Did you realize that the title of this post is inherent in what is known as the Great Commission?
Jesus told his followers, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to keep everything I have commanded you.”
The teaching that Jesus wanted them to do was not comprised of sitting in a class or group setting, sharing with the “newbies” what Jesus had commanded to be done. The teaching was meant to be done through life lived in view of those “newbies.” It was meant to be done with someone at our shoulder seeing those commands of Jesus put into practice in real life situations. It meant that those new disciples would see the commands in action, to learn from those actions, so much so that they would then be able to replicate and go deeper in them on their own and then have someone at their shoulder learning from them.
And when that person has left the shoulder of the original disciple-maker and has become a disciple-maker on his/her own, that original disciple-maker seeks out someone to take the empty place at his/her shoulder.
Part of that disciple-making process is allowing a person who is already at your shoulder see how you reach out to draw someone else to your other shoulder, inviting that new person into discipleship. That is one of the commands that Jesus said was to be fleshed out and taught in and through real life. And it is in that way that a disciple, while at the shoulder of the one teaching and demonstrating, learns that to truly be a disciple of Jesus, one must also be a disciple-maker. A true disciple of Jesus is a disciple who makes more disciples. If someone who says s/he is a disciple, but is not actually involved in real-life disciple-making, I would assert that that person needs to seriously consider what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ.
This is where the disconnect is happening in congregations not experiencing true growth, which I define as creating new disciples, not disciples transferring from another congregation. Congregations only truly grow when disciples are making disciples who then make disciples.
The problem is that it is the rare case in non-growing congregations that current disciples have invited one or two or three others to be at their shoulder to watch, to learn, and then to participate in what it means to be a follower of Jesus, obedient to all commands, including that of making new disciples. In these congregations, the common thread missing is people pouring, in a discipling relationship, into the lives of others in real life and then having those people pour into the lives of others.
And this is in real life. I’m not talking about what is often categorized as “discipleship” – sitting in a class and just soaking in information and going no further. That is not discipleship. True disciple-making occurs out in the real world, in the down and dirty situation of real life.
I would strongly suggest that, if a follower, a disciple, of Jesus has been so for 3 or more years (I use this number because that was how long Jesus was physically with, training, His disciples) and is not actively involved in making disciples, there is a problem. I don’t know what the problem may be. It could be with how that person was discipled or it could be with the person him/herself. But there is a problem.
Look, being a disciple of Jesus cannot, MUST NOT, be defined as just believing in Jesus, being involved in a congregation and its programs of teaching in a classroom, a small group, or doing good in a community and trying to live how Jesus commanded. It MUST include the active making of other disciples who then make other disciples. It MUST include inviting others into one’s life, one’s world, to be at one’s shoulder, watching how it is put into practice in real life and how one works to draw others into the kingdom of God and then into a discipling relationship.
Anything less is a watered-down version of what Jesus commanded. And that is not good.