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
October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Here’s an awesome opportunity to do something (insert guilt) we should have been doing all year long, me included: Stop and pause to express our thanks to our pastors.
This is an original, true story written by Bill Allison. It’s very powerful.
If you are a pastor, consider this my small token of appreciation to you for your commitment to ministry.
If you’re not a pastor, why don’t you forward this blog post to your pastor today with a personal note of thanks?
IN HONOUR OF LONG HAUL PASTORS
My Encounter with “Moses”
By Bill Allison
Something crazy and God-like happened to me on Sunday, September 12, 2004, during my ministry to the community of Chrisman, IL (population 1,200). The churches in that town rallied together for a combined church service in the city square in the morning–and later at an evening youth service. God showed up…and he was looking for me.
The scene: After the morning community service. I’ve finished speaking, and I am simply connecting with the people of Chrisman in the city square:
“Ninety-eight years old tomorrow?” I asked incredulously.
“That’s right, I’ll be ninety-eight years old tomorrow,” said the man in a voice that could barely be heard. He looked much stronger than his voice sounded.
“What did you do for work?” I asked.
“I was in the ministry for seventy-two years. That’s why you can barely hear me. Over the years, I preached so much that I preached my voice out.”
I don’t know exactly what happened in my heart at that moment other than to say that it was like an electrical shock ran through my body. God got my attention. Here was the man that I hope to be some day–a man who faithfully preached God’s Word until his voice finally gave out.
I asked curiously, “Were you married?”
He said, “I was married to the best minister’s wife in the world. We were married and did ministry together for seventy years.” He looked away from me for a moment and continued, “She has been in Heaven now for the last four years.” He looked to his right and left and said, “Two of my sons are with me today.”
It began to dawn on me that I was in the presence of a man I want to be like with all my heart. I was not about to lose this opportunity. So I went into sponge/learner mode as fast as I could–determined not to lose one bit of this opportunity to sit at the feet of this experienced godly man. “What advice would you give to a young preacher like me?” I asked sincerely.
Without a second of hesitation, he said, “Preach the Word! That is exactly what I tried to do my whole life. So I say preach the Word!” I’ve read this exhortation in Scripture many, many times. Even at my official commissioning and licensing for the ministry, the same words were said. And they were meaningful to me then. But somehow, coming from this gentle senior saint, it felt like it was coming from Moses himself!
Thinking back to a conversation I had with a very discouraged ministry friend last week, and knowing that the number one reason many leave vocational ministry is because of discouragement, I asked, “Were you ever deeply discouraged during your seventy-two years of ministry?”
“Yes, I was discouraged from time to time. But it was God’s Word that kept me going. I knew God wanted me to preach his Word since I was fourteen. I preached my first sermon when I was seventeen. Throughout my life, God’s Word has sustained me–even during the discouraging times.”
Again, I’ve heard this, knew this, and even said similar things. But somehow, because of his years of experience with walking with God, his authentic words drilled deep into my heart.
Other people from the community began to approach our small circle and engage me in conversation. I watched out of the corner of my eye as this man and his two sons slowly walked away. My heart began to race. I was filled with urgency. I MUST ASK THIS MAN TO PRAY FOR ME! The man and his sons were about twenty-five yards away from me when I suddenly ran to them. I did not mean to be rude to the people who had gathered around me, but I HAD to do this. When I caught up with them, I said from behind them, “Sir, will you please put your hands on me and pray for me?” I could not believe those words came out of my mouth. But I felt COMPELLED to have this man pray for me.
He turned around to look me right in the eyes. His eyes widened and he immediately placed his hands on my shoulders and, in that sweet, raspy, and worn out voice prayed the most beautiful quiet prayer of blessing I have ever heard. He prayed that I would flourish in my relationship with God, my wife, and my kids. He prayed I would be faithful to preach the Word. He prayed God would bless me and my ministry beyond all I could ever ask or think–for God’s glory. As he prayed I quietly began to weep. I was thinking two things: 1) This must be what it was like to receive the blessing of a patriarch in the Old Testament, and 2) Am I nuts? Am I starting to unravel emotionally here? The answer to this last question–yes. But as crazy as this whole deal was–I KNEW God was in it–and I am glad I listened to the Spirit’s voice and promptings.
