Commissioned to be disciple-makers
Christianity is Christ! It is not a lifestyle, not rules of conduct, and not a society whose members were initiated by the sprinkling or covering of water. It is about Christ and our relationship with him.
Jesus Christ calls us to a new life, clothes us with himself, commissions us with a purpose, and empowers us to fulfill that purpose—to follow him as his disciples and to live for him as disciple-makers.
Jesus calls us to a new life — A 20th century Bible teacher put it this way:
He gave His life for you so He could give His life to you, so He could live His life through you. (Major Ian Thomas)
Paul described this relationship in Galatians 2:20,
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Jesus clothes us with Himself — Galatians 3:27 says that we are clothed with Christ. God sees Jesus when he looks on us. We are in him; that is our new identity. We become the walking talking, visible representatives of the invisible God.
Jesus commissions us with a purpose — Actually, it is a two-fold purpose. The first part is to follow him as his disciples. In John 12:26, Jesus said, “whoever serves me must follow me.” And, we are to live for him as disciple-makers. Before returning to heaven after his resurrection, Jesus said to His followers:
“Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:18-19)
When Jesus gave that command to his followers to go and make disciples, it was not to ordained preachers, hired church staff or mission organizations. He spoke those words to average, every day kind of people like you and I are. Jesus commissions us with a purpose: to follow him as his disciples and to live for him as disciple-makers.
Jesus empowers us to fulfill that purpose — He empowers us through the Holy Spirit present in our lives.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8)
“Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, …” (Ephesians 3:20)
Our response is to live dependently on his power…by faith. You and I can be disciple-makers not because we are so great or smart, not because we have been a Christian for a long time or know the Bible well. Who makes us able to do what he asks us to do? Jesus! We are simply to obey him and trust his Spirit in us to work through us. Being a little scared is a good thing because we will rely on Jesus more.
The bottom line is this: Jesus followers become disciple-makers.
Think About It:
What do you think Jesus’ commission to you as a disciple-maker would look like in your life?
It is always good to understand the terms we use. So, let’s define three terms and use a recent movie to illustrate them.
Disciple — A disciple is an active follower or learner. A disciple studies the teachings of another person whom they respect and applies those teachings to her life.
Discipleship — Discipleship is the normal process for Christians to get established and grow in their faith. That would include small groups whether Bible studies, moms groups, or general fellowship groups. This is traditional discipleship. It has a tendency to be inward-focused on how much I as a believer am growing in my faith.
Disciple-Making — Disciplemaking is the full process of trusting in Christ, choosing to follow him and grow in him while at the same time being equipped to reach new people for Christ, build them up in the faith, and help them reach their peers. It is outward-focused. That is full discipleship.
Discipleship is incomplete without disciple-making. We tend to cut off the second half and call it discipleship. Jesus didn’t leave that option open to us.
Here’s the illustration:
The movie Julie & Julia portrays the young woman Julie Powell becoming a disciple of master chef Julia Child through Julia’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie studies the recipes and follows the procedures. As a result, she experiences the joy of cooking and eating delicious food as Julia has taught her through a book. She wears her apron and pearls like Julia. Towards the end, one realizes that Julie got to know Julia Child “personally” though they never met. That is traditional discipleship.
Julie Powell didn’t keep her good cooking to herself, though. She wrote a blog about her cooking, bringing others along with her and introducing them to Julia Child and her book. Then, Julie wrote a book about her experience. Soon, a movie came along. How many women do you think bought that book and started cooking through it because of Julie’s influence?
While Julie Powell was following Julia Child as a disciple, she was engaging others and introducing them to Julia and sharing what she was learning with her readers so that they were being taught how to cook that way. That’s disciple-making.
The point is Julie was a follower and a disciple-maker at the same time. That’s what Jesus calls each of us to do. Small groups are great fishing pools for fulfilling this purpose. You, as a small group leader, have the opportunity to pursue disciple-making as you minister to the women of your small group, and you can encourage them to become disciple-makers as well. Let’s see what this would look like.
Think About It:
How long have you been a disciple of Jesus? Why did you decide to follow him?
In what ways have you helped others to also know Jesus and follow him?
Small groups attract new Christians as well as those who have been believers for years but have never been discipled. Even non-Christians are attracted to small groups because they are seeking truth and/or fellowship. This is true for Bible studies, mothers’ groups, or other small groups. What a great opportunity to help someone grow in her relationship with Jesus and in his truth!
“Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived in Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak out fearlessly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.” (Acts 18:24-26)
This is a great example of someone in leadership listening to what is being shared in a group setting, realizing that the person sharing is lacking some beneficial information, and personally discipling that person so he can influence others more effectively. How important do you think it was that the couple invited Apollos to a private place for discussion?!
Think About It:
What did someone use to establish you as a new believer?
