Strange as it may sound, I was first discipled as a teenager in a Sunday School class! The young man, Daniel who taught us was preparing with his wife, to be missionaries of our local church to Papua New Guinea. The 2 years he spent teaching our weekly small class had a profound effect on my life.
Daniel the missionary shared and opened up his life to us – testimonies, answered prayers, struggles, lessons learned, etc., such that we saw a model of what a true obedient disciple of Jesus looked like at close hand. But he also actively encouraged, challenged and pushed us out to be and become the same – disciples who would trust and obey Jesus with our lives. In many ways, I realize now that Daniel was doing what His Lord did with the first disciples.
Disciple-making is preparation for the future but it engages and involves us in where we are in the present. Last week, we saw that Jesus 1) invited/selected a few to disciple and 2) modeled a way of life and ministry for them to imitate and follow. Here are 3 more things he did to ready them for their life’s work.
Train — Jesus did not only appoint and give a select group to have a first-hand look at his life and ministry; but He actively prepared and trained them to do the same work. (Mark 3:14-15; Luke 9:1-2 and Matthew 10:1 compare with Matthew 4:23 and John 14:12.)
In fact, most of Jesus’ time spent in the Gospels was not simply on doing ministry, but time actually spent developing his disciples to take on the work once He ascended into heaven. It was a practical development and training, with assignments. This was all part of their original calling – ‘so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.’ (Mark 3:14).
He involved them in ministry (Luke 9:12-17; 22:8-13) and allowed them to grow in faith by experience (Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 14:28-29). He sent them out on short-term training assignments (see Matthew 10:5-15, Mark 6:7-11). He invested time and energy to instruct and explain to them his teaching and ways (Mark 4:34).
Making disciples is not simply teaching theory or about completing a short course of instruction or class. It is apprenticing alongside, life-on-life, with another disciple so that we/they start to do what God wants us in our lives.
Authorize — When Jesus sent the twelve out on mission in Matthew 10:5-15 and Mark 6:7-11, as well as with the larger group of disciples – the 72 of Luke 10:1-11, they were expected to announce the coming of the kingdom, heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. He gave specific instructions and authority to do the same thing He did. And this is exactly what happened, which they were joyfully were able to report on their return (Luke 9:6; 10:17 and Mark 6:13.)
Finally, in Matthew 28:18-20, in his final command to the disciples, the risen Jesus authorizes them, on the basis of being Lord of Heaven and Earth to ‘make disciples’ of all peoples.
The making of disciples is the high calling and work that Jesus has authorized us to do in His name and by His power. This is not the job of a few ‘professional’ Christian pastors and missionary, but the work of every disciple. So, we must teach and show disciples that they are likewise authorized by Heaven’s King for service and mission in the world.
Release/Send — Finally, Jesus commissioned them in what we in NAMS call the ‘final command’ of Matthew 28:18-20 to reach all peoples of every ethnic group. Before he left them, Jesus promised that they will receive the Holy Spirit to empower them for this witness, and that through Him, Jesus himself will be with us till the ends of the earth and the end of time.
There will come a moment, as with Jesus and Paul (see Acts 14:23; 20:17-38) when we must release disciples that we have made to become disciple-makers in their own right with others. This is a principle Paul establishes for Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2.
As we have been discipled, so we must now pass on to others what we received, by making other disciples. We are taken captive by Christ in other to be released to mission in the world. We commend them in prayer to God and move on ourselves to make more disciples.
This is how Jesus begun a world-movement from simply focusing on a few. The ball is now firmly in our court!