The Imperative That Changed Me
I got to Starbucks early for a meeting yesterday, so I did what I always do when I have a few extra minutes, I pulled out a book. As I sat in the corner to read, a man came over and asked if I would mind if he sat in the chair next to me. Every Starbucks has a unique layout, but this one happened to have two leather chairs in the corner that were just a little too close together. What I mean is, if you sit in one chair and someone else sits in the other, you had better be prepared to intimately get to know them because these chairs were way too close for comfort. Well, as this man sat down he began to pull out some books from his bag. I immediately recognized one of the books he was reading as a commentary from the Word Biblical Commentary series and was intrigued. Nobody carries those commentaries around to read unless they are a seminary student or pastor, so I quickly introduced myself and asked him what he was studying. It turned out that he was not only a seminary student but was also a teacher for the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s School. He shared that he was teaching Greek participles to the pastors in their school and was brushing up before a lecture. Having never had any Greek I asked him what that meant and why someone should study Greek participles. He said, “Let me give you one example. In the Great Commission, in the original Greek did you know that there is only one imperative verb? The Greek word for “make disciples” is the only command in Matthew 28:19-20. The other words (going, baptizing, and teaching) are all just participles of that verb.” I was blown away. I had always heard people emphasize that we are to go, and as we go we are to make disciples, baptize new converts, and to teach. In reality, the weight of the text says that we are to make disciples as we go, baptizing those who get saved, and teaching them knowing that God is with us in that work.
So, let me ask you a question, how long have you been a Christian? In that time frame, how many people would you say have been your disciples? If the Great Commission is the marching orders of the Christian faith, why do you think so many of us ignore this imperative? If you wanted to be discipled, does your church have an easy “on-ramp” to that relationship? Would you even know where to begin?
An All-Too-Common Void
This issue has become one of the most important things I think about and speak about because it changed my life. I grew up in a pastor’s home, in church multiple times every week, and around Christians my whole life. Outside of my parents, I don’t remember a single time until college that anyone asked me any probing questions about my faith. I don’t remember anyone asking me about my faith in general. This void resulted in my living in a “Christian culture,” assuming that I was saved until the Lord graciously opened my eyes at a youth camp my senior year in high school. Attendance and participation is great, but it is no substitute for discipleship. Since then, God has graciously put men in my life who have poured their lives, their wisdom, their mistakes, and grace into mine. My life could be divided by discipleship or no discipleship, but it also could be broken down by the seasons I was being discipled by specific people or was pouring into specific men. As I grew, I began to notice friends all around me who were struggling on their own in their walks. Some of that vision shift was due to Joe White’s pressing on me through hosting Men at the Cross events, but it also just naturally seemed to happen as I would find myself surrounded by guys who had no one pouring into them. I did anything I could to help.
One Requirement: Just Create Some Space
Here’s the wild thing. Discipling others did not consume massive amounts of my time. I learned that discipleship did not require an expert. Discipling others meant nothing more than being aware and making some space in my schedule, my heart, and my home. You are growing. Everything that happens in your life is making you more like Christ. You also have more information already in your head and available to you easily than you could ever imagine. My buddy Brad Sykes says, “The problem in your walk with God is probably not a lack of information but a lack of doing something with the information you already have.” Let’s not make this complicated, let’s make disciples.
“The problem in your walk with God is probably not a lack of information but a lack of doing something with the information you already have.”
So, how do we make a disciple? Let me point out three things that you can do to make a disciple from Jesus ministry. Jesus is not only our Savior. He is also our example in the way that He lived. Everything that He did was to honor God. Jesus made disciples by taking them with him where He went, by having meals with them along the way, and by being vulnerable with His disciples.
Jesus Took His Disciples Wherever He Went
First, Jesus took the disciples with Him wherever He went. The first time I thought about this was when I was reading through the Gospels a few years ago and I came upon John 2:1-11. Weddings were huge events in those days in time. As you see in the text, it was a big deal that all the guests were taken care of. That’s when it hit me, why did Jesus bring the disciples to this family affair? They were probably not close to Jesus’ family or community at this point, so His bringing them seems to me to be a bit intrusive. Someone had to pay the bill for the party of 12 that joined Jesus to this wedding. The reality is, though, Jesus knew that discipleship isn’t about taking people to the mountain top every day, but it’s about being with them in everyday life. I don’t often need someone to teach me how to live at the greatest moments in their life. I need to know how to be a better husband, dad, employee, church member, etc… I need to know how to honor God with my money and how to walk through difficult situations as a believer seeking to bring God glory. If I only see my disciple at church or when I am on my “A-game” I am probably not making a disciple or I am probably not helping them connect the gospel into their struggles and real life. Take your disciple with you. I try and take someone with me on every trip I take, every time I preach somewhere, and I want them in my house and work with me as much as I can do that well. Look at your schedule and ask yourself where you could be bringing someone along with you and then ask someone to join you.
Jesus Ate with His Disciples
Second, Jesus ate a lot of meals with the disciples. I love how many times you see Jesus eating with people in the Bible. He is at Pharisee’s houses, tax collector’s houses, and private meals with the disciples. Jesus knew that meal times were significant opportunities to invest His life. Some of that was Jewish culture, but some of that was just wisdom. You have to eat every day, why not use that time to invest in someone? Breakfast is usually a wide open window for most people to meet. Lunch is a great time to pour into a co-worker. Dinner is a great time to invite someone into your home to spend time with you and your family. For four years, Lockwood Holmes bought my lunch every Tuesday. There is no telling how much that cost him financially, but it was a wise investment because since then I have done the same thing for several guys. Use the natural rhythms of your life to get to know someone, to jump into their problems with them, to share your struggles, and to see the Holy Spirit transform both of your lives.
Jesus Was Vulnerable with His Disciples
Lastly, Jesus was vulnerable. When I read about the night in Gethsemane, it always strikes me how vulnerable Jesus was. As if John 13-17 wasn’t enough, we see Jesus pleading in Gethsemane for the disciples to pray with Him. He knew what was ahead of Him and He not only shared it with them but He asked them to come alongside Him and care for Him. How often have you opened up about your struggles and asked someone to pray for you? Vulnerability is such a difficult place to find ourselves because it requires trust. Jesus trusted the disciples, even Peter whom He had already shared would betray Him. Vulnerability and trust are the tools we are given to move beyond our lives into community. It’s hard, but it starts with trusting God that your struggles are His opportunities to prove Himself better, stronger, and greater. It also requires trusting that God wants you to be invested and involved in others’ lives. This isn’t saying that you should share every detail, but it is a charge to share something. Discipleship is all about opening your life, your home, and your walk to help someone else grow and be able to do the same.
Where To Find a Disciple: The Proximity Rule
With those three suggestions on how to make disciples, let me quickly address where to find a disciple. Get your cell phone out, look at the last five people you texted. Start there. That is probably your boyfriend/girlfriend/our spouse. Start by investing in them. That probably includes a family member. Start by investing in them. That probably includes one of your dudes or your girls (depending on which you are) and that is the best place to start. Being a Discipler has nothing to do with age but everything to do with proximity. Pour into the people closest to you. Next, live with your eyes open. I don’t think God makes His will complicated. Therefore, making disciples won’t be a “Liam Neeson in Taken” scenario where you have to go on a global hunt to find one. It will be everyone in your life around you. Invest in them. Pour out what God has poured in. Take people along with you. Have meals with a purpose. Open up and share what’s great and what’s not so great. Get a disciple.