Call of Discipleship
A story was told about a church in Atlanta.
A man noticed in the Yellow Pages, in the listing of restaurants, an entry
for a place called Church of God Grill. The peculiar name aroused his curiosity
and he dialed the number. A man answered with a cheery, "Hello! Church
of God Grill!" He asked how the restaurant had been given such an unusual
name, and the man at the other end said: "Well, we had a little mission
down here, and we started selling chicken dinners after church on Sunday
to help pay the bills. Well, people liked the chicken, and we did such
a good business, that eventually we cut back on the church service. After
a while we just closed down the church altogether and kept on serving the
chicken dinners. We kept the name we started with, and that’s Church of
The easiest thing in the world to do is to
lose sight of the mission of the church. The clearest and most comprehensive
command of our Lord is given in the following verses. This command was
the last command given to the chosen disciples after Christ's resurrection
and just before Jesus' ascended to heaven.
Then the eleven disciples went
to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they
saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them
and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore
go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the
very end of the age."" (NIV)
Naturally, in order to make disciples we must
have pupils—pupils willing to be taught—pupils willing to learn—pupils
willing to obey. Every thing we do in life initially begins with being
directly or indirectly taught. We come into this world as ignorant as most
animals, but we come into this world to learn. God gave us the power of
reasoning that we might learn. God sent us into this world to learn his
will for our lives so that we might influence others to recognize his glory.
Faithful disciples must be committed
to teaching the word to others. We must teach and make disciples
so that others will be able to commit the message to others. Paul instructed
the young minister Timothy of his responsibility to the church. Paul actually
reiterates the Great Commission of Christ.
2 Timothy 2:1-4
You then, my son, be strong
in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 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. Endure hardship with us like a good
soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved
in civilian affairs-- he wants to please his commanding officer. (NIV)
We are to "go and make disciples of all
nations." We must remember that this command was given to those
who were already disciples. Sometimes we may get the cart before the horse.
We may want to go out before we are taught. We may want to go before we
become disciples ourselves. We may want to go before we know how to teach.
Jesus spoke this great commission to those he had been teaching for three
years. He spent three years making disciples of them.
We must overcome our doubts and accept Christ
authority to direct our lives. Matthew writes, "When they saw him, they
worshiped him; but some doubted." It is encouraging to know that they
were willing to overcome their doubt about Christ so that they could follow
In many instances we learn as we go, we may
learn through experience, but there are some things that we must know before
we go--those things must first be learned by each of us and then they must
be taught by us.
We Must First Become Disciples
There can be no making of disciples
until the teaching of Christ moves our hearts. The purpose of every
Bible class in the church is to teach in such a way so as to make disciples.
The only purpose for teaching is to move hearts to obey. This is the simple
definition of discipleship. Those listening must be converted to what is
being taught. It goes much further than being present to listen.
For the grace of God that brings
salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness
and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives
in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-- the glorious
appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for
us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people
that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (NIV)
In order to serve the Lord we must have
the patience to follow him wherever he may lead. Driving a car
is a difficult task but I find being a passenger even more difficult. Allowing
someone else to have control over the direction I am going is sometimes
unbearable. Many times I find myself reaching for the steering wheel or
stepping on an invisible break. However, I know if I ever get hold of the
steering wheel, while I am in the passenger’s seat I will steer us into
Following Jesus, serving God, is much like
being the passenger in a car. Though difficult to do, you have to let the
driver have control over where you are going.
Jesus instructed his disciples "teaching
them to obey everything I have commanded you." The
purpose of God's saving grace is that we might grow in grace to become
a disciple of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Personal obedience reveals our love
A young American engineer was sent to Ireland
for a year. When he left, his fiancé gave him a harmonica. She said,
"I want you to learn to play this: it will help to keep your mind off those
He wrote to her often and told he her that
he was practicing his harmonica every night.
After a year she met him at the airport, he
grabbed her to kiss her and she pushed back and said, "Wait before you
kiss me, I want to hear you play the harmonica."
That girl was no fool. She knew that the man’s
love would be reflected in what he did. If he’d done what he’d promised
– she’d know it by his actions.
