions forty different times the men whom God gave Him out of the world.” These men that He mentions are the disciples He invested in during His time on earth.. In verse 6, He says, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept their word” (emphasis added).
Jesus Christ was interested in making disciples. That’s why He commanded His followers to “go and make disciples.” You may be tempted to say, “Well, I’m not a pastor. I’m not a teacher.” You don’t have to be a pastor or a teacher to disciple people. You don’t have to be a pastor or a teacher to join a discipleship group. The great thing about discipleship is that it’s not just you teaching others; it’s other people teaching you. It’s accountability. It’s encouragement. It’s fellowship between one believer and another.
After my first discipleship meeting over lunch, I’ll never forget what one of the guys told me. He looked at me and said, “Robby, I never knew that I could be discipled. I grew up in church all my life, and I’ve never known that it was even an option for me to be discipled. My view of Christianity was that I should come in on Sunday, hear a word from the Lord, and then try all week to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, and then come back the next Sunday and go out and do it again.” He also told me, “I didn’t realize that somebody could come alongside of me and teach me how to pray, teach me how to memorize scripture, teach me how to love my wife, teach me how to serve my church, and teach me how to serve the Lord and love it. I didn’t know that was even possible.”
I have a feeling that many of you may not be aware that discipleship is an option either. Discipleship is about getting together with two or three men or two or three women and saying, “Hey, let’s study the Bible together. Let’s learn together. Let’s grow together. Let’s see God work in our lives.” My goal for the people in my own church is for every person—whether he or she is a leader, a staff member, a Sunday School teacher, a nursery worker, a church member, a visitor, a member of the choir, a deacon, or anything else—to disciple another person or be discipled by someone at all times.
I’d like to see the youth discipling the younger children, the college students discipling the youth, the young adults discipling the college kids, the middle-aged adults discipling the young adults, and the senior adults discipling the middle-aged adults. This is how the process of discipleship should work. Can you imagine how different the church would look if we did this? People would say, “Man, there’s something different about those Christians. They really care about other people. They invest in the lives of people.”
We should all have a heart for discipleship because we are all called to make disciples like Christ. Don’t keep the knowledge of God, the gospel, and the Word to yourself; instill it in someone else!