As an individual, I have a laser beam focus on discipleship. I’m a consistent practitioner. I’m constantly evaluating effectiveness and brainstorming strategies. I speak and teach about it. I love to write about it. In case you didn’t know I also blog about it.
I was speaking at a church recently and had a friend ask me, “Why are you so passionate about discipleship?” I was astonished to find myself at a loss for words. It was difficult for me to answer the question in a succinct fashion. I shared a couple thoughts but left that conversation in deep reflection.
I eventually realized that there were multiple reasons I was passionate about discipleship. The number of reasons was too many for a simple answer because discipleship intersects with multiple motivations.
I believe it’s more important for us to have clarity on “why” we’re growing disciples rather than “what” we’re doing to grow disciples. As long as you know the “why” you can always discover the “what.”
Here is my personal list of 7 motivations for making disciples:
1. Compelled by Compassion. The Bible says that when Jesus “saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, NKJV).
I’m actually an introvert by nature. I’m very content to be standing in the back of a room observing everyone quietly and yet the Lord has called me to engage in growing disciples, which is a relational process.
It’s the compassion of Christ however, that pushes me out of my comfort zone and into ministry mode. It’s seeing the absence of God’s Kingdom in people’s lives that drives me to action. Sensing the love God has for his children guides me away from passively sitting on the sidelines.
2. Paying it Forward. Jesus has deposited so many good things into my life that I cannot keep them all to myself. He has poured his love into my heart through his Spirit and through his people. I can’t allow that river of life to have no outlet and turn into the Dead Sea.
Paying it forward is finding someone to pass his blessings on to. The thing that is kind of ridiculous is this: The more I give out, the more I continue to receive from the Lord in return.
I’m thankful for those who have taken the time to invest in my discipleship journey. I know how much I needed it and I’m grateful they offered and extended themselves toward me. I can only imagine how many others are out there who desperately need the same thoughtfulness and care.
3. Completing the Assignment. Toward the end of his three-and-a-half-year ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ let the disciples know that all authority in Heaven and all authority on earth was awarded to him (Matthew 28:18). Based on that supreme position, he then commanded us (the apostles, me and you) to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).
This divine task and exhortation remains unfinished business 2,000 years later.
Matthew’s commissioning statement is the only gospel that emphasizes the work of bringing believers to full maturity as “disciples” (See Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:6-8). This is more than just proclaiming the Gospel through evangelism, although that is a big piece of the process. This is about replicating the model Jesus demonstrated for us with the Twelve throughout every nation of the world.
I have enlisted myself as a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3) and I am determined to make a contribution toward the completion of this breathtaking objective.
4. Protecting the Progress. In John 15, Jesus reveals that he has chosen us and appointed us to bear fruit (John 15:4, 15:16), bear much fruit (John 15:5, 15:8) and bear fruit that remains (John 15:16).
Unfortunately, I have seen many people (sadly, too many to count) make decisions for Christ and then fall away from their faith. Obviously, there are many contributing factors and sometimes it is simply the result of a person’s choice and free will not to follow Christ. However, there are many instances where people have not had access to discipleship opportunities that would strengthen them and create spiritual growth in their life.
When people come to Christ, I want to see their decision bear much fruit that remains. I want to see them come to full maturity in Christ. I want to help them cultivate their soul so their heart can become good soil that yields 30, 60, or 100-fold return (Mark 4:20).
Ed Stetzer in Transformational Church says, “Research shows that people in a group read the Bible and pray more regularly, confess sins more frequently, share the Gospel more freely, give more generously, and serve more often than those not in a group.”
Biblical discipleship protects the progress in people’s lives.
5. Feasting on the Bread of Mission. I’ve heard many times that people will leave a particular church because they don’t feel fed. That usually means they don’t like the music or preaching or both. I do think church members should enjoy their church, but I also think believers can have a limited paradigm when they evaluate their church experience.
As I continue to walk with the Lord I find myself inspecting Jesus more closely each day, looking for his secrets to grow into the “new man” he’s called me to be. In John 4:34 Jesus made the following statement, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work.”
Did you catch that? Did you notice how Jesus feels “fed?”
Jesus felt fed when he was carrying out his Father’s will.
As I’ve allowed this paradigm shift to renew my mind, I’ve discovered this hidden blessing as well. When I rest my head on my pillow at night, there is an indescribable peace that comes from a day of laboring for the Lord. There is a special place of communion with the Father as a colaborer. This can change our prayer life in the morning when we rise and ask him to “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).
The work of growing disciples is not easy and can many times feel elusive in the natural realm. The spiritual satisfaction that comes through disciple making though, is as tangible as the air we breathe.
6. Seeing the Church Activated and Unleashed. It’s already been referred to in this article, but as a Christian, I’m not only called to be a disciple of Christ, I’m called to grow disciples of Christ as well. Being a pastor adds a third dimension: I’m called to equip the saints to grow disciples of Christ as well (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Group-based discipleship is not only biblical, it’s the most transferable and replicable form of discipleship across the spectrum.
There has been research that shows that gender, personality, education, age, marital status, or vocation has no bearing on a believer’s capacity to grow followers of Christ through group-based discipleship. This does not make group-based discipleship the single magic bullet since the Kingdom of God consists of a diversity of ministries, gifts, and activities (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). However, this confirms to me that, not only has Jesus called everyone to grow disciples, he has made the ability to grow disciples accessible to everyone, too.
7. Imperishable Results. The Bible speaks of two judgments in eternity: The Great White Throne Judgment for the saved and unsaved (Revelation 20:11-15, Hebrews 9:27) and the Judgment Seat of Christ for Christ-followers (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Romans 14:10-12). These events may happen separately or at the same time, but nonetheless, there is a distinction in the cause and effect of each. The Great White Throne Judgment will determine eternal salvation for every soul. The Judgment Seat of Christ will determine the quality of a believer’s works after they came to faith in Jesus. Works done for the Kingdom will endure the testing of fire and be rewarded. Works done in the flesh and/or for temporary gain will be burned away.
I want to invest my time and energy here on earth to efforts that will produce eternal worth and value at the Judgement Seat of Christ. When the testing of fire comes upon my works, I want them to endure as gold.
The Judgment Seat of Christ fuels my passion for growing disciples. There are times when it feels like there is very little happening, but I remind myself to stay focused and use my resources wisely. While the unbelieving world is caught up in the rat race, I want to follow Jesus and build for heavenly rewards.
As you can see, growing disciples overlaps with many different aspects of the Kingdom. I’m sure there are additional motivations, which I haven’t touched on here, but these are the ones that rise to forefront of my mind.
Why are you passionate about growing disciples?