Since your group may contain mature Christians with lots of Bible knowledge alongside those who have limited Christian understanding, it is very important that you do two things in an intentional and relational way:
1. Pay attention — Do not assume that woman sitting next to you in your Bible study group knows who she is in Christ. Listen to what she says. She may not even be a believer yet. She may be a new believer. She may be a long-time believer who has never been discipled and feels ignorant compared to others. What if her answer reveals she doesn’t know the truth? Maybe she is leaving blanks because she doesn’t know how to do a study or can’t figure out how to answer the question. Many Bible studies are written using one particular translation so the question wording often reflects that. If she doesn’t use the same translation, she may not know how to get the answer. So…
2. Come alongside her — If you catch that she’s new to Bible study, church, and/or doesn’t know much, invite her somewhere to visit—maybe in your home as Priscilla and Aquila did or any place where you can be together and have enough quiet to discuss. Find out what her background is, what she already knows, and what she’d like to know. If she’s interested in meeting with you one-on-one to get more established in her faith, agree on a first time to get together. Be intentional and relational.
Think About It:
Why is it important to come alongside someone in your group who is struggling or lacking truth in her life rather than assuming she will “catch up” just by being in the group?
3. Encourage mature group members to do the same. If you have several mature believers in the group and several new believers, encourage the mature Christians to pay attention and come alongside at least one younger believer in the group. Follow the same procedures as above. Encourage the women to be doing this outside the group as well with those in their sphere of influence who need to be more firmly established in their faith.
What about those who come to your group who are not yet believers?
As you pay attention to your group members, you should recognize those who have yet to trust Christ.
“But they [believers] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:11)
This verse tells us that we have two very powerful tools to introduce others to Jesus that cannot be stopped. We have the gospel facts (the blood of the lamb) and the story of our own experience validating the power of the gospel. People can reject the facts of the gospel and even its logic, but it is very hard to argue with someone about her experience of the gospel.
Every Jesus follower needs to have these two tools to fulfill your purpose — 1) a way to share the gospel facts and 2) a readiness to share your own story. That’s intentionally partnering with the Holy Spirit in bringing others to Christ.
Think About It:
If you were saved as a teen or adult, what was life like without Jesus?
What triggered your need for him?
What did God use to draw you to himself?
There are different ways to share the gospel—4 spiritual laws, the bridge diagram, Romans road, and others. Hopefully, your church or organization will offer you training in how to share the gospel relationally. If training is not offered, you can ask others and find out what’s available in your area and when. Ask your ministry coordinator for help.
Find a presentation that works for you and practice it until you know it well. The idea is that when the opportunity comes up in conversation, you will be ready to share the gospel without stressing about remembering the “details.” Gather the members of your small group together to get trained along with you. It’s more fun to do in a group, and it is more likely to be done!
Here are two ideas:
Evantell.org — You can go online to to watch the online training videos available there. This follows the good news/bad news approach. The training gives you opportunity to introduce your own illustrations including those from your own faith story. (See the next section for ways to work on your faith story.)
John 3:16 — This familiar verse is often referred to as the Gospel in a nutshell. Using four simple elements, you can introduce someone to Jesus in a concise way. Open with, “Has anyone introduced you to Jesus so you could know Him? May I?”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
"Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you into my life and heart to be my Savior. I want to serve you always."
Be sure to meet with her afterwards to walk her through a new believers guide such as Graceful Beginnings: New Believers Guide. See above for information. Introduce her to the group as their new sister in Christ. Lead a celebration of her new life.
Once called “testimonies,” the more friendly term is “faith stories.” Be ready to share YOUR faith story with the women in your group—either one-on-one or in the small group setting—whenever appropriate.
Now, I am hearing the hesitation out there. Are you unconvinced that your story matters? Do you think your story is boring, not sensational enough? Jesus Christ died for you so he could give his life to you so he could live his life through you. It’s his story in your life. Only you know it. Share it. If grew up in the church and stayed faithful to Jesus for the most part until now, you have the story every parent of young children wants to hear. What influenced you to stay faithful?
2. Consider simple statements or questions you could include in conversation that could lead into sharing your story. Then, be ready for openings in the conversation where you can share simple statements of what God has done in your life. Give her a peak into the life you have in Christ. Create curiosity for more.
Here are some transitions from common topics about which people are already passionate:
Think About It:
What are some conversation starters to stimulate meaningful conversation that might reveal a woman’s heart and give you a chance to invite it somewhere?
Suggest all the women in the group work on their faith stories. Direct them to the worksheets mentioned above or any other outline you may already by using.
Give opportunity for each to share for 5 minutes during group time, or plan a group get together over dinner or dessert where there is plenty of time for each one to share her story.
Identify the woman in your group who demonstrates a greater level of spiritual interest and commitment to your group who might also be challenged to become a small group leader herself. You, in essence, help her develop as a leader who is capable of ministering to others.
Think About It:
Why would developing future leaders be important for a ministry? Has someone done this for you?
You can become a disciple-maker as Jesus commissioned you to be — by faith:
For more information about Disciple-Making, and especially the Disciple-Making Pathway training, visit my website at . Consider hosting a Disciple-Making Pathway training at your church so that all your small group leaders will be onboard with their commission as DISCIPLE-MAKERS for Jesus!