There is a lot of instruction floating about the churchosphere about “making disciples” and “being missional and intentional”. At one time or another perhaps we have all asked ourselves the question, “Is God calling me to make disciples?” Is everyone in the church called to be making disciples of Jesus, or is this job for those with certain callings in the church? The answer to both of these question is yes…and no.
Last week my friend Emmitt made a post on facebook asking, “If we are not making disciples are we in sin?” Last month I chatted with another friend, Earnest (names change for the sake of privacy), who was telling me about a couple new believers in his home group who were very actively “making disciples”. Undoubtedly, my first few years after having a life changing encounter with God in my adult years were marked with the most zeal for evangelism. As a milk sipping, Jesus following tot barely learning to walk, was I to be instructing others in the faith?
Ultimately, the function of the church is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, not because the Westminster Catechism states it, but because the Westminster crew articulated what the Bible clearly and unmistakably preaches. How do we do this most, or best? In his book, what we might now call a modern classic, Desiring God, or in the condensed version, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, John Piper draws from the Scriptures that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. The word “satisfied” here is not speaking of the type of satisfaction after we have had an excellent meal, but the type of satisfaction we are all longing for in the core of our being, the kind of satisfaction the Rolling Stones could get. This satisfaction is more of a filling of the soul wherein our joy, true supernatural spontaneous joy, is maximized in Jesus, commanded by God, and not separate from the act of glorifying God. There is no such thing as glorifying God apart from having joy in Him, and there is no such thing as having joy in God apart from glorifying Him. They go hand in hand.
Given our natural sinful condition, our hearts default to finding joy in anything and everything but God. Lesser gods set themselves against the true God competing for our hearts loyalty with their persistent illusions. This is where, as Christians, we learn to fight for our joy in God and the soul and mind is a battlefield on which numerous gods challenge the omnipotent One.
Under this ultimate purpose of our existence we find pen ultimate categories which always fit under the umbrella of glorifying God. First, as we mentioned is joy in God, and second would be obedience to the Great Commission. In short, we as the church are called to help others discover the same joy in God as we have. This is worship, when truths helping us know God, light off a spark, whereby spontaneous and true worshiped is ignited in our soul by grace. Getting to the point being made, making disciples means making worshipers of God, who find their ultimate joy in Him.
When looking at Jesus words in the Great Commission, to “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all I have commanded you” (Mt. 29:19-20), my friend Emmitt, pointed out that in the Greek tenses disciple making includes both of these things mentioned, that is, baptizing them and teaching them to obey. It appears that this is evident simply in the word “disciple” itself. “Disciple” simply means “learner”, or “student”. So it goes without saying that the one being disciple is being taught.
Now we come back to our original question, but we will word it slightly differently. Is everyone in the church called to be teaching the “learners”? We know that teaching people to obey includes more than mere intellectual instruction. Teaching by example in Christian community is a big part of it too.
Is it right for young believers to be discipling others? Perhaps there are exceptions, although I would encourage evangelism more so than in depth discipleship. Why? What types of things should we be learning as disciples? What is it Jesus commanded? Discipleship involves learning how to pray, how to fight sin and resist temptation, how to read our Bibles in a sound way, even knowing what our Bibles are, how to defend our faith, how to give, how to sacrifice, how to fast, how to be filled with the fruits of the Spirit, what is the Gospel and what isn’t, and many other crucial things. In our day in age it would certainly include learning how to share our faith in a world full of relativism and pluralism and the centuries old necessity of discerning truth from error.
Thinking back to my first few years as a zealous young Christian, I can say with much certainty, that if I were to teach someone on each of these subjects I would certainly teach them much differently now than I would have then. Many of the things I taught people I’d rather not have never said. Discipleship is serious business. It is a shepherding of men’s souls, men’s spiritual well being. This is no small task and it’s not for everyone. What I would teach someone about killing sin or about forgiveness and grace is much more informed, experienced and altogether sound than it was ten years ago.
