On Sunday I preached a sermon entitled “Go and Make Disciples” (You can listen to the sermon here). I tried to make the point that making disciples is not a convenient option for the Christian, but because it is a command of Christ’s, we must live as disciples who make other disciples.
After I finished preaching, I realized that one sermon was not really enough to really drive Christ’s command home. As such, I really want to add to the sermon by giving some practical suggestions for what it means to make disciples in our own circles and community.
To “go and make disciples” seems like an overwhelming task. Just the sheer magnitude of the command “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19) causes many of us to get overwhelmed. For this reason, it’s easier just to do nothing. After all, how could we as disciples of Christ possibly make that many disciples?
Rest easy, my dear friend. Jesus had no intention for his eleven disciples to travel to every nation in the world of their day and make disciples. I think what Jesus expected was that when His disciples set foot to invest in the lives of others till the point that those people become disciples, the whole process of discipleship would have a multiplying effect. In other words, when you and I reach and teach one, that person is then prepared to reach and teach one. And when each Christian seeks to faithfully obey Christ’s command, soon enough disciples will be made in “all the nations.”
So, what are some ways that you can start obeying Christ’s command right now? The first thing you need to remember (as I said Sunday) is that discipleship (which we could also call “missional living”) cannot be seen as an “add on” to our lives. In the book Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, they (quoting Jonathan Dodson) say that
“[Being] missional is not an event we tack onto our already busy lives. It is our life. Mission should not be the way we live, not something we add onto life. We can be missional in everyday ways without even overloading our schedules.” (p 91)
Here I must reiterate, obeying Christ involves sacrifice! BUT – the payoff will be astounding and eternal.
Here are some suggestions to cultivate a missional lifestyle:
1. Seek to know the Gospel better.
This is number one on my list because it is the most basic, yet most vital, suggestion for cultivating a missional lifestyle. Your fear of living “evangelistically” likely comes in part from your lack of knowledge concerning the Gospel message. Let me ask, can you clearly articulate the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified? Do you know why Jesus had to die? Do you know what it means to be “born again?” Do you realize how serious our sin is in the sight of God?
You don’t need to be a biblical scholar to disciple others, but you do need to have a rudimentary knowledge of the foundational truths of the Christian message.
To better understand the Gospel, a great place to start is Greg Gilbert’s little book What is the Gospel? (If you attend Higher Ground, I have a copy of it if you would like to borrow it.) Another great book that has helped me to better understand the reasons behind Christ’s death is John Piper’s book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Understanding why Jesus came to the earth in the first place is hugely important if you want to disciple others.
2. Start talking about the Lord as part of your normal conversation.
This may be basic, but when we are with people who need to be discipled (either into the Kingdom or further into the Kingdom), we most often don’t say anything to them because we feel like it would be awkward to “work in” something about Jesus from out of nowhere. Chester and Timmis humorously illustrate this:
“So you are watching football [soccer] and you resort to saying things like, ‘At last a substitution. Did you know that Jesus could be your substitute?’ ‘Great goal. What about you? What’s the goal of your life?’ ‘Come on referee! That was never a penalty! Did you know Jesus paid the penalty for our sin?’” (p. 113)
Obviously this is unnatural and clumsy. But, if we make the point to talk about the Lord in the normal, everyday conversation of our lives, the people we want to disciple will soon learn that we are serious about our faith in Christ. Once they see this, it won’t be so awkward when we do introduce the gospel message.
And let me just say – the more you understand the Gospel, the more you will fall in love with Christ and will want to talk about Him with every chance you get! Evangelism should be nothing more than joyously talking about the Savior who has transformed your life.
3. Do things that involve non-Christians.
It’s funny, but as Christians our old law-abiding selves think that it would be very unchristian of us to hang around non-believers. We somehow think that in order to grow in holiness we need to always be around other “holy” people.
While there is little else in this world that can help our spiritual growth more than regularly gathering together with other believers, remember that the very first word in Jesus’ command is to “go.” This little word carries much weight. It implies that we get up, move out of our comfort zones, and enter into the unknown (think about Abraham, cf. Genesis 12:1). Jesus made it a point to hang out with non-believers throughout His earthly ministry. He sat with them, ate with them, and talked with them in order to reach them.
We need to do the same! This might mean inviting your neighbor over for a cookout or inviting a coworker on a hike. You could host a block party, hold a community yard sale, or simply invite someone to watch a football or baseball game with you. Opportunities abound!
The point is, get to know people outside of your “Christian circles.” This will also give you the opportunity to practice number 2 above. You never know what kinds of conversations the Holy Spirit may inspire!
4. Get involved with community events.
This is one of the easiest ways to meet people and love them for Christ. Right now my son Connor is playing baseball for the first time. As a kid, I was never much into sports, but now as an adult, the kid in me wants to live vicariously through him. Since he began practicing, I have had the opportunity to get to know several folks in my local community I would never have known otherwise. What’s even more amazing is the Lord is burdening my heart for one guy I am getting to know.
This is how the Spirit works! You are not called to reach everyone, but you are called to reach some. If we open ourselves up to being around others, the Holy Spirit will inevitably stir our hearts for one or two people in our new circle. From there, start practicing number 2 and 3 above. You never know what God will do!
Again, these are just suggestions. When it comes to living missionally the greater challenge is having a change of mind. Living as a Christian means taking up our cross and following Christ (Luke 9:23). This means our lives are not our own, but as disciples we have been saved to make Jesus famous. Ultimately, we need the Holy Spirit to fill us with His power so that we will live self-sacrificially and obey Jesus’ command to “Go.”
I will soon post a follow-up to this post on some suggested resources for cultivating family discipleship. Stay tuned!