The following article was originally posted on the SEND Network site here.
I am ecstatic that much of the conversation in church planting and church leadership has been moving towards the topic of discipleship.
Books are being written, conferences are being themed and leaders are calling the church to consider the core mission of the church—making disciples of Jesus.
The church is certainly talking about disciple making, but at the core, what is it?
THE GREAT COMMISSION
When it comes to the essentials of disciple-making, the most crucial passage we must consider in all of Scripture is the Great Commission. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is recounted like this:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 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 (ESV)
While the basic content of discipleship is simple, the missing ingredient in most churches is not one of content, but one of obedience in action. As a pastor committed to the local church and making disciples of Jesus, I must consistently remember both the simplicity and the urgency of Jesus’ commission to his first disciples, and recognize that disciple making has not changed in 2000 years.
The Great Commission is commanded on the authority of the risen Christ, who reigns as Lord now and forever. We are also reminded in verse 20 that the Great Commission is pursued with the presence of Jesus, who will be with us in the task of bringing glory to God.
But what is the essential content of disciple making?
The first essential component of making disciples is “go.” Discipleship at its very core requires obedience to follow Jesus and make him famous in the nations. By God’s design, the gospel will be proclaimed by His people among those who do not yet know Him, and we as God’s people must go to the nations.
While some people are called of God to move overseas to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, every believer in Christ is called to participate in making disciples of the nations.
For some of us, engaging in discipling the nations means intentionally crossing the street to have a conversation. It means doing ordinary things with gospel intentionality, and showing others how all of life is submitted to the reign and rule of Christ—even buying groceries, coaching soccer or enjoying hard work to the glory of God.
In addition to going, disciples of Jesus are commanded to baptized. Baptism is primarily about identifying with Jesus and his lordship. Baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality that we no longer live for ourselves, but for the sake of God and his glory.
Baptism is a clear reminder of our new identity in Christ, and a reminder to those who have participated in this ordinance that we have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection. The church of God must tell the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and if people respond in repentance and faith, we must baptize them!
Teach to Obey
After baptism, we must be committed to the final command and teach people to obey. Disciple-making involves both teaching content and obedience. At the very core of discipleship are the commands of Jesus.
If you were to ask the people you are leading “what are the basic commands of Jesus?” what would they say? In my experience, many people in our churches and ministries are woefully lacking when it comes to knowing the basics of the teachings of Jesus like repent and believe the gospel, love God and your neighbor, give generously, serve the poor, make disciples and many others.
While the basic content of discipleship is simple, the missing ingredient in most churches is not one of content, but one of obedience in action. Part of being an effective disciple maker is to expect people to actually obey the commandments that Jesus gave us. Quite simply, if you are teaching great content but not holding people accountable to obeying the commands of God, you are not making disciples of Jesus!
While this post may seem rudimentary to many, the simplest and most foundational truths are often the ones that become assumed. The moment you assume something, you lose sight of its importance and begin searching for other things to fill its place. Discipleship at its essence is incredibly simple—Go, Baptize, Teach to Obey. We complicate discipleship when we make it about anything more than those simple things.