Posted on January 25, 2016.
By Pastor Skylar Spradlin
One of the great privileges of the Christian church is making disciples of Jesus Christ. In fact, making disciples is the desire of God for all believers and for every church. Discipleship is found all throughout the pages of Scripture. It is to be desired in all areas of life. Discipleship should take place in the family as parents, “teach [the commands of the Lord] diligently to [their] children” (Deut. 6:7). Discipleship should take place in general among Christians as, “one generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4). Discipleship should take place in the church as older men, “urge the younger men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6). However, this act of discipleship culminates in the Lord’s command to constantly, “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” (Matt. 28:19-20). This command, given to the future apostles, has been carried into the church as the great commission of the church. We are to baptize (evangelize the lost; baptism being a symbolic public profession of an inner salvation from Christ) and to teach (train new converts to obey) all the things of Christ to people of every nation in the world. Yet, we have to ask, are we truly making biblical disciples in our churches today?
This question has been asked quite a bit in recent years, and rightly so. It is a question that has echoed in church history and has been the desire of the church to fulfill since the commission of our Lord was given. Although this question has been revisited countless times in church history it must still be asked today so that we may constantly examine whether or not we are making biblical disciples or good church attenders. And, in asking the question, we must understand the importance of making biblical disciples.
The Importance of Making Biblical Disciples in the Church
The church must constantly and consistently ask herself this question, are we truly making biblical disciples, because making disciples is of great importance to the mission of God and to the glory of God. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles with Christ being the cornerstone that the whole church rests upon, but the church continues in her ministries and evangelism today by the faithful disciples of Christ that God has raised up among us. It is these believers that carry on the mission of God. It is these saints that take and send the gospel around the world so that all may know of the salvation found in Jesus (2 Cor. 5:18-20). It is these committed Christians that uphold the truth of God and proclaim His Word in a world that rejects it. These disciples are the salt of the earth, the light in darkness, and the followers who bear up and behold the name of Jesus in this corrupted and evil age. In the simplest form, disciples are the faithful children of God that He calls and uses to advance His kingdom through His church in this broken and starved world.
Discipleship isn’t reserved for a select few Christians who are better than everyone else. Discipleship is desired of every child of God in every church of God. All born-again Christians need to be faithful disciples! There even seems to be some indication in the book of Acts that all Christians in the early church were regarded as disciples (Acts 6:1,2,7; 9:1). The reason for this is becasue all true christians are to be true disciples. In fact, biblically speaking, the two should be inseperable. To be a Christian in Christ is to be a follower of Christ. Therefore, the church is to be filled with faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed to Him and want to further His name in the world. We are to make disciples that are completely dedicated to Christ so that we can further God’s mission of making more disciples who are fully committed to Christ. This is the goal and objective of believers!
However, disciples do more than just continue the mission of God; they also bring glory to God through their commitment to Him. If God is the most glorious being in the world and if He is the only One deserving and worthy of worship and allegiance, then when Christians commit their lives to Him as faithful disciples it shows the world that God is worth following and that He is worthy of devotion. This is Jesus’ point in Luke 14:25-33 as He reminds those who heard Him to count the cost of following Him. He teaches this because He has to be of more value in our lives than anything else. Jesus ends the passage in Luke 14 by saying, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Jesus is giving a hard command here. He is saying that nothing should compare to Him. We must renounce everything in our lives in comparison to following Him. Jesus must be priority number one in a person’s life. He must rank before family, children, friends, and all other people and all other things. Count the cost is the admonition of the Lord! Because when push comes to shove, when your family makes you choose between them and the Lord, when the world ridicules you for your faith in Christ, and when persecution comes bearing down upon you, you must choose Jesus. You must choose Him above comfort, above family, above fears, and above yourself.
This is why faithful disciples bring glory to God by their commitment, because when they count the cost of renouncing all to follow Jesus and still find Him as worthy to be followed then they display, by their commitment to Him, His unending and unfading glory and worth!
Disciples are important because they carry on the mission of God and they display the glory and worth of God to all creation. If these things are true, then our churches want to be full of disciples! If Jesus is truly worth renouncing everything in our lives in comparison to Him, then we do not long for half-heart Christians, we yearn for fully committed followers. If God has entrusted us with the mission of advancing His kingdom, then we want to fill the infantry with strong, and sold out followers of our King! Disciples are important, but are we truly making these kind of disciples in our congregations?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of church landscapes are not covered with biblical disciples. These sorts of followers are not easily found. Instead, churches are full of faithful attenders, faithful tithers, and occasional volunteers. Few churches are full of people who desire Christ, are faithful to Christ, and long to glorify Christ with everything in their lives. We have people who are strongly committed to the church, but not many people who are strongly committed to Christ. They are spoon fed, forced to work, and difficult to motivate. These fruits are the opposite of what are to be found in those who have an active prayer life, an active bible study habit, and a genuine desire for Jesus to be the most important person in their life. Our churches are lacking biblical disciples.
Serious Questions to Answer
What do we do about this drought of disciples? Where do we begin in making real disciples? What is a faithful disciple of Christ? Why are we not seeing more disciples in the church? What is the evidence of the problem? All these questions and more will be answered in this series on Making Biblical Disciples in the Local Church.
In the next serval instalments, we will examine what making disciples is not, what making biblical disciples really is, and we will examine how to make God-honoring disciples of Jesus Christ.