At the core of the Christian’s job is the task of discipleship. We read this clearly in our Lord’s pre-ascension words:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)
The following article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond
What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we make disciples we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow him (conversion) and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives (maturity).
Many Christians hear this and file it away in a cabinet of idealism. Sure, I’d like to disciple people but I really can’t. They feel like discipleship is above their pay grade. Is this true? Is discipleship something that only pastors, elders and the “mature” do? Or is it for everyone?
Here is my main point: disciple-making is ordinary Christianity. It is fundamental to it. Like learning to count and say your alphabet in the natural realm, there is scarcely any part of the Christian life where discipleship does not touch. In so far as Christianity is a community faith, it is a disciple-making faith.
There may be a dozen different paradigms flying around when you hear discipleship. Some people insist on reading a book, meeting for coffee, eating a meal, working out, etc. All of these may aid the work of discipleship but they are not a prerequisite for or the necessary substance of it. Jesus never gave us a program for discipleship but he gave us his example and a broad, far-reaching command to do it. As a result, we have great freedom and a great burden for discipleship.
What does it look like? When Jesus commands us to make disciples he intends for us to live our lives in obedience to him in the presence of other people (believers and unbelievers). This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.
LET ME GIVE YOU SOME EXAMPLES:
Discipleship happens when a guy wants to be married but doesn’t have a game-plan for how to go about it. He asks another brother for guidance and help. This brother takes him out for lunch and talks through some biblical and practical principles. He then commits to pray for him, to be available for questions, and to meet occasionally to talk about his progress.
Discipleship happens when a mom with two toddlers drops something off that she borrowed from another sister at church. During the exchange they get to talking and the young mom expresses her feelings of fatigue and failure to measure up to her perceived standards of motherhood. The other woman listens to her, reminds her of Scripture, prays with her, and then continues to come alongside of her for encouragement in the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a dad points out a scantily dressed lady and tells his teenage sons that what they see is not beauty. He explains to them what beauty is as it relates to God’s character and will. He continues to tell, show, and emphasize the true beauty that God delights in (1 Peter 3:3–4).
Discipleship happens when a brother notices another brother is running hard after his job and neglecting his family and ministry. He comes alongside of his brother to remind him of the true and lasting treasure, and the proper perspective on work.
Discipleship happens when a mom is at the park with her children. At one point the kids become unruly and she patiently, graciously but faithfully, disciplines her children. There are many watching eyes around her. Both the believing and unbelieving women are intrigued. Conversations begin and soon the fruit of the Spirit points to the matchless worth of Christ.
Discipleship happens when a home-school mom breaks away with free time only to go to the same coffee house hoping to make new friends and open doors for sharing the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a single woman senses another single woman’s discontentment in being single. She makes it a point to come alongside of her for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.
These are just everyday, ordinary occurrences. In fact, I picked them from the ordinary lives of people in our church family. It is this ordinary work that pushes the church ahead toward maturity while protecting her from spiritual shipwreck.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:13–14)
Discipleship is the ordinary practice of believers. You could say that Christianity is more than discipleship, but it is not less. We are our brother’s keeper. It’s in the job description.
This article was previously published as and originally titled “Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity” by Erik Raymond
You don’t find monkeys base jumping, or gorillas scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, or chimps parachuting from planes at 20,000 feet.
Only human beings have a desire to transcend their natural limitations, to take risks in order to make a mark and be remembered.
What’s more, only human beings long to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s through making some breakthrough for science, or defining a new point of excellence in our profession, or giving our time and money for charity, or even raising great kids, we long to leave a legacy.
We are wired for significance through achievement.
The Judeo/Christian faith teaches that humankind is made in the image of a wise, benevolent, just and, above all, loving Father. We were made to inhabit a special place of favour under God, overseeing his natural creation and developing its awesome potential.
In this, we are like God himself. Throughout the Bible, God revealed himself as someone who thinks in epic, heroic terms.
The God of the Bible aligns himself with the underdog; he exalts the lowly and brings success to the little guy, in defiance of the odds; think David and Goliath.
God takes risks.
The birth of Jesus labelled the incarnation was the greatest risk of all. According to the Bible, God the Son took on human form to rescue us from ourselves, to redeem our lives to bring us into the Kingdom of heaven. As St. John put it, ‘he came unto his own, but his own received him not.’
