the weblog of Alan Knox

Do you want to be a disciple?

Posted by on Jul 30, 2007 in discipleship | 9 comments

A few months ago, God unexpectedly brought someone into my life who is a constant and consistent source of encouragement to me as I continue to study the church. Although he lives thousands of miles away from me, God has used the blog posts and comments of “Aussie John” to urge me forward in my understanding of the church and in living out what He is teaching me. Recently, Aussie John wrote a post called “Disciples Discipling“, which has caused me to once again think about the process that we call discipleship.

I think his post can be summed up in this statement:

It, therefore, must follow that being a discipler is about reproducing themselves, which reveals to us why it is more important to make a disciple maker than a disciple.

This may seem simple, and it may seem obvious, but it is greatly important for our understanding of making disciples. We seek to make disciples who also make disciples. In other words, disciple makers make other disciple makers.

This post inspired me to think about the disciple making process; and, in particular, the beginning of the disciple making process. The beginning of the disciple making process is often called evangelism. The purpose of evangelism is to present the good news of Jesus Christ through our words and our life to a person with the desire that God would convert the person and that person would then begin following Christ as a disciple.

Most of us would agree that evangelism is very important. In fact, I would argue that people who are obediently following Jesus Christ cannot stop themselves from speaking about their master. Many times, God uses the words and lives of believers to convince their friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other associates of the existence of God and the veracity of the good news of Jesus Christ. This type of evangelism often happens in the context of our day-to-day relationships with other people. We also know that God often provides spontaneous opportunities to present the good news of Jesus Christ with strangers, knowing that we may never see the person again.

But, what is the purpose of expressing the good news of Jesus Christ with someone? If our purpose is conversion, then our responsibility to that individual ends when that person either accepts or rejects our claims about Christ – and more important, when they either accept or reject the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. However, if the purpose of expressing the good news of Jesus Christ is making a disciple, then our responsibility is just beginning when that individual either accepts or rejects Christ.

In fact, as we approach someone – either an acquaintance or a stranger – with the intentions of sharing the good news, we should also approach the person with the intention of making a disciple. Thus, we should understand that we are entering into much more than a five to fifteen minute presentation of the gospel. Instead, we are entering into a disciple making relationship with this individual. With the advent of modern communications methods, even evangelizing strangers includes the intention of a continuing relationship with the new disciple.

This is not what I was taught. I was taught a concept of evangelism that was based more on the exception (Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch) than on the rule (every other instance of evangelism / discipleship in the New Testament). I was taught that my responsibility in evangelism ended in the presentation of the biblical truth claims about Jesus Christ – his life, death, burial, resurrection, and future return – and urging the person to trust Christ for salvation and new life. Whether the person accepted or rejected, my responsibility ended. If the person trusted Christ, it was then the responsibility of “the church” to disciple the individual. Thus, I was taught that it was my responsibility to make converts, while it was not necessarily my responsibility to make disciples.

The added responsibility – a long-term commitment to make a disciple vs. a short term commitment of presenting the good news – does not diminish the fact that this is our responsibility as a follower of Jesus Christ. This should not preclude us from approaching individuals with the desire to see them become disciples of Jesus Christ. However, recognizing this long-term commitment may help us to realize the importance of what we are attempting to do.

So, I agree completely with “Aussie John”. We need to be disciple makers who make disciple makers. Also, adding to his statement, I would say that we need to be evangelists who are disciple makers who make disciple makers.


9 Comments

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  1. 7-31-2007

    Alan,

    In my own personal experiences discipleship has started with “love”. There are very few people that we encounter that haven’t heard the Good News or don’t know exactly what it is.

    At the same time, there are very few people that know how to love the way Jesus loved his disciples.

    How do you think John 13:34-35 fits into this?

    “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    He says “love one another as I have loved you” What does that look like for us today?

    He says by doing this everyone will know who you are – His disciple.

    Evangilism/Good News is obviously paramount – but does that mean it should happen first?

    Great post -

    Chris

  2. 7-31-2007

    Alan,

    I too have been blessed by reading Aussie Johns blogs and by the comments he leaves on your blog. I would agree with him and you on discipleship.

    It reminds me of that old saying:

    “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.”

    Jeff

  3. 7-31-2007

    This is an area that has been on my heart this year.

    I want to be about the Father’s business as Jesus was.

    If I am going to be a followr of Jesus I want to share the gospel. Matthew 4:19

    Here is a good site, I found recently, to help with evangalism.
    http://www.thewayofthemaster.com

    If I am to love Christians, I have got to find a way not to be lost in a large church service.

