I am certain you want to be involved somehow in saving souls. I know you want your congregation to grow because everyone is involved in that work. But if you’re like me, you’ve been hindered by a faulty model and a slight misunderstanding of Jesus’ teaching. I am convinced that if we can undergo a slight paradigm shift, we will get rid of the #1 hindrance to saving souls and pursue the #1 key to getting the job done.
What is the #1 key?
#1 Key: Always think like a discipler.
But what on earth does that mean? I was studying Matthew 28:18-20 last week and learned something that has completely changed my outlook on personal evangelism. Let me share with you three things that led me to this amazing key.
Jesus doesn’t actually command us to “Go.”
I know that is shocking. You are saying right now, “But I can read it for myself, it says, ‘Go therefore and make disciples…'” Yes, but that is not what Jesus actually said. I don’t understand why most translations say that. ****Warning: Greek Grammar lesson ahead. But don’t be deterred, read on*. The word translated “Go” is not actually an active command about something you are to do. It is a passive deponent aorist participle, which means it is something already done. Consider Young’s Literal Translation: “Having gone, then, disciple all the nations…”
What’s the big deal about that you ask? The big deal is that our common “Go and make disciples” mentality compartmentalizes disciple making into something that we specifically set aside time to do. It looks like this. “Right now, I am going to eat. Then I’m going to shop. Then I’m going to church. At some point, I’ll go and make disciples.” WRONG!!! (BTW: I’m thinking this compartmentalization is the #1 hindrance to saving souls.)
What Jesus actually said is “having gone.” When is that statement true? All the time. No matter where I am, I can say I have gone there. In other words, no matter where I am, I have done what Jesus talks about in this word. We “go” all the time. We go to the store. We go on vacation. We go to work. We go to the church’s assembly. We go to a friend’s house. We go on business trips.
Now, consider this with Jesus’ directive. I don’t have to make a special trip to make disciples. Rather, I should view each of the “trips” mentioned above as an opportunity to make disciples. Having gone to any one of these places, what am I supposed to be doing while there? I’m supposed to be making disciples. Have you gone to the store, Jesus is saying, “Having gone to the store, then, disciple…” Have you gone to a friend’s house, Jesus is saying, “Having gone to a friend’s house, then, disciple…” Have you gone on a business trip, Jesus is saying, “Having gone on a business trip, then, disciple…” And on we could go.
We must not be like the apostles who went into Sychar in John 4 and only brought back food to Jesus. The woman at the well went into Sychar and brought back people for Jesus to teach. Who was making disciples there? Why didn’t the apostles bring back people? Because they weren’t going into the town to make disciples; they were going to buy food. So, they didn’t think like disciplers and they missed a golden opportunity.
Making disciples is not something we compartmentalize off to the times we have set to go and keep that command. Making disciples is something we do while we are doing all the going that makes up our lives. In other words, I don’t schedule disciple making on my calendar, I let it be a part of everything I do. I don’t just think like a discipler when I’ve decided to go disciple making; I need to think like a discipler everywhere I go.
Jesus doesn’t actually ask us to “make disciples.”
I know that is shocking. You are saying right now, “But I can read it for myself, it says, ‘Go therefore and make disciples…'” Yes, but that is not actually what Jesus said. “But Edwin, you said ‘make disciples’ in your first section.” Yes, but that was only because we hadn’t gotten to this point yet and I didn’t want to confuse you up there. Look at Young’s Literal Translation again: “Having gone, then, disciple all nations…” You see, in English it looks like there might have been two words translated to get “make disciples.” We might think there was a verb translated “make” and a noun translated “disciples.” That isn’t true. There is actually just one word. It is the verb form of “disciple.” Think of it like this. In English, we can speak of “school.” That is a noun. However, we have sometimes taken that noun and verbalized it. “He schooled me in humility.” That is what this word is like. Jesus didn’t actually tell us to make something of people, but rather to do something to them. We aren’t to “make disciples;” we are to disciple.
What’s the big deal about that you ask? The big deal is that our common “make disciples” mentality suggests that there is a nice, neat little process. We can take people through a set of steps and then we’ve made them a disciple. Our job is done and we can move on to someone else. WRONG!!!
What Jesus is actually saying is we need to disciple people. This is an ongoing process. That is why He goes on to point out that it is done by baptizing and teaching. Why does He use that order? We are certain from Romans 10:13-17 that someone won’t call on the name of the Lord in baptism unless they are first taught. Why then doesn’t Jesus say, “Disciple folks, teaching and baptizing them”? Because discipling isn’t just about getting them in Christ; it is about helping them be like Christ. That is a lifelong process. Baptism is the initiation into the disciple relationship, but being discipled continues on to the grave.