This was a massive risk. Human beings are creatures of free will, with the capacity to accept or refuse any gift, no matter how lovingly it is given. The sinful, fallen tendencies in our nature makes us more likely to walk away from God than to accept him, even when He comes to teach us profound things about love and to perform amazing acts of mercy.
From a human standpoint – and we must remember that Jesus who was fully God was also fully man and so as a human – the cross was a heroic act. The four gospels amplify the fact that Jesus had every chance to avoid it.
On many occasions, he foretold how he would die – and why. His disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying. ‘What’s all this talk about dying?’ they thought, ‘He’s so full of life!’
In the last week of his life, Jesus’ every word and action seems to have been designed to bring on a confrontation with the authorities and eventually hasten his demise. All along, he was pursuing the cross.
‘No man takes my life from me,’ he said. ‘I lay it down willingly.’ He was no victim of circumstance: taking this path was his choice.
Jesus may have thought: ‘What if nobody ever remembers this moment? What if my death is forgotten, my life and all that I’ve done simply buried in history? What if people don’t accept this salvation which, for me, comes at such a high price?’
Today, the life and death of Christ form a standard against which other human achievements are measured.
They show us that achievement often comes on the other side of adversity; that heroism is usually born in the fires of trial; that the world is changed not by celebrity-seekers but by people who take self-denying risks to improve the lot of others.
In a culture that is so smitten with the self-importance of celebrity, so taken with the idea of fame for fame’s sake, it’s healthy for us to remember that celebrity itself does little to change the world for good.
If any modern day celebrity were to remind us that self-sacrifice and service, combined with a voice of hope, are the way to real and lasting influence, then perhaps their recognition could be the used as an achievement. Until then celebrity is empty. We need to celebrate the heroism of selfless accomplishments not selfish accolades.
Photo credit: Guardian UK
The definition of the word Gospel can be summed up as ‘the good news,’ referring to the message about Jesus. But what is so good about this good news?
First of all, know what ‘the good news’ is not. Even after giving their lives to Christ, many believe that they need to be good for God to bless them. They become influenced by incorrect teaching or people’s expectations on them and come to believe that if they make mistakes, God is not happy with them. That is not the Gospel we read about in the Bible. The good news is not: “God is unhappy with you!”
When you give your life to Jesus, your relationship with God becomes all about what Jesus has done—not what you have done or have failed to do. Romans 5:19 (NKJV) says “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” In other words, one man (Adam) sinned and made us sinners. Another man (Jesus) was perfectly obedient and made all who call Him their saviour righteous (in right standing with God). Adam broke the agreement mankind had with God. Jesus restores it when you give your life to Him.
Why is it such good news? Because we don’t have to earn our way to Heaven! Your good behaviour is not involved—only come to Jesus as you are and believe.
Your relationship with God is not an “in and out” experience. Some think that when you make a mistake, you are out of His good books and when you ask forgiveness or behave well, you are in. It’s not true.
In fact, when you try to earn God’s acceptance, Galatians 2:21 (NLT) says you “treat the grace of God as meaningless.” It also says “if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” After all, what was the point of Jesus’ sacrifice if you still need to earn God’s approval?
The good news doesn’t stop with Heaven. Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV) says “the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor…heal the brokenhearted…proclaim liberty to the captives…comfort all who mourn….To give them beauty for ashes….The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
These verses tell us about the good news Jesus brings. If you feel broken, have lost hope and you can’t seem to trust again, Jesus can heal you everywhere you hurt. If you are held captive by addictions, He sets you free. If you struggle with your finances, He enables you to prosper. If you mourn, He comforts you. Even if you are mourning the loss of a dream—you do not have the marriage you had hoped for or you are filled with regret about your career—Jesus can replace your grief with joy!
There is more good news. The Bible contains thousands of promises God has made to mankind, but many in the Old Testament have ‘ifs’ attached: if you do this, God will do that. However, 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV) says “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” This verse tells us the ‘ifs’ have been removed…by Jesus! It does not say His promises are ours if we earn them. It’s not sometimes yes. It is YES.
When you really wrap your head around what Jesus has done, you begin to understand how good the good news really is. You come to know how amazing Jesus is and you fall in love with Him more than ever before!