How DO YOU MAKE A DISCIPLE?
"Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: 'You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
If you are a christian, at some point you have heard it said, "WE ARE CALLED TO MAKE DISCIPLES."
While this phrase has been heard by millions, many christians, though eager to participate in this disciple making work, do not know how exactly they are supposed to accomplish this.
Discipleship happens in many ways. It happens as we sit in church listening to sermons, it happens in small groups as we discuss scripture, and it happens one on one as older Christians sit with younger Christians and guide them biblically through their life stage or through a specific issue.
I am suggesting three things that are necessary if we are going to make disciples: teaching, time, and tears.
Teaching: Teaching or giving someone instruction on how they should follow Christ is the primary objective in discipleship. The goal of discipleship is to help someone grow in Christ through their obedience to him. Done well, discipleship will produce more and more obedience to Christ in us.
We can only make disciples or teach someone effectively when we choose to let the Bible be the loudest voice in our lives, our churches, and in our souls. Advice is good, our personal experiences are important to share, but the meat of the discipleship is given when we open the Bible and instruct one another from it. If we are leading a small group, a ministry team, or leading a devotional with our children, we must let the Bible be the one to speak and not our ideas or theories. Whether in a group setting, one on one, in a Sunday gathering, or on a Wednesday night, we must be committed to, hold our leaders accountable to, and relentlessly pursue letting the Bible speak. And in turn, we must respond to it in obedience.
Time: It is always interesting when Christians become impatient with one another! It is interesting the lack of grace we show for one another. The second thing that discipleship requires is a frustration to the self-righteous. Discipleship cannot be rushed. Discipleship takes time.
Have you ever had surgery or know someone who has? I have had three. Each time my surgeon has told me take your time and do not push yourself too hard, because your body has been through a lot. Is the surgeon giving me permission to be lazy? Is he telling me that there should be no progress from me as time goes on? Absolutely not. Surgeons understand that going through a major procedure is hard to recover from, and therefore, allowing time for the patient to recover is a part of the process.
As time goes on and based on the patients recovery, the surgeon determines how vigorous to make therapeutic measures for the patient. Jesus is the great physician, and He knows exactly what He is doing. Just because we cannot see or have not seen results based on our standards, it doesn't mean that the great physician is not doing His work. And just like physical healing, spiritual change does not happen overnight!
As we walk alongside those who may be younger in the faith than we are, we must do so with patience. Many times in discipleship, we think success looks like a particular behavior simply stopping. This is one sign that discipleship has been successful, but just because a behavior stopped, it doesn't mean a heart has changed.
The work of checking the fruit of someone's life takes time and a commitment to walk alongside them and serve them by pointing them to the word of God as they grow. Paul knows it takes time for the rich word of Christ to dwell deep within us, so Paul did not take a rushed approach as he discipled. Paul spent years teaching, walking alongside, confronting, and serving the believers. If we are going to make disciples, we need to be sure that we are in it for the long haul because it takes time for people to grow. And we must not ever become fed up with someone, their pace, or how they fall short because we ourselves have not yet been perfected, and we still need grace. Paul was patient, and I believe he was so successful in discipleship because he had a real love for those he led, and this love led to tears.
Tears: Paul's tears symbolize his passion for Jesus, God's word, and God's people. Making a disciple is painful work. In it, we learn Christ-like compassion, long suffering, and even Christ- like grief over the ones who we are walking alongside. In discipleship, we learn and experience the passion God has for His people. Each week as I prepare to preach, when I counsel, when I pray for the church, it is like I can feel the consuming passion of God for His people. Discipleship leads to tears as we are allowed to feel the depth of God's love for his people. For this reason, Paul experiences tears as he teaches the people.
I am not saying you need to be emotional. But one way you know you are truly doing the work of ministry and discipleship is when the joys, pains, sins, and struggles of God's people begin to burden you and cause you to become passionate, sympathetic, and dedicated to see them look more like Jesus. Have you cried lately over your brothers and sisters?
There is much more that could be said of how we make a disciples. But three things that we read from Paul's experiences are his dedication to teaching the Bible to the people (for there is no other way for Christ's people to reflect him except by encountering), obeying the Lord, and honoring the teaching of the word of God.
There is no way we will see lives changed through us if we are not purposely patient with people for Christ's sake and their sake. There is no way we can make disciples if we do not pray for and experience Christ-like compassion, ownership, and sincere care that leads us to tears. Our tears represent our love for them and the well-being of our soul. Teaching, time, and tears are deeply connected. Because we are deeply moved to tearful care for souls, we give our time, and we give our time to be sure that our family in Christ is being taught His word.