In the beginning, God made mankind and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:28).”
Does this still apply to you? If so, how do you do it?
Much later, after Jesus rose from the dead, He said to His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Does this still apply to you? If so, how do you do it?
We see these two sets of instructions as being vitally linked. When God made man and set him in His good creation, He instructed them to increase in number and to steward creation. When the work of Jesus created the New Humanity, washed clean by His sacrifice and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are given new instructions for being fruitful and multiplying. Because this New Humanity is not simply one of flesh and blood, the result of human reproduction. This is a humanity united in the Spirit. Not simply sons of man, but children of God.
So how do these children “reproduce”?
Jesus made disciples. He did not plant a church. He instructed His disciples to make disciples, to teach them to obey Jesus, and to baptize them, and then reassured them that He would always be with them. We are to make disciples. But how? Have you been discipled? Have you made a disciple?
Discipleship is at the core of what we do and how we do it. We know that no amount of money or programming will change a person's life. But personal investment, a costly love, a real relationship, all directed at observing what Christ as commanded, will bring significant and lasting change.
Because this is so important to us, we have thought a lot about it, and written about it. The third book written by Dr. Terry Goodwin is “The Disciple-Maker's Handbook.” His first book, “Disciple Driven Church” could be summarized as “what not to do”, and the second book, “Being the Church” could be summarized as “what to do.” This book could be summarized as “how to do what to do.” It is a guide for how to prepare yourself to make a disciple, and teach that disciple to make a disciple. It realigns our focus concerning “church growth” away from increasing numbers of attendees, and puts it on to our responsibility to obey Christ's commands to make disciples, teach them, and baptize them.
You can download a free pdf of the book, or buy a physical copy, in our online store. What follows is an excerpt from the book.
What is the Christian Life? It appears that the farther we get from the death and resurrection of Jesus, the more difficult this question has become to answer. Modern teachers and evangelists have distorted and maligned the basic purpose of the work of Jesus on the cross. The work of Jesus stands as the means to reconcile man to God. There is no other way to make this happen. Jesus paid the price to repair what was broken.
Once we realize this and accept His sacrifice by faith, we obtain the right to become children of God - John 1:12. What is often missed in today's church circles is that God is building something that only He can build. God is building a bride for His son Jesus. This bride does not consist of those that attend a service on a set day of the week at a building we call the church. This bride is built through the power and presence of God's Spirit. This bride must operate by God's design. This bride must be built by God's design.
What is God's design for building the church, Christ's bride? God has given us ample instruction of how the church is designed to gather, function and be led. In today's modern organized religion, many rely on the structure of the organization to make disciples. No such structure is outlined in scripture and the responsibility for making disciples is only commanded of the disciples. When we delegate the task to others, we miss out on God's chief means by which He builds the bride of Christ, His church. Only by returning to God's design for making disciples and building the church will we ever participate in the goal of redemption.
We must study the Great Commission in order to understand this process and apply it to our lives. We will never accidentally make disciples. We must prepare ourselves to make disciples. We must discipline ourselves to make disciples. We must first learn to be a disciple if we want to make disciples. This can all sound like hard work and it may be. This might be why the modern religious institutions focus on making converts or church members. We are never commanded by Christ to make converts or church members.
In Matthew 23:15 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for making converts and teaching them to be like themselves. God wants us to make disciples His way. He has not given us the green light to teach them whatever we want. We are to teach disciples to seek and follow Jesus, not our leaders or ourselves.
In order to go and make disciples we must first "BE" a disciple. Whose disciple are you? Are you a disciple of Jesus or someone else? Many people have accepted Christ by faith but have never been discipled. You teach what you know but you reproduce what you are. Do not fall into the same trap the Pharisees fell into. Don't convince yourself that you are making disciples and end up making them into followers of man.
What does it take to be a disciple of Jesus? You must define what a disciple is before you can make one or even be one. The best place to find the definition of a disciple is by looking to the one that commanded you to make them. This is what Jesus said about being His disciple.
[Luke 14:26] "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
[Luke 14:27]27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. ...
[Luke 14:33] "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
By Jesus' own words, we must love nothing above Him, even our own lives. We must be willing to suffer for His cause. We must also give up all of our own possessions. Do you meet His requirements? If you do then He says you will bear much fruit and prove to be His disciple - John 15:8.
In order to be a disciple of Jesus we must sacrifice. To become like Christ is to do what He did. Jesus had everything. He gave it all up to come here to people that had nothing and no hope. He served us and died for us so we could live forever with Him and share in everything. This is what Jesus did. We should do as He did. This is the Gospel.
The Goal of disciple-making is to bring believers to spiritual transformation and full maturity in Christ as they learn to follow Him in obedience and love. This must result in believers gathering together and living sacrificially together for others. These gathered disciples must learn to walk in both the physical and spiritual realms. This will result in the church being the supernatural, self-sacrificing, manifestation of God on earth. This is the bride that Jesus will return to claim! Disciples are meant to live like Christ, act like Christ, love like Christ and value what Christ valued. The church will display Christ to the world when this happens.
Before He ascended to the Father, Jesus gave a task to the remaining 11 disciples. This task is referred to as the Great Commission. In it, Jesus was giving instructions to His followers as to what they were to do after His departure. They are His final words to them and have great significance for us, especially as those who are called to continue their apostolic work (John 17:20-21). To study the Great Commission is to study the task to which we have been called by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you agree that the Great Commission is the mission of the Christ follower? Do you believe it is as relevant today as it was in the days in which He spoke it to the eleven?
If we really believe the Great Commission is the mission given to the Christ follower by our Lord and Savior, and if we believe it was not an option but a command, then we must commit ourselves to know it, understand it, own it, preach it, live it, and above all do it. Anything less dishonors it and the One Who gave it.
Therefore, a vital question to ask yourself as a Christ follower is: “Do I have a personal, specific, and intentional strategy to make disciples in my own life?”
Jesus not only laid down
the challenge of what we were supposed to do in order to win the
world, He lived it out personally.
Notice how He spent His three years of public ministry.
- He preached and ministered
to the crowds (the multitudes).
- He taught and deployed the
convinced (the “seventy”).
- He trained and challenged
the committed (the “twelve”).
- He focused on and mentored
the core (the “three”).
Jesus knew that though there was a time and place to teach and preach to the larger numbers of people, the success or failure of His movement would be in the hands of the smaller numbers. This strategic investment in individual people through organic, lifestyle discipleship was the key to the continuation of Jesus’ message and the establishment of His kingdom.
Question: If this was the strategy that Jesus used, commanded, empowered, and authorized, why would we use any other?