Discipleship and making disciples has had a bad wrap in many of our circles. The abuses of Crossroads are hard to forget, especially for those who went through the worst parts of those movements (extreme, non-mutual accountability; hierarchy, etc).
Some get suspicious just hearing the word discipleship.
For others, all they hear is another program like children’s ministry, or Bible class ministry.
Neither of these responses really align with what we see in the New Testament. Jesus made disciples who made disciples. This was part of the DNA of the early church. We hear that built into the great commission in Matthew 28 – we heard “Go and baptize.” Jesus said “Go and make disciples.” How do you make a disciple, Jesus? By baptizing them and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded. Well, he instructed them to go and make disciples so that is part of what is taught to be obeyed as they make disciples. It makes a circle that shouldn’t have ever been broken.
We do many things but too few churches are actively, intentionally discipling people, much less training people to be disciple-makers. There is a big difference between the two (thanks to Bobby Harrington and others for making this point over and over again…the difference between making disciples and making disciple makers is huge). One replicates the other probably doesn’t.
And this instruction wasn’t just for the 11 there in Matthew 28. We see in Acts that disciples made disciples apart from the 11. This is specifically stated in Acts 8:1-4,
“That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison. 4 Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word.
Who was it that were scattered? “all except the apostles” and what did those who were scattered do? “went from place to place proclaiming the word.” I have heard people say the great commission was just for the 11. I don’t know how to arrive at that conclusion from the text itself. Going back to Acts 8, I wonder what they proclaimed and what their aims were? We aren’t told so I know I am operating on assumption here. I can imagine it had something to do with what the apostles taught and that what they taught had something to do with what Jesus taught going back to the great commission and the gospels.
Here is my point – I believe we need to allow the negative stigma on discipleship and making disciples to make sure we don’t embrace unhealthy practices once again…but instead of rejecting it all together, we will go back to the Bible and look to see how Jesus did it so we can imitate him.
In circles like Wineskins we have finally made a turn from a myopic focus on church out to a renewed focus on Jesus and imitating Him…if we did that we would get back to discipleship and making disciples as normative. Imitating Jesus is not just about morality. It is also about mission. The mission is more than evangelism/proclaiming to the lost. It is about making disciples. At least that is what Jesus said!