When it comes to making things, I think I am average. There have been times over the years when my wife asked if I could make things for our home that I simply believed I was not capable of making. Things like custom spice racks, built-in shelves and installing crown molding. There are other things that I decided to make and while they wouldn't sell in a store, they are functional and don't look too bad. Recently, I made some shelves to place in one of the few available spaces on a wall in the garage. I used wood that was left over from another project. I had no plans and made things up as I went along. After a few attempts and adjustments, I was finished. But don't ask me to show them to you - they're not much to look at! If I had good raw materials and a set of plans, I'm sure they would look better.
This reminds me of the task of discipleship. In a previous article, I offered the following description of discipleship:
Christian discipleship is a dynamic process that takes place within loving, accountable relationships over a period of time for the purpose of bringing believers to spiritual maturity in Jesus.
This definition is invaluable in helping us not only understand what discipleship is, but what it accomplishes. But a very practical question remains: How do we accomplish this objective? Like the shelves I made in my garage, we will be more likely to effectively make disciples if we have a plan to follow. Consider the following simple plan based on Jesus' challenge to make disciples of all nations in Matthew 28.
Jesus literally said, "As you go, make disciples." As you go. As you go about life, as you go to the nations whether that be right next door, the next town over or another country, take the time to make disciples. The commission to make disciples implies and requires time. It is a significant and important investment of time. Be prepared and be willing to make time for discipleship.
Making disciples obviously involves being with other people. The time invested must be invested in people. The phrase "all nations" doesn't only mean going to far away lands. It includes the people right around us - people from all nations. Be open to making disciples of coworkers, neighbors, family and friends, and plan on being with them. There is no true discipleship without spending time together.
Time together teaching and learning to obey Jesus...
And the time that is spent together needs to be for the purpose of teaching disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded. That is no small task because Jesus taught so much. But notice that the teaching and learning isn't for the purpose of knowing; it is for the purpose of obeying. Knowing what Jesus taught without doing and being what Jesus taught is not true discipleship. This requires some study and preparation on the part of the one doing the discipling. But that is a blessing in itself because it results in ongoing growth and obedience for the teacher.
Make a plan and stick to it. Study and apply what Jesus taught in the gospels. Read the New Testament letters, understanding and applying them to the realities of faith today. Examine the Old Testament, recognizing how God revealed himself in story after story.
Time together, teaching and learning to obey, in the powerful presence of Jesus...
And never forget that the ultimate goal of discipleship is to have genuine, transformative encounters with Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Jesus reminded his disciples of his faithful presence and he is no different today. He wants us to be comforted and empowered by his presence and his power. The practical task of making a disciple involves keeping an eye out for Jesus and accepting his invitation of abiding - living with - him.
Here is a simple approach. Identify an individual who is in need of becoming a disciple. Begin to spend regular, planned time together, learning to obey all that Jesus taught us. Do it at a location and time where there are few distractions. Use a discipleship resource or book - there are literally hundreds of good ones. But also include spending time together serving and using your gifts to help others. And as you help the person learn to obey Jesus, be aware of and celebrate the power and presence of Jesus. When you believe the disciple is established in their faith, encourage them to go go and do the same with another person.
Discipleship is not complex. In fact, its simplicity is what makes it so effective. But it must be done in order to produce fruit.