When he pronounced the “amen,” his two sons and I looked up–and I could see one was weeping like I was–and the other was also glassy-eyed. I made eye contact with the man of God and as I went to say “thank you” I could not get the words out because a flood of new tears came. I finally regained my composure, shook the man’s hand in gratitude, and watched them walk away.
Frankly, God did something so deep in my heart in this brief encounter with this senior saint that I am still processing it. But it was deep and it was God–and I will never forget it. In some strange God-way, I feel like I received a blessing from Moses himself.
As is often the case, I went to minister, but ended up getting ministered to.
Copyright 2004 Bill Allison. Permission is granted to copy and send this to others, but not for commercial purposes.
First Adam vs. Last Adam
In the Bible, Paul called Jesus the “Last Adam” because he is the remedy for idolatry and the redeemer of humanity, where as the first Adam was the source of idolatry and the down fall of humanity.
–The first Adam turned from the Father in a garden; the last Adam turned to the Father in a garden.
–The first Adam was naked and unashamed; the last Adam was naked and bore our shame.
–The first Adam’s sin brought us thorns; the last Adam wore a crown of thorns.
–The first Adam substituted himself for God; the last Adam was God substituting himself for sinners.
–The first Adam sinned a ta tree;the last Adam bore our sin on a tree.
–The first Adam died as a sinner;the last Adam died for sinners.
According to the Bible,we die in Adam but are born again in Christ: “For as in Adam we all die,even so in Christ all shall be made alive”.
–In Adam there is condemnation, but in Christ there is salvation.
–In Adam we receive a sin nature, but in Christ we receive a new nature.
–In Adam we’re cursed, but in Christ we’re blessed.
–In Adam there is wrath and death, but in Christ there is love and life.
ARE YOU IN ADAM OR IN CHRIST?
This is incredibly important because, literally, your identity and your eternal destiny hang in the balance of whether you’re in Adam or you’re in Christ. You’re born in Adam as a sinner and you’re born again in Christ, who is the Saviour.
None of us are individuals alone. None of us are isolated. None of us stand alone. We’re part of one of two groups, one of two families, one of two teams, one of two nations: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Here’s how Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 15:21–22. “For as by a man came death,” that’s Adam, “by a man has also come the resurrection of the dead,” that’s Jesus. “For in Adam,” there’s one team, one group, one category, “all die”, but in Christ,” (here’s today’s big idea), “in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Who do you think you are?
God says that you’re created and you’re an image bearer. You’re made to mirror Jesus. Therefore, your true identity is not yours to create. It’s given to you by God. The real question you need to know the answer to is, “Who does God say that I am?”
There are only two categories of human beings: those who are in Adam, and those who are in Christ. Are you in Adam or in Christ? In Ephesians 1, Paul says that if you are in Christ, you can be faithful, you are blessed, you were chosen and made blameless, you are forgiven, you can know the will of God, you are reconciled, you have an inheritance, you have hope, and you have the Holy Spirit.
In Adam or in Christ
The Bible speaks of identity as being in Adam or in Christ, so much so that the Bible speaks of believers being in Christ no less than 216 times. Just the Apostle Paul himself, in the thirteen letters of the New Testament that he writes, he talks about us being in Christ. He’ll use language like, “in him, in the Beloved, in Christ,” 216 times. Let me say this: anyone who tells you something 216 times, number one, it’s important, number two, they’re afraid you’re going to forget it.
Do you know how many times the New Testament says that a Christian is a Christian and uses the language of “Christian”? Three times. The Bible says that your identity is ‘a Christian’ three times, and that your identity is ‘in Christ’ 216 times. It’s one of the primary ways, if not the most common way, that God refers to a Christian.