A practical love for Christ is revealed
through personal obedience. The goal of making disciples is to
help individuals develop a personal faith in God. You can’t be a disciple
without personally allowing your heart to move you to obey what Christ
taught. Learning book chapter and verse of the Bible is of little value
if it doesn't bring our lives closer to the will of God. All the teaching
in the world is useless until the knowledge gained is used in a practical
way. Without obedience the words are powerless to accomplish their purpose.
Many in the church resent being confronted
with what they believe. Many who call themselves Christians resent the
church preaching against the ethics and values of the world. Many are looking
for churches that embrace the teaching of the world at large. It seems
as though the world has more influence on what we believe than God. It
is not unusual to find people who go to church and call themselves Christians
Go to a psychic
Check their horoscope daily
Are preoccupied with angels
Believe in reincarnation
Rub the statue of Buddha for good luck
Believe that Jesus was man "at his fullest
potential" rather than deity
Believe that God sponsors the American dream
and is primarily concerned for our material prosperity and enjoyment of
Are preoccupied with developing positive
self-esteem to the point that talk about sin and judgment is Puritanical
"A rabbi and soap maker who went for a walk
together. The soap maker had some negative things to say about religion:
"What good is religion? Just look around you. What do you see? Trouble,
misery, wars - even after all these years and years of preaching and teaching
about goodness, truth, peace. What good is religion with all its prayers
and sermons if all this evil still exists?
The rabbi kept quiet as they continued their
walk. Then they noticed a child playing in the gutter. The child was just
filthy with dirt and mud. The rabbi said to the soap maker: "Look at this
child! Now you say that soap makes people clean, but what good is it? With
all the soap in the world this child is still dirty. What good is soap
The soap maker immediately answered him: "But
rabbi, soap can’t do its job if it isn’t used!"
The rabbi said, "The same is true with religion."
There must be a twofold purpose of every class
here at the church. One is to teach the word for your personal obedience.The
second purpose is to impart knowledge of the word so that you might be
able to teach others.
There Are Different Ways to Teach
There are many different phases of the work
to making disciples. Making disciples is compared to sowing and reaping
throughout the New Testament. There are many phases to the work of farming
before there is a harvest. You must cultivate the soil, plant the seed,
water the field and keep the weeds out of the field before you can have
a decent crop to harvest.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9
What, after all, is Apollos?
And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the
Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered
it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is
anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the
man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to
his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's
The harvest reaped by the apostles preaching
on the day of Pentecost was the direct result of Jesus’ ministry. He had
spent three cultivating their hearts for that sermon. Actually, he had
spent his life cultivating hearts, planting seeds and watering the crop.
Look at the Sermon on the Mount, his compassion, his miracles, his death
and resurrection. His disciples were privileged to reap the abundant harvest
on Pentecost. However, it was Jesus who had cultivated the soil.
One aspect of sowing the seed is confrontation.
find Peter confronting the Jews on Pentecost. We find Paul confronting
the people on Mars Hill in Acts 17. Paul confronted the Jews in the synagogues.
Door knocking is confrontational. A few people
are good at door knocking. Don Gibson who visited with the Sojourners was
great at knocking on doors. He was of such a disposition that the rejection
didn't bother him. He was the one who knocked on Bill and Lucille Schilt’s
door. I think a confrontational approach is appropriate at the right time
and place. But if it is done in the wrong way it may close the door forever.
We must be careful with how we confront an
individual or confrontation may come across as a personal challenge. Challenging
others by name-calling and disparaging remarks about how they are dressed
is inappropriate. This often happens when we confront what others believe
through debating with them. The methods of persuasion have changed over
the last thirty years. Today confrontation is more subtle and indirect.
A Christian couple was in a waiting room with
several others. There was a Chinese couple having difficulty reading the
English instructions given to them. The Christians began making conversation
with them. They told them about their congregation’s English teaching program
that taught how to read the English language by using the Bible. They became
interested and started attending the classes. They not only learned English,
but later they eventual became Christians.
