All the words of Jesus are important. He said nothing by chance, and in the power of the Holy Spirit the words of Jesus are transformative. Perhaps some of the most well-known of Jesus’ words take place as the resurrected Lord meets the disciples on a mountain he had told them to go to. They are recorded at the end of Matthew’s gospel.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:18-19.
The call is for disciples to make disciples. Jesus called and taught people; they were his learners. They saw him, learned from him and were sent out by him. Now, they were to do the same with others.
Tom Wright writes:
“As Jesus called the fishermen by the sea of Galilee, and trained them up as ‘learners’, imitating his way of life and coming little by little to understand his kingdom-message, so his followers ever since have the responsibility of calling men, women and children to follow him, and training them to understand and follow his message and his way.” (Matthew for Everyone, Part 2).
Our primary calling is to see others become disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
My primary question is: what do we need to be disciple-makers?
Can I suggest that this passage in Matthew 28 highlights several characteristics of disciple-makers.
Firstly, we are called to obedience. Earlier in the chapter we are told that the women are given a message by the risen Jesus – to go and tell the brothers to go to Galilee where they would see him. The disciples went to exactly where Jesus had told them to go. All 11, without any argument or recorded disagreement; they just went. They trusted the message that they were given and followed it to the letter. While their history is marked by episodes of defeat, discouragement and disappointment, the disciples response to a call from the risen Jesus was one of obedience. To be a disciple-maker we need to be listening for the call of Jesus and be ready to obey it.
Then there is the place of identity. Jesus is Lord and we are his. We are found in him. He is risen and we worship him. They were disciples of the one whom death couldn’t destroy. In the resurrected Jesus their hopelessness was replaced by adoration. Jesus is messiah and their first response is one of worship.
We can only make disciples as we are continuing to be discipled by him. Our encounter with God shapes our engagement with others. The first mark of the disciple is that we adore and are in awe of Jesus the Lord.
We want others to know him because he is wonderful to know.
Disciple-making is not first about strategies, programmes and plans; it is about adoration, worship and abandonment to the will of God. We have a confidence because we know who we are in Him.
Thirdly there is the place of authority. Jesus reminds His disciples that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” Matthew 28:18. It is based on this authority that Jesus then sends disciples to make disciples. The reaching of people in every part of the world in each generation is going to be based not on the natural gifting or clever ideas of the disciples, but by the authority of Jesus. Disciple-makers realise that it is in their weakness that God’s strength is revealed, and that the global mission of Jesus will be accomplished by people who are reliant on the authority and power of Jesus.
Lastly, I want to highlight the fact that disciples are supposed to go. The amazing thing about the life of a follower of Jesus is that they are called to share in his amazing mission to the world. We do not sit in a building attempting to attract disciples – we go into the world and make them.
So much of our time, in the western Church, appears to be about drawing people in instead of sending people out.
God’s mission plan has always involved sending. Sending Moses to Pharaoh, or Isaiah into the world, Jesus sending the seventy and so it goes on – God continually sends his worshipful followers into the world. The main question is: are we willing to go?
Do we love enough to shift ourselves and head out into the adventure of journeying with Jesus and with others? Have we become too comfortable and predictable? Are we waiting on others to go?
Jesus calls us to go.
Disciples are those who love the Lord. They know their identity is found in him. They go with the authority that comes from him alone, and they go, giving themselves for others.
Will we be a generation of Jesus disciples who see as our primary calling to go and become disciple-makers?