What is a disciple? The dictionary defines the word as “a follower or student of a teacher, leader or philosopher.” A disciple of Christ is defined as “a personal follower of Jesus during His life, especially one of the 12 Apostles.” Jesus defined a disciple in Matt. 4:19: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Lifeword Media Ministries has been working on a clear definition of discipleship and has landed on, “A disciple is someone who follows Jesus, is being transformed by Jesus and joins Him on mission to make disciples.” It follows the Matthew 4 formula of choosing, changing and committing to the mission of Jesus.
The time has come for our spiritual practices and disciplines to be hearty and healthy enough to sustain us as His disciples carrying out His mission. Discipleship is more about life transformation than it is about information transfer. Christianity is not just a set of doctrines to be affirmed but a way of life that is meant to be lived. The earliest Christians were described as “the Way” in Acts 9:2 simply because they were known as following “the way” of Jesus. We must rediscover a discipleship process of “missional spirituality” that connects our spiritual formation and growth practices with missional practices.
Living on mission means that you are always intentionally building relationships with those who are not disciples or followers of Jesus. My good friend Dave DeVries describes this as not settling for store-bought cookies but desiring to make them from scratch. In the Discipleship Wheel, Jim Putman describes a reproducible process (reproduction should be occurring) where when a person is born again, they become an infant in Christ. They then grow into childhood, a young adult and then a spiritual parent. Why do they use spiritual parent over spiritually mature? True discipleship is disciples making disciples who are making disciples.
The ultimate fruit of spiritual formation is not retreating from the world but missional engagement with the world. If you have chosen to follow Jesus, He will change you into whom He has called you to be, and that will lead you into living on mission with Jesus. If it does not, something is terribly broken in the discipleship process and your spiritual formation. When was the last time you had a gospel conversation with someone who is far from God? When is the last time you even had someone far from God on your radar? Who can you name that you are praying for an opportunity to share with them the love of Christ?
Discipleship seems to have been neutered in the reproductive process. Many speak of choosing and deciding to follow Christ. Many speak of the change that is occurring in their hearts and lives as He transforms them into His image. But few are speaking of how they have intentionally committed themselves to live on His mission. If you are a follower of Jesus, carefully listen to His admonitions. Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus said, “I came to seek and save the lost.” Jesus said, “Go into the highways and hedges to compel them to come in.” Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
Where do you begin?
• Begin in prayer. Pray for the Lord to send forth laborers into the harvest and allow that prayer to include you.
• Recommit to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Make more than a verbal or mental assent, but rather put sharing the gospel into your daily practice along with your spiritual disciplines.
• Remember that everything Jesus did as God incarnate was about seeking (deliberately connecting with people who are lost) and saving (deliberately helping followers grow in His grace and truth).
Are you and your church making disciples? If not, why not?
Build traction by developing your awareness of people around you who are far from God. Your goal is to make them aware of you and your love for Christ in a positive way. Hold yourself accountable. Then connect with them in order to know their name and for them to know yours. Pray for them daily. Spend quality time deepening your relationship with those you have connected with by listening to them and learning their story. At this point, you want to engage them in spiritual conversations. Once you know their story, be prepared to share the story of your life before you met Jesus, when you met Jesus and are now living for Jesus.
Check with us for information on tools such as BLESS (Begin with prayer, Listen, Eat, Serve, Story), developing “Oikos” (your primary base of relationships and relational sphere of influence), how to share your story, evangelism in one verse and other tools. But remember to first focus on loving people who are far from God.
Hopefully, your vision, and your church’s vision, is to introduce Jesus to as many people as possible in your surrounding area. Get a map of your area and determine, to the best of your ability, who knows Christ and who does not know Him. Determine how many people around you need Christ and how many you can effectively reach out to — is it 5, 10, 20 or more? Maybe before long, you will increase the size of your map.