A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some of the assumptions we’ve made about disciple-making:
We assume that participation equates to discipleship.
We assume that evangelism equates outreach and discipleship equates growth or maturity.
We assume that knowledge equates obedience.
Each of these assumptions have had great implications on our approach to making disciples and how we measure success. How did Jesus measure disciple-making? Do our assumptions match His measurements?
Jesus didn’t seem to be nearly as impressed with participation as I tend to be. I happy when people show up. I like a full room. Jesus wasn’t as enamored with the crowds as I am. John 6 gives us a pretty good picture of this. Jesus could draw a crowd. We’re told the crowds were following Him as a result of His healing ministry. Jesus and disciples feed the crowd of more than 5,000 people. We’re told that Jesus intentionally pulled away from the crowd. The next day the same crowd went looking for Jesus, they even got into boats and crossed the water to find Him. When they found Jesus, He called them on their real motivation for seeking Him – they just wanted another free lunch. When Jesus started talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, a lot of folks opted out. Verse 66 even shares that “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” Jesus wasn’t concerned about keeping the crowd – participation wasn’t discipleship.
Jesus didn’t have any Christians to disciple! That’s one of the main problems with our assumption that discipleship is for the “already saved”. Do you know how to disciple someone who doesn’t know Jesus? Look at His example. He started with twelve Jewish boys and spent three years unpacking what they thought they understood about God and His kingdom and realigning it with the truth found in Jesus. They eventually moved from unbelief to belief in radically transformative ways, but it was a process and it started with a handful of folks who didn’t believe or understand who Jesus really was at the beginning of the process.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew a lot! They loved the law and knew it well and were constantly trying to trap Jesus in some nuance of the scriptures. The disciples of Jesus certainly knew less than the Pharisees. If it wasn’t knowledge, how did Jesus measure maturity? In John 13:34-35, Jesus gives us a pretty clear picture of one of the marks of a true disciple of Jesus: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In John 14 Jesus gives another mark of a true disciple in verse 12: “ Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” In verse 15 of the same chapter He adds “If you love me, keep my commands.” It’s clear that Jesus’ definition of what it meant to be a disciple went well beyond knowledge. It’s a call to imitate Him: to love like He loves in a self-emptying and self-sacrificial manner. To do the very things that Jesus did. To not only know His commands but to keep them, to live them, and put them into action.
We’ve got a lot to learn from Jesus. Much like His first disciples, there’s a lot that we need to have Him unpack and even dismantle in order to give ourselves to His kingdom and truly follow Him. There’s still some more to explore here but will save it for the coming weeks.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 15, No. 36