I believe in this sense not all of us should be too quick to be “making disciples”. Are we, in our passion, making worshipers, or are we actually misguiding people? As well, is everyone in the body called to be a teacher? Certainly, we are all called to glorify God, find our joy in Him and do the work of the church. But for all of us does this include teaching?
Paul spent many years in obscurity preparing for ministry. Christ Himself did not begin His public ministry until He was thirty years old. For all of us we should be patient and invest in a time of preparation. As the Holy Spirit works and speaks through all of us through and to one another, we are being transformed and shaped into Christ’s image. In this sense, we are all teaching each other in words and by example. However, as members of the body we all have our own individual giftings and functions. I suggest that each of our individual functions falls under the grand overarching umbrella of making disciples. Not only do our gifts fall under this umbrella, but in response to Jesus love, we should all be very aggressive about focusing, organizing and planning our lives intentionally toward this grand overarching aim.
When discipling people, perhaps the two things which should be focused on first is teaching people what the Gospel and the Bible is and isn’t, and how to read it well, then teaching them how to pray. Other things at the top of the list might be killing sin, being a witness and a light in the world, and practical service. The Holy Spirit is guiding young believers into truth and He uses our brothers and sisters in the faith to help with that.
Recently I met with a friend in another ministry in Odessa who is discipling three young men. I asked him if they were reading the Bible together and they hadn’t gotten to that point quite yet. Recently I shared with him what the Lord has taught me for a very simple, yet important way to teach young disciples of the faith how to read their Bibles. Everything I shared with Him I have decided to share here in this blog and is available in PDF format at the link for FREE.
May God guide His church as we grow in making worshipers of Jesus locally and globally!
A Teachers Guide to Bible Reading for Beginners
- Prayer. The first step is always to pray. This of course includes teaching the importance of continual dependence on God by the Holy Spirit. Psalm 119:18
- Context, context, context. Rather than reading a passage and jumping right into application and applying the Scripture in unsound ways, we should always start with examining the context.
- Explain the different types of Biblical contexts.
i. Broad context. The Bible as a whole and the Gospel as center.
- This may require that some initial time spent teaching through the Bible’s redemptive meta-narrative.
- Creation and the Nature of God.
- The fall, the origin and nature of sin, and mankind’s condition.
- The history of Israel. Teach the important aspects of:
i. Idolatry and Rebellion.
ii. Prophecies and Promises.
- Preservation of the Scriptures.
iii. God’s plan for all nations in the OT.
iv. Purposes of the OT sacrifices and the Law.
v. Symbols and foreshadows of Christ in the OT.
ii. Narrow context. The context of the books of the Bible, the chapters, the passage and the paragraph.
iii. Historical and Cultural contexts.
- What was the author’s intended meaning to whom he was writing?
iv. Literary contexts.
- Genres used in various books of the Bible.
- Grammatical context.
- Relevance. Next we must ask which contextual understanding is most important for understanding the current passage being read. In every biblical passage the broad and narrow contexts will be foundational.
- Principles. Do not apply the Word just yet. Next look for principles. There are principles to be found in every chapter of the Bible. To find many interesting principles in the text we can ask ourselves questions like:
- What does this passage teach me about God? Don’t overlook the “obvious”.
- What does this passage teach me about man? About myself?
- What does this passage teach me about sin? About the world?
- Application. Now we can look at the principles we’ve discovered in the text and apply them to our own life. How do the timeless principles apply to you today?
- Dig. A few more questions help us to delve into the passage further:
- How is this passage related to the Gospel? The cross? This step is very important, as every passage is somehow connected to the Gospel.
- Does anything in this passage stand out to me?
- What questions do I have? Is there anything I don’t understand?
i. Write these questions down.
- Prayer. How will we pray after our time in the Word as we seek the Holy Spirit’s enabling in personal application?