Guess what that means. That means I need to think like a discipler even when I’m with a bunch of disciples. (By the way, there is also the implication that I need to be discipled even though I am already a disciple.) I don’t just think like a discipler when I go out “knocking doors” or conducting Bible studies with lost people. I think like a discipler all the time. That is, I have to ask, “What can I do right now that will help influence folks to be like Jesus?”
By the way, don’t be limited in thinking that you are only discipling when you are having a Bible study with someone. Discipling is not limited to Bible studies. Discipling is consciously figuring out how to influence folks to be like Jesus. That may mean inviting someone to a class or assembly of a church (yes, despite what so many are saying today, inviting someone to come to the church’s assembly really is a fulfillment of this verse). That may mean developing a relationship with someone with the express desire to be able to talk to them about Jesus. That may mean greeting a guest in your church’s assembly. Sometimes that may mean simply being salt and light, consciously living like Jesus, letting others see the Spirit’s fruit in you (Galatians 5:22-23). For instance, I know a brother who is a crane operator. Having gone to some jobs, he has been greeted by the foreman with, “Hey there. Good to have you here. There’s no preaching on this job.” His reputation preceded him. You may think the foreman said he couldn’t disciple people. Not so. He could still live like Jesus, which will have an impact on everyone he meets. In other words, I need to always think like a discipler. I need to always consciously consider how I can best influence folks to be like Jesus, even when that means all I can do is set a good example (Though, please don’t cop out from more direct involvement by only ever relying on your example. After all, we aren’t setting a very good example if we never actually talk to others about Jesus.)
Jesus doesn’t command us to travel to all nations.
I know that is shocking. You are saying right now, “But I can read it for myself. It says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…'” Yes, but notice it doesn’t say to do it “in” all nations. Now, please don’t misunderstand. Some folks will fulfill this command by travelling into other nations. But Jesus’ point here is not primarily about our geographical location when we disciple others. His point is actually about removing all limitations on who we will disciple. In other words, I don’t have to disciple within the political borders of every nation on earth. Rather, I must be willing to disciple anyone no matter their nationality. Romans 2:11 says, “For God shows no partiality.” We must not show partiality either. This may lead me to travel into other nations in order to disciple, but not necessarily.
What’s the big deal about that you ask? The big deal is that this seemingly common “in all nations” mentality is often used as a huge guilting club to make faithful Christians think they aren’t really completing God’s commission if they only stay in their home town. As seen in my recent review of David Platt’s “Radical,” some might be made to feel unnecessary guilt and shame just because they haven’t traveled to third world countries and proclaimed the gospel.
Discipling all nations is not something you have to travel to foreign lands to do. You can actually disciple all nations right where you are in your home town (the apostles did that very thing in Acts 2). The point the apostles were supposed to eventually learn (and finally did in Acts 10) is Jesus isn’t just for one nationality or background. He wasn’t just for the Jews; He was for the Gentiles (sometimes just called “the nations”) too. Jesus isn’t just for white people. Jesus isn’t just for black people. Jesus isn’t just for Americans. He is for all races and nationalities. Which also means that discipling is not about making people live like my race, nationality, or cultural heritage. Discipling is simply about helping folks live like Jesus within whatever culture they live.
I think we can take this point even beyond just the racial barrier. I am not to put any limits on who I will disciple. Jesus isn’t just for politically conservative Republicans. Jesus isn’t just for socially liberal Democrats. Jesus isn’t just for college graduates. Jesus isn’t just for Bible belt southerners. You get the point.
What this means is having gone somewhere and finding myself around people who are different from me, I should still think like a discipler. I must think like a discipler all the time.
Well, I’m sorry this post stretched away from me and got so long. But I’m convinced this is the #1 key to help us save souls. If we can get this paradigm entrenched in our hearts and minds, we will become a discipling force to be reckoned with. By the way, please don’t think I’m an expert in this. I just discovered this last week. Hopefully, I can be discipled to be a bit more like Jesus in this area. I hope we can disciple each other in this.
Have a great week. And remember to start thinking like a discipler wherever you have gone and whoever you are with.
What are your favorite ways to disciple others? Or what makes it easier for you to disciple others? Click here to add your input.
*Special thanks to my buddy Jason Longstreth with his help in understanding some of the grammar aspects to this verse. I’m no expert and it’s all Greek to me. 😉 Okay, sorry about that, but I had to try.