“To call myself a Christ follower and not be reproducing His life and love in other people is a contradiction.”
“If Jesus were physically living in Canada today, how would He spend His time, energy and money?”
Anyone seeking to know and be like Jesus needs to understand His passion for making disciples. During His three years of ministry, Jesus focused a large portion of His time and energy on building a community of Spirit-empowered followers who would love God and love others.
From the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus invited His disciples to follow Him. Their discipleship took place as they walked with Him—listening to Him teach and watching Him demonstrate what kingdom life looked like on earth. As their Rabbi, Jesus modelled the life and truth of the kingdom for them in a consistent and sacrificial manner. When the disciples received their commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), they understood what that required. They had lived that life with Jesus. Now they were to go and continue that disciple-making lifestyle with people from every nation.
From the ministry of Jesus, and from the life and ministry of His disciples, we learn the critical missional priority of making disciples. We cannot say we are living like Jesus or doing what He would do unless we are relationally engaged in a disciple-making lifestyle. And what does a disciple-making lifestyle look like? It simply means that there are people in my life who are being introduced to Jesus and experiencing the transformation He brings. It means I am walking with people who are learning to live out the truths of the kingdom and who themselves are reproducing the life of Jesus in others. If I am living a disciple-making lifestyle, then people will see, in tangible ways, what it means to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and how to love their neighbour as themselves. To call myself a Christ follower and not be reproducing His life and love in other people is a contradiction.
Once we have clearly grasped this call to disciple making, we need to remember that our job is always to point people toward Jesus. John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him one day and said to his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b). A little later he told his disciples, “He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). Paul instructed the Corinthian Christians to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). If we are truly making disciples, we will always be directing people’s allegiance to Jesus, the unseen Lord. Codependent relationships are easily forged with people who “need us,” those who find us a more tangible presence in their lives. It is easy to develop patterns of ministry—even parenting styles—that keep people looking to us rather than to Jesus. Jesus alone is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a). The ultimate goal of disciple making is to help people see Jesus as their source of life, wisdom and purpose. With the Spirit’s help, we transfer people’s allegiance from the seen to the unseen, from our temporal influence to His forever presence.
Two books that have shaped my understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry are A. B. Bruce’s The Training of the Twelve and Robert E. Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism. Both of these authors articulate the principles and practices of making disciples through a relationally based lifestyle. Another excellent contribution to this subject is Rainer Mittelstaedt’s recently released Ministering Forward: Mentoring Tomorrow’s Christian Leaders. In his chapter titled, “How Did Jesus Mentor?” Mittelstaedt conducts a thorough review of Jesus’ disciple-making practices and shows us how we, as followers of Jesus, can establish these practices in our lives. I recommend his book to you. I will be featuring it in the 2017 gift book I’m writing entitled If Jesus …
Let’s pray: Lord, thank You for the invitation to follow You. It is the greatest privilege we could imagine. And thank You for the Christ followers You have used to disciple us, showing us how to love You and love others. Fill us with a passion to live a disciple-making lifestyle. In Your name and for Your glory. Amen.
This editorial appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.