    I am looking for small fellowships, house churches and small group ministry opportunities.

    Very good post Allen

    Scott McCrae

  4. 7-31-2007

    Chris,

    I agree completely! We cannot make disciples apart from love, and that includes loving people who are not following Christ.

    Jeff,

    I’ve learned much from Aussie John… things like “fair dinkum” and “good on ya mate”. And, more importantly, I’ve learned that as a leader it is very important for me to love people and to live what I teach.

    Scott,

    Yes, if we are going to follow Jesus then we will share the good news. And, if we are going to follow Jesus then we will spend the time it takes to make disciples.

    -Alan

  5. 8-3-2007

    Alan,

    I definitely agree with you and Aussie John about the importance of making disciple-makers. In fact, “Making Disciples, Making Disciple-Makers” was the motto we used to describe our church emphasis in the last church plant in which I had significant direct input.

    I also agree with you that this should affect the way we approach evangelism.

    However, I think I might say, in regard to your comments on the traditional practice of individuals “evangelizing”, and then handing over new converts to the church in order to be “discipled”: I think it is the responsibility of both the church and the individual believer (working from within the context of the church) to both “evangelize” and “disciple”. I think, as Evangelicals, we have perhaps done an overkill on the idea of “personal evangelism”. I think effective “evangelism”, just like effective “discipleship”, are best done working hand in hand with other believers in a “team” effort. This does not mean we will not sometimes have important one-on-one conversations with non-believers, and with new believers, regarding their relationship with Christ. However, in both cases, we should seek to involve other believers in the process as well, and coordinate our efforts, bringing to bear the strengths of different individuals with different giftings, and praying for each other.

  6. 5-10-2012

    Aussie John has keen spiritual insight; thanks for letting us know about him. Im going to follow him.
    To bring his point home, the ultimate disciple is our own children.
    Many christians have lost their sense of mission within their own families and traded it for a more exciting mission with outsiders.
    The stats on christian family dysfunction, college age kids leaving the church and the faith, adultery, porn and divorce, are all indicators of why our evangelism and discipleship are ineffective.
    Crunch the numbers.
    If a million families, each with two kids raised one of them to be successful discipler’s, every 25 yrs we would produce 500,000 movers and shakers in the kingdom.
    Not including what churches and ministries produce.
    And just imagine what our churches would be like if a majority of marriages were whole.
    The churches would reflect unity, joy and one anothering, without the need for executive leadership and programs to corral the sheep into their slots in the barnyard.
    We need to focus on our foundations as families because that’s what the church is, a family of families that reproduce exponentially.
    blessings
    Greg

  7. 5-11-2012

    Greg,

    I agree that the world would be a completely different place if all disciples of Jesus Christ helped others to become and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. So many of us have been taught (either by word or by example) that God cannot do that through us. It takes new teaching and new examples… or perhaps “old” teaching and examples.

    -Alan

  8. 5-11-2012

    Alan, Like you, and many others, I’m chomping at the bit to actually see an increased revelation of Jesus among us; among all the brethren who’s chief desire is to see Him increase.
    I don’t know if this is actually the last days, but it certainly appears similar to the time just before Jesus came, when there was anticipation among a few who longed with all their hearts to see the Lord before they died.
    Similarly, the flock of Gods children are trapped in the sheepfold of hireling shepherds, waiting for someone to come and open the gates and lead them into green pastures.
    I very much want to see the captives set free.
    I believe and envision a day in the near future that we fulfill our calling to be one people, not ecumenically, but rather with the revelation of Jesus Christ as the one head that rules us and the one heart that beats in our collective breasts.
    But when the King is returning, even for a visit, He must be heralded.
    There were only a few who read the signs of the times and did that; the wise men, Simeon, and Anna who spoke of Him to all in Jerusalem that longed for His coming, and John Baptist who plowed ahead, calling for them to break up their fallow ground because He was coming to rain righteousness on them.
    I dread the heavy cost to God’s people if only a few know the times of God’s visitation.
    The unprepared will be unnecessarily offended that He is upsetting their comfortable life, not recognizing that the husbandman has returned to take account of the vineyard He left behind in trust.
    This present and wonderful unfolding of the revelation of Jesus Christ across the globe forewarns of soon coming judgement and deliverance.
    Visitation always brings the two together.
    Do you believe this?
    blessings
    Greg

  9. 5-11-2012

    Greg,

    There will be wars and rumors of wars… The end is certainly sooner than it was. :)

    Like Jesus said, whether the end is tomorrow or in the next millennium, we should all be awake and ready.

    -Alan