Recipe For Making Disciples
You start with two cups of flour, a spoonful of honey, and a pinch of salt.
No, not really, although a Scriptural case could be made for the salt. Just before our Lord ascended to His royal throne in heaven at the right hand of God, before taking up His scepter, He gave a commission to His apostles. He told them, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19,20).
Though speaking specifically to His apostles on this occasion, His mandate to teach and make disciples of others applies to all of His disciples. The church at Thessalonica was commended for the part they played in making the gospel known in their area (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Faithful men of God were to teach others, who in turn would teach yet others (2 Timothy 2:2). And we recall how that in spite of being scattered by persecution, early Christians "went about teaching the word." (Acts 8:4).
Today, this noble and needed responsibility belongs to us. How is it accomplished? Many in the religious world thinks it takes some big organization or ministry. Others think it means some kind of personal work program. Others think that offering social events such as softball, bake sales, voter registration and such is the way to take care of the business of making disciples. But actually, the task of "making disciples" involves three things: evangelism, edification & equipping.
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." (1 Corinthians 3:6).
The part Paul played in this scenario, what he referred to as "planting", is what is referred to as to"evangelizing". To "evangelize" means to announce the good news. The goal of making this announcement is to give the hearer the opportunity to obey the gospel and thereby be saved by the grace of God from their sins (Acts 2:36-38; 8:30-31; 35).
God intends for all His people to be lights of truth in a dark world, just as the Christians at Thessalonica were. In becoming announcers of the good news about redemption in Christ and the hope of eternal life, we have two things that God has given us to use as tools:
The gospel. Never be ashamed of it! It is God's power to save souls! (Romans 1:16).
Our lives. We belong to God. We are not our own. Our time here is to be used to God's glory; to accomplish the tasks He has given us to do. It is both our duty and privilege to proclaim the excellencies of Christ, not only with our words but also our daily examples of godly courage and conviction (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; Matthew 5:16). While we are not eyewitnesses of Christ as were the apostles, our lives do bear testimony as to whether Jesus truly lives in us or not. Let your life be as a letter to the world from Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:1-4).
"...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:20).
A disciple is not complete when he is baptized into Christ Jesus for the remission of sins. Being "born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:3-5) is certainly the pivotal step in becoming what we ought to be. But a freshly born child of God is as an infant. He or she needs care and guidance. Just as in the physical world, no amount of excellent prenatal care is going to mean that the baby is self-sufficient when he or she is born, likewise, in the spiritual realm, when one is born again he needs tender loving care. To neglect this would be spiritual child abuse!
Jesus made it quite clear that the teaching is to continue after baptism. How to study, how to pray, how to worship, how to deal with life's daily questions, basic doctrines about God, Christ, The Holy Spirit, salvation, hope and so forth. They need to know how to go about living for Christ in their daily environments!
The ultimate goal of this process is to form Christ within each disciple (Galatians 4:19). Then, with Paul, the disciple can say, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives within me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20).
Earlier we had noticed that Paul did the planting at Corinth, but then Apollos watered. Where Paul evangelized, Apollos edified. Both the teachers as well as the students have a responsibility in seeing that edification takes place and this goal is reached. "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord,, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." (Colossians 2:6,7).
"...for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ..." (Ephesians 4:12).
A third part of making disciples is equipping the convert with whatever is necessary for him becoming a worker himself, also planting and watering so that the spiritual harvest may continue and abound. One led to Christ becomes the leader of others to Christ. This is exactly how the first century church grew. Not by carnal promotions or gimmickry, not by huge organizational structures and mechanisms, but by teachers using the power of the gospel to lead others form their lost conditions to the point where they became teachers as well.
If we consider again our analogy, evangelism is like the prenatal care given before birth; edification is the care given to a child as he matures, and equipping is the care given that allows the spiritually mature to to go out on his own to begin the process anew in another.
Reproduce After Own Kind
"Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind..." (Genesis 1:24a).
It is a natural fact. Living things reproduce after their own kind. Ducks have baby ducks. It is not only a biological fact, but also a spiritual fact. "Like begets like."
Would you hesitate saying "Follow me" or "Imitate me" ? Are you a good example of what a Christian ought to be? If not, then how can you beget another?
Why is it that Paul could say things like, "I exhort you therefore be imitators of me." (1 Corinthians 4:16)? Well, it is because he was imitating Christ, our example; "Be imitators of me as I am also of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1).
To invite someone to follow you as you follow Christ is not saying "I am perfect and have no flaw." Such a claim would be arrogant and false. But if I am "striving for perfection" and "seeking to conform to the image of Christ" then that attitude is worthy of imitation (Philippians 3:12-16). In order to give Christ to others, you must have Him yourself, for, "You can't give what you ain't got, and you can't come from where you ain't been."
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 5.6; June 1998