Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to “go and make disciples” (Mt. 28:19). Just how are you supposed to do that? How will you know if you’ve obeyed His command? And how can we tell if we are obeying this command corporately as His church?
It seems from Christ’s commission that this thing call discipleship making should be both doable and measurable. Doable because He said in the same passage, He’d “…be with us always…”(Mt. 28:20). And rest assured if Christ is in it you know that it is doable. In fact Jesus said “apart from ME, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And, I mean really, why would He ask us to do something if it wasn’t doable and measurable? After-all He didn’t say go and make a disciple, but rather, “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). It is plural even in the Greek. Ergo it must be somehow doable and measurable.
So how does one go about making disciples? And what can be done to measure to see if you indeed are making disciples? Does it simply involve bringing numbers of people to a profession of faith in Christ? Is that what Jesus was saying? Fill the pews with new converts? Or is there more to it than leading lost souls to saying a prayer of repentance to the Savior?
“The verb translated as “make disciples”—math?teu?—is beautifully complex, carrying more meaning than simply accumulating converts. It communicates the idea of a learning believer—someone who is growing in his faith and his love for the Lord.” (John MacArthur, Grace to You)
Fortunately for us Jesus encapsulated the command. “(19) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
In the most simplistic manner the measurable element is growing evidence of obedience to Christ. If one has made a disciple for Christ, they will have chosen to obey Him and shown that decision to obey through baptism among other things. But it doesn’t necessarily begin nor certainly doesn’t stop there. Baptism is just one of the evidences of obedience in the disciples’ life.
Jesus commanded us to, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded…” (Matthew 28:20). This is an ongoing relationship of learning to know and follow Jesus. The leader and the learner walking ever closer to Christ. If you simply aim for “buts in the pew” you likely have not fulfilled His commission. The way I see it those “buts in the pew” needs to be showing growth in their relationship with Christ. Which oddly enough also includes the aspect that they too are called to “go and make disciples…teaching people to obey Christ”.
The Gospels are full of HIStory in this regard. We can learn from the Master Himself how He made disciples who would in due time make disciples for Him. As you read the gospel accounts for example you’ll notice that Jesus didn’t stop with “come follow me” (Matthew 4:19) that was only the beginning of their journey. They were to learn to become disciples by following the living Word, growing daily in their relationship with Him. If there is no evidence of growth through obedience than the person has not yet come to know and follow Jesus. “(31) …Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples“ (John 8:31 (NIV).
So how have we at Grace in the Heart of Penticton been making disciples? At Grace we exist to help people to know and follow Jesus. Like those who have gone before us we teach and model what we ourselves have learned and are learning to obey passing it on to those who will come after us. We make disciples first by being a disciple then together as disciples we deepen or relationship with Christ and invite others to do the same. You can’t make one if you aren’t one.
As a church we do this in many ways. Not simply the Sunday morning service; though that certainly plays a key part in it. As we come together for weekly fellowship and Bible Study “iron sharpens iron” and we grow to know and actually do the things Christ taught His disciples to do.
So we are intentional about doing things that help us grow in relationship with Him and each other. Throughout the week that iron sharpening iron continues in Grace small groups where we can dig deeper into not only His Word but how that Word shapes our relationship with Him and those he places around us.
As a church we offer opportunities to accelerate healthy growth through the various ministries offered here. Pastor Gail meets with people, one on one throughout the week, to help them find Christ when boundaries have been broken in their lives and they are in need of spiritual direction. She teaches them to follow Jesus and obey His Word. And Pastor Scott not only does a fine job with the youth of our community but often can be found mentoring and counseling young adults, and young married couples, many of whom have been a part of Grace’s youth in the past. And so our reach into the community is much larger than what one sees on the average Sunday. But we don’t stop there.
Daily I pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send forth His workers here in the Okanagan. And we as a church continue to invest our lives into people locally who are like minded when it comes to making disciples. Good people who love the LORD and want to do what He has gifted and commanded them to do.
During this past couple of years, we’ve come along side of Pastor Peter, an ordained street evangelist, through the monthly Sunday morning outreach service at Grace. We partner with him to reach out to those who are just barely making it in our community. Some of which are literally living on the streets and others who have become socially isolated because of either life’s circumstances or choices they have made. This is raw, very demanding, ministry. But when we as a church discerned that it was God’s will for us we embraced it and supported it physically and financially.
Personally it has been a real blessing for me to serve many of these soon to be disciples of Christ sharing the love of God. I enjoy sitting and listening to their stories and try to help them see their part in HIStory. And this has also given people in our church an avenue where they too can shine using their gifts for making disciples. People like Carl & Ann and Lynda who cook up a hearty breakfast and deliver it with a cheerful smile. As we come together with Pastor Peter to feed people breakfast, we pray with them and simply enjoy their company. And it seems they are warming to the fact that God not only exists but also that He wants a personal relationship with them. And when crisis hits many turn and ask for prayer and they begin to experience first hand that we serve a God who cares and answers prayer. Eyes are opening, several have come to faith and are becoming disciples of Jesus. Some are literally snatched from the fire in the last hours of their lives and have found the warm embrace of Christ through disciples like Pastor Peter.