Here’s the difference between being in Adam and being in Christ: at the cross of Jesus Christ, he traded places with us. He literally traded places with me. All of the death, all of the shame, all of the condemnation that I deserve went to Jesus. All of the forgiveness, all of the love, all of the grace that Jesus rightly has as the sinless Son of God comes to me. What that does is that changes our identity.
I want you to see this
If you are in Christ, you are in Christ’s position and Christ is in your position. He suffers and dies so that you might be blessed and live. Do you believe that God the Father loves the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he is kind toward him, and gracious toward him, that his ear is attuned toward him, that his affection is devoted to him? I have great news for you. If you are in Christ, you stand in the position of Christ. You are loved as Christ is loved, you are blessed as Christ is blessed, you are embraced and adored as Christ is embraced and adored. I want you to see this so that you’ll live from your identity in Christ, that you’ll realize that you’re free from religion and trying to perform for God. You’ll be free from shame and condemnation, because all of that is taken care of for you by Christ and is available to you in Christ.
WHO WROTE THE BOOK?
For a brief time at the end of his second missionary journey, and then for more than two years on his third missionary journey, Paul ministered to the church at Ephesus (Acts 18:18–21; 19:1–41). During his time in this city that housed the famous temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, Paul saw many converted to faith in Jesus Christ and many others who opposed his preaching in the synagogues and homes. One prominent silversmith, Demetrius, who made implements for the worship of Artemis, found his business suffering greatly because people were converting to Christianity. The ensuing near-riot led Paul to leave the city, but only after the apostle had done much to stabilize and grow the Christian community there.
Where are we?
Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians sometime in AD 60–61, around the same time he wrote Colossians and Philemon, as he sent all three letters by the hand of Tychicus, accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12). It was during this time that Paul sat in Rome undergoing his first Roman imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), making Ephesians one of the four epistles commonly known as the Prison Epistles. The others are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Why is Ephesians so important?
Second Corinthians and Galatians abound with personal touches from Paul, either about his own life or that of the recipients. Ephesians, on the other hand, stands at the opposite end of the spectrum as one of Paul’s most formal letters. While Galatians offers instructions particularly important for those churches overrun with legalism, Ephesians deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice—regardless of any particular problem in the community.
What’s the big idea?
Paul divided his letter to the Ephesians into two clear segments; applying the truths of the first makes possible the actions and lifestyle of the second. Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter discussing God’s creation of a holy community by His gift of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The members of this community have been chosen by God through the work of Christ, adopted as sons and daughters of God, and brought near to the Father through faith in His Son. All people with this faith—Jews and Gentiles alike—were dead in their transgressions and sins but have been made alive because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
While Paul was not responding to a particular theological or moral problem, he wanted to protect against future problems by encouraging the Ephesians to mature in their faith. So after laying out profound theological truths in the first half of the book, Paul made his purpose clear: he expected that this community of faith would walk in accordance with its heavenly calling (Ephesians 4:1). As a result of the theological realities Christians accept by their faith in God, several practices should follow in their relationships within the church, in the home, and in the world.
How do I apply this?
The book of Ephesians hits on a wide range of moral and ethical behaviours, designed to ensure believers are living up to our heavenly calling. As we continue in our faith from day to day, month to month, and year to year, the temptation to get comfortable will always exist. However, Paul presented the gift of God in Christ and the benefits we receive so clearly that we cannot help but ask ourselves if our lives reflect that reality as they should.
How have you grown in your Christian life since you came to faith in Jesus Christ? The latter half of Ephesians makes clear that spiritual growth occurs primarily in community with others, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). Your Christian “walk” (in other words, your daily life) is to be characterized by unity, holiness, love, wisdom, and perseverance in spiritual warfare.
Maturity yields benefits in believers’ moral lives, but it extends far beyond that as well. Increased maturity benefits the community at large, leading us as Christians to present a more consistent witness to the working of God in our lives as well as protecting us from the harmful divisions and quarrels that have plagued so many communities throughout history.
Join us at Bethel Church in Lindsay ON. and follow along on our biblical voyage to and through Ephesus.