The implicit goal of leadership is not in keeping people happy, but helping them become holy. Help people to explore the faith, discover God’s love, and keep growing at living out and applying their faith. Strategic leadership directs people to get involved in systematic theological growth, personal disciplines, strong Christology, and biblical priorities. Continually adapt structures to best serve these purposes and to maximize their effectiveness on the members and surrounding communities. Avoid squeezing people into structures, but rather wrap structures around the energies, vision and gifting of its participants. Direct them to align their ways of working and relating to express and demonstrate the gospel they proclaim.
Perhaps the most fundamental and basic reason for making disciples is that it is a clear directive from Jesus Himself! Before leaving the planet, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples, teaching others the very things they learned over the last few years of travel with Jesus. This command was not for Jesus’ earthly followers alone, but for us also. We are to be disciple-makers in simple obedience. Disciples are obedient…that’s what makes them disciples.
Discipleship is also vitally important because it’s the way that people learn the will and ways of God. Sadly our culture has done a poor job of maintaining apprenticeships and passing on the baton to future leaders in many vocations. In church life, we cannot afford to fail in this way. We must undertake discipleship much more seriously, lest this generation grows up not knowing God.
Making disciples is also important because it teaches both involved in the discipleship relationship. Regardless of who may be older or wiser, in a discipleship setting each person learns and grows in faith, maturity, and knowledge. A true discipleship relationship is not simply about one person teaching another as much as it is about sharing life together and learning from each other. Such a relationship is mutually beneficial.
Making disciples is crucial because when we don’t make disciples we fail to engage in the full expression of Christ. Through disciple making, all the body of Christ is able to come together and exercise their varying gifts within the context of loving relationships. People are also able to share their burdens, struggles and pain within those same bonds. Discipleship is not only the way we mentor, coach and teach the way of Jesus, it is the way we live like Jesus. Jesus chose disciples, people who not only learned from Him but people with whom He shared life. He cried with them, laughed with them and shared intimate moments of love and life that not everyone else was privy. Jesus’ disciples ultimately became His family.
Making disciples is important because it is the Lord’s chosen method of spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. During His public ministry, Jesus spent more than three years making disciples—teaching and training His chosen twelve. He gave them many convincing proofs that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah; they believed in Him, though imperfectly. He spoke to the crowds, but often He drew the disciples aside privately to teach them the meaning of His parables and miracles. He sent them out on ministry assignments. He also taught them that soon He would be returning to His Father following His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21; John 12:23-36, 14:2-4). Though they could not comprehend it, He made the disciples this astonishing promise: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Jesus also promised to send His Spirit to be with them forever (John 14:16-17).
As promised, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came with power on the believers, who then were emboldened to speak the Good News to everyone. The remainder of the Book of Acts gives the exciting account of all that was accomplished through them. In one city the opposition said, “These who have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6 KJV). Multitudes placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and they also became disciples. When strong persecution came from the false religious leaders, they dispersed to other areas and continued to obey Christ’s command. Churches were established throughout the Roman Empire, and eventually in other nations.
Later, because of disciples such as Martin Luther and others, Europe was opened to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Reformation. Eventually, Christians emigrated to the New World to make Christ known. Though the world still is not completely evangelized, the challenge is as viable now as ever before. The command of our Lord remains – “Go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The characteristics of a disciple may be simply stated as:
• one who is assured of his salvation (John 3:16) and is activated by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:26-27);
• one who is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18); and
• one who shares Christ’s burden for the lost souls of men and women. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).
Let’s think about that fact and begin doing something about it! If you would like to have conversations related to this blog post, why not drop me a line so we can begin your journey and conversation.
You can connect with Dr. Tom Cheyney and the RENOVATE Church Revitalization Coaching Network additionally via Facebook at RENOVATE Conference. Tom is the co-author of Spin-Off Churches (B&H Publishers), a conference speaker and a frequent writer on church planting, new church health, and church revitalization. Tom’s latest book is going to press entitled Ninety Church Revitalization Lessons Learned the Hard Way: A Primer Before You Jump Into Church Renewal. Also, be looking for The Biblical Foundations for Church Revitalization by Tom Cheyney and Terry Rials later this year. If you or your church would like more information about how to be considered for the next series of RENOVATE Church Revitalization Applicants you may contact him at Tom@renovateconference.org, or firstname.lastname@example.org.