Along with that ministry we’ve more recently joined forces with Summerland Alliance church, and many volunteers throughout the community in “God’s Kitchen”. Through God’s Kitchen, Grace has opened our doors wider to welcome even more of the needy who come and receive hot food and Christian fellowship every Tuesday morning. Again this is a front line ministry with people who are learning to be disciples through serving people in need of becoming disciples. The atmosphere is electric! People come enjoy a meal and learn to pray as they are getting to know and follow Jesus through His disciples. And yes this ministry is about making disciples not simply feeding hungry people.
In fact, they baptized two in September after a Wednesday Bible study that was created just to help those asking the big questions of life. That week one young woman convicted by the Spirit gave her life to the LORD and the other young woman who was a believer realized that she needed to take the important step of obedience and be baptized. So Sylvia taught them both about Baptism and both women were Baptized that very day.
As a ministry among homeless and very marginalized people you don’t necessarily wait for the next baptism class. After-all a homeless person could be dead or driven out of our city long before that. No when they say I need to be baptized today you do as Sylvia did…take them to the lake and then continue to teach them to obey everything Christ has commanded of them as long as opportunity allows. That Wednesday Bible study began with 2 leaders and one person who wanted to know more about Jesus. Some weeks now it’s 10-15 people getting to know and follow the Lord.
Sylvia the person in charge of God’s Kitchen is on a spiritual journey as of late that includes praying for healing and seeing God answer in marvelous and immediate ways. It’s totally cool to see her taking new disciples out and having them blown away as they pray for people in the malls or parks and God answers so powerfully! We’ve see some instant deliverance from pain and people who were skeptical trying to comprehend what just happened. And as those touched by the Lord ask questions these volunteers give them the only answer they can, Jesus Christ whom I follow has touched you. He wants you to know that He cares.
And so our reach into the community is much larger than what one sees on the average Sunday. In fact we are often 40-50 people the average Sunday morning. But we are all committed to knowing and following Jesus as best we can. And it takes each one sharing gifts and passions for Jesus to make us a disciple making church. Each person, from the people who clean the church or those who teach the children, the prayer warriors, the musicians and worships leaders, and everyone who support financially the ministries, those who keep the building in top shape, each and every person has a measurable share in making the disciples. We may fall down at times, but we get back up and continue to “go and make disciples of all nations”.
Yes all nations not just Penticton, though that is our primary mission field.
We as a church, are committed to “…go and make disciples of all nations…”(Mat. 28:19). We do this in part through our strategic partnerships with our MB Conferences and MB Missions and the denominational ties that the church has long been a part of. But we also listen for the Lord’s voice and do what He calls us as a church to do in His global strategy for sharing the Love of Christ to all nations. We do this through the web because I’m a geek who speaks fluent geek and He has a place for even me to use the gifts and talents He has given me.
For those who don’t know we as a Church have several areas of web presence; we stream weekly on YouTube, post on Facebook and personally I mentor young leaders through a mobile app called WhatsApp using a Bible Studies I’ve created from Scriptural portions in the week’s message. Weekly I’m told we are in touch with more than 3500 people in that Leadership network. This study helps one to dig deeper into His Word and see that from beginning to end the Bible is HIStory. All about Jesus Christ! Some of those leaders print the study out and use or distribute our web resources as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission half way around the world. Some of them are pastors and leaders that our missions to Kenya have come along side of and of whom I look up to with admiration and respect. We love them dearly! Sometimes they are fighting just to stay alive but they remain very faithful in loving people into the Kingdom, making disciples who make disciples.
This Kenya connection came through Jimmy and Lorna, a Kenyan man and his Canadian wife. They knew that God wanted to touch thousands of young men and women in Kenya, making disciples who make disciples. And they have seen more than a million profess faith in Christ and begin that journey during the last five years. Some of which have become leaders that speak to a Kenyan audience on a TV Show that we as Grace church helped them start called No Compromise and so the word goes out to 100’s of thousands weekly.
And all of this because of the people of Grace in the heart of Penticton, love the Lord and want to do their part in “making disciples of all nations”. And yet I still wrestle with wanting to help even more disciples who will go and make more disciples for Christ for no other reason than because that is the Great Commission He has called me to. Frankly, I love the LORD with all my heart and want to live and breath and move for Him wherever He opens a door.
I say all this to emphasize the point that it takes disciples to make disciples of all nations. No one person can or should try to do it on their own even though every true follower of Christ is called to “go and make disciples of all nations”. It is for this reason that Christ has gathered together people in local groups, that we call churches, people who minister and make disciples as He directs and empowers them to do. People like Grace in the Heart of Penticton. Those “buts in the pew” who come and worship Jesus Christ and who are committed to “go and make disciples of all nations”.
So what are you waiting for? GO! Be His disciple and as you are going Jesus will direct your path to where you too can help make disciples who will make disciples.
- Read Matthew 28:19-21 and Mark 16:15-20 in several versions.
- Who was Jesus talking to in these passages?
- Who helped you to know and follow Jesus?
- What are some of the gifts or talents God has given you?
- What are you most passionate about? How can you use that passion to help people know and follow Jesus?
- What one thing will you do this week to “go and make disciples”?