If we want to make Christian disciples, there’s only one place to look. At Jesus. Not Peter, not Paul, but Jesus. Jesus shows us a balance in discipleship that’s worth dissecting.
Balance is important in nearly every facet of life.
Ever try walking without balance: wavering side to side, staggering a few steps forward then a few steps back? It’s hard to move forward without good balance. It turns out Christian discipleship requires the same sort of balance walking does. Without balance in our walk with Christ we experience the same side-to-side, back-and-forth stagger of a baby learning to walk.
Jesus empowered ordinary people toward extraordinary feats with balanced approach to discipleship. In so doing, He changed the course of world history. We can too.
When Jesus asked Peter and Andrew to follow him in Matthew 4:19, he promised to make them “fishers of men.” This is interesting for a couple of reasons.
It’s the vogue Christian thing right now to “go to the people” instead of “making the people come to us.” The idea implies the Church (as individuals) should not be content with simply asking the lost to “come to church” but should rather “take the church to them.” I’ve even said this myself a time or two.
But in Matthew 4, we see something different. While Jesus engages Peter and Andrew “where they are,” he does so with the intention of immediately drawing them out of their current situation. He needed to make them before they could make others. Jesus needed to lead them away from their current lifestyles. Jesus could not simply tell them about Himself before sending them off to “make disciples.” No, Peter and Andrew needed to follow him through the equipping process of discipleship, and thus for ministry.
Christian movements have bubbled up time and again in hopes of helping us learn how to disciple people. Many of which are out-of-balance, despite their good intentions. The Missional Church movement is gaining ground as of late, which offers many well-versed, well-thought out solutions to the problems facing the American Church. But one of the points I sharply disagree with in that movement is that 100% of the body should be “sent” or making disciples, and that the church gathering should shrink to a point of near non-existence in order to emphasize a life of “sentness” (or disciple-making) in our communities. That all sounds great, but it doesn’t account for the full model Jesus discipleship. Like Peter, like Andrew, and like the rest of the twelve, Jesus needs to make us if we are to disciple others. We need to spend time with Him and his people before we go leading others (astray, if we aren’t careful).
No soldier goes to war without his armor, a weapon, and some skill. Of course, the Spirit of God is the ultimate weapon, and like Gideon, our jobs may be to perform the weirdest, most abstract tasks so God gets all the glory. Gideon simply needed to obey. But this just means that obedience to God is the first skill we need to learn.
Obedience cannot be understated. It is not a given. Obedience implies a denial of self and significant levels of trust and faith. Sometimes it’s even earned, like in Gideon’s story with his fleeces. But the sort of obedience Jesus calls us toward — a sacrificial, take-up-your-cross obedience — requires a faith and trust in God that is born from a relationship with Him. A relationship fostered by walking alongside him in life’s journey.
We need to obey, but in order to be obedient we, we must recognize the voice of the Spirit. And that recognition can only come from time spent with Him. And it’s during that time that God “makes” us.
Equipping is the first step to discipleship. And equipping happens around other believers, through the preaching and teaching of the Word and in the community of faith with whom we worship. It happens in the celebrations and testimonies on Sunday mornings, and through life relationships we form with our brothers and sisters — relationships we echo to those unsaved folks God has placed in our paths.
The scriptures tell us to put on the whole armor of God. It tells us to be equipped with truth, righteousness, readiness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. These are not instant and automatic.
We need to be made before we can make. We need to be prepared for what God has in store. That’s where discipleship begins.
How has God prepared you to make disciples? Is he preparing you now?
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