Some take an intellectual approach to
teaching the gospel. We may end up persuading others intellectually
without persuading them to make a commitment to Christ. We may do this
because we have never moved beyond an intellectual response to the knowledge
of Christ. Many within churches have opted for knowing about God rather
than knowing God for themselves. We know the steps to salvation. We can
discuss theology at length. We can spot religious error a mile away. These
may be the only things we are interested in teaching others.
We may find ourselves only intellectually
defending what we believe. We may find ourselves more concerned about what
the church teaches--where the church stands--what the church expects than
we are about where we stand as individuals. I have overheard some say,
"I'm not sure what this church wants me to teach?"
The best thing you can do is to let the world
see what you believe. Let them see the difference Jesus Christ has made
in your life.
Many search for church doctrines to embrace
rather than developing a personal faith in God. We
want a church to stand up and speak out on all the issues that we believe
are important. If and when we find that church, we end up embracing the
church rather than embracing God.
Intellectual knowledge must develop into personal
faith in God or all else is useless. Only a personal faith in God can save.
The world can't save us. Churches can't save us. Churches don't save people;
God saves people and adds them to his church. Christ is the savior of the
body, which is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).
The only way that we can become members of
Christ's church is through a knowledge of Christ that results in personal
faith in God. This knowledge must be taught. The knowledge of Christ must
eventually confront the way we are living. Eventually it must confront
the world intellectually and emotionally.
Our knowledge of Christ must confront
our intellect in such a way that our lives will become a living testimony
for Christ. The church of Christ isn't all that comfortable with
talking about a testimonial approach in reaching the lost. We believe that
only those who saw Jesus face to face were able to give a personal testimony
A woman was giving a testimony of how God
was working in her life. She was telling everyone that she wanted to take
a trip to the Holy Land. She was inquiring of God whether she should go
or not go. She woke up one morning and the digital clock read 7:47. She
just knew that it was a message from God and it referred to a 747 jet that
would take her to the Holy Land. I would be more inclined to believe that
it was a sign from God if it read 7:67 or DC:10. When thinking people see
through this, they see us as very superficial.
However, I believe that the right kind
of personal testimony is very effective. There is a powerful testimony
when others see the difference the knowledge of Christ makes in our personal
lives. The first century noticed that those turning the world upside down
had been with Jesus. They saw the difference Jesus made in their lives.
They were laying their lives on the line for what they believed.
Confronting the world with a living testimony
is probably one of the most powerful ways to reach the world. They need
to see the seeds of kindness in your life when you face the harsh realities
of life. They need to see the difference Christ makes for you.
If we are interested in sowing the seed of
the kingdom we must cultivate the world through revealing what Christ means
to us personally. This approach will cultivate hearts to accept the word
when spoken at the proper time.
Closely associated to the testimonial
approach of sowing the seed of the kingdom is the interpersonal approach.
The testimonial approach becomes interpersonal. When you clothe yourself
with gentleness, kindness, humility and patience, you will have an impact
upon your interpersonal relationships.
You may not be able to teach, but you can
help retain those who are taught and baptized by becoming a genuine friend.
The gospel is relational. It involves forming the right kind of relationships
with those we are associated with. Did you know that those who are baptized
into Christ will not continue in church attendance without developing personal
relationships with others in the church. That is a fact.
Not everyone is qualified to teach a Bible
study, but you can help cultivate the soil, you can engage in planting
the seeds of compassion, kindness, humility, etc. You can help keep the
weeds out of the church by determining to live by the values of Christ
kingdom rather than by the values of the world. You can invite others to
enjoy what you enjoy in Christ. You can invite others to church so they
can come in contact with someone that will be able to teach them.
Not everyone is able to teach someone the
Bible, but you can help plow the field to get it ready for someone else
to plant the seed.
I want you to take these packets of seeds
to remind you that the word of God is the seed of the kingdom. I want you
to place them in a place where you will be forced to run across them daily.
May I suggest that you put this small packet in your purse or wallet—I
know that is a place daily visited by most of us. That may be the closest
thing to some of our hearts.
When you run across this packet of seed, let
them remind you of the need to plant the seed of the kingdom in the hearts
of those you meet. You may just want to spend time trying to cultivate
someone’s heart to be receptive to the word, which will allow you to introduce
them to someone capable of teaching them.