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Aug 18, 2013

The Art of Disciple Making

Passage: Matthew 28:16-20

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Disciple Making Disciples

Keywords: disciple, discipleship, church, mission, great commission


This message looks at the process Jesus outlined for disciple-making when he gave us the humanly impossible command to "make disciples" of all nations. This is the mission of every Christ-follower and church under the leadership of Jesus.


The Art of Disciple-Making

Mt. 28:16-20

August 18, 2013


CONNECT:  Turn to the person next to you and tell them about 1 thing you are thankful for/happy about that happened this week?


Video:  This Is Discipleship [http://youtu.be/JoGp765TjPo]


How do you feel when you are asked to do something that is totally new for you and probably beyond your field of experience or expertise? 

  • How do you feel when you’re the first person to come upon an accident in which someone is injured…and you aren’t a medical professional?
  • How do you feel when your boss tells you to go work on a new project you’re totally unfamiliar with?
  • How do you feel on the first day of class when the prof goes through the syllabus on a course that is outside your field of experience…like A & P—Airframe & PowerPlant (if you’re not an aviation student)…or Anatomy & Physiology (if you are)? 


I frequently feel that way about some of the things I hear Jesus asking me to do.  “Lord, you’ve got to be kidding!  This is way over my head.  I don’t know how to…

  • …love people unconditionally
  • …train up and disciple my children
  • …turn the other cheek when someone puts me down
  • …bear the fruit of the spirit in being a joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, loving, gentle person.

The list goes on and on.


And ever since I can remember being a Christian, I’ve heard about how I’m supposed to be a “disciple”—a heart-felt follower of Jesus Christ in my thoughts, my words, my attitudes and my actions.  I think of verses like…

John 8:31-- To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  So I try to ready and study the words of Jesus every day and I try to “hold to them” or put them into practice as much as I can. 

Then I hear a verse like John 13:35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  So I try to love my wife, my family, you my spiritual family, even believers I’ve never met in other parts of the world.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail.


But then I come to Mt. 28:18-20 [overhead] and read Jesus’ last command to his followers, and I read that as a follower of Jesus, a “disciple”, I’m supposed to be “making disciples.”  Now that just plain seems overwhelming.  Being a disciple seems plenty big enough for me.  But being a disciple who “makes other disciples.”  Really? 

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Is Jesus serious?  Maybe he was just talking to his remaining 11 Apostles.  Maybe I don’t have to take this command that seriously, right?   Or maybe it’s just a command God gave to pastors and other Christian “professionals”, right?


There are few verses in the Bible that I have studied more than this one in my life.  And try as I may, I haven’t figured out how to pass this command off to just the Apostles or a handful of special people in his kingdom.  And I’ve wondered how many of God’s people feel a lot like I do:  overwhelmed by the enormity of this command and left wondering just how many of God’s kids are doing this on a daily basis.


Chris Buck has been hammering home the last couple of weeks that God never asks us to do something for which He has not or will not equip us.  And I agree with him.  God is not like some perfectionist parent who asks us to do a bunch of things we can’t do perfectly and then turns around and criticizes or corrects every attempt we make to obey their commands. 

But I do believe he is asking us every day to do things that, apart from an amazing work of the Holy Spirit in and through us, will fail.  That’s why the work of the Holy Spirit in us is so critical.  Even with Him, we will not obey Jesus’ commands perfectly.  But Jesus never called us to obey him “perfectly”…just with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  He’ll take care of the “perfect” part!


So back to Mt. 28.  I find it a little comforting to read in verses 16-17 that even some of the 11 remaining Apostles had doubts right up to their very last moments with him physically on earth. 

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.”

Doubted what?  We’re not told.  The context would seem to indicate that their doubts somehow held back their worship. 

Wow!  I’m not alone!  I’ve had periods of doubt in my life that all but ended my worship of God.  But that hasn’t kept God from continuing to speak into my life.  And it didn’t keep Jesus from continuing to give one of his most important commands to his followers just before he ascended into heaven. Maybe we should be so afraid of doubts.  These 11 men went on to literally change the world through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in them, doubts and all.  They became some of the most fervent and sacrificial saints of all time.  And they had their share of doubts…even in the face of the resurrected Lord Jesus whom they loved.


But becoming a disciple-making disciple of Jesus started out for every one of them with accepting Jesus’ initial call to “follow me.”   Then there were literally months, probably 2

3 years, in which these “disciples” of Jesus lived with him, traveled with him, listened to him, questioned him, served people with him, watched miracles happen with him, got criticized with him and laughed with him. 


That’s really how the best disciples have always been made—by experiencing as much of life as possible together with Jesus Christ.  Learning to know his voice, listen to his truth and live it out in this world is our life-long calling.  (I may talk more next week about what we can DO to experience more of Jesus in the journey.)  But at some point along that surrendered journey with Him, He’s asking us to become people who seek to pass that baton of becoming a Christ-follower on to as many people as possible. 


This past week I asked my Moody class to take a step back and talk about what our MISSION is in life as followers of Jesus.  Being Moody students, they responded with the solid theological answer, “Glorify God!”  In other words, show God in all his splendid nature off to a world needing to see God. 

            Next question:  But HOW do we best glorify God? Again, I got good theological answers like “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

            Then I asked, “What is THE most loving thing you can do for your neighbor?”  “That depends,” someone said.  “It could be different for every person depending on what they need.” 

            Really?  What is THE ONE THING EVERYONE on earth needs most?  Isn’t it Jesus Christ?  Isn’t it to experience the power of the Gospel to change their heart and life in such a way that they become a fervent follower/disciple of Jesus?  Sure, we may address some other needs in their life so they can actually hear the message of the Gospel.  But everyone we will ever meet has the same need:  to become a disciple…a follower of Jesus.  Without that everything else fails. 

            THE most loving thing I can do for my children, my spouse, my friends, my neighbors…anybody I ever get to know…is show them how to become a disciple of Jesus. 

That has some startling implications for all of us, particularly preachers. J  If our job as God’s kids is to help others and each other become the best disciples of Jesus possible, how well are we doing? 

[Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not trying to make any of us feel guilty…or proud, feel like an underperformer or failure.  I’m wanting to think critically about my life in Christ and God’s church without being critical.  Those are two different things.  I want to have a holy discontent about life that will enable me to grow where I can and trust God to do what I can’t.]

            So I’ve been asking myself lately, “How am I doing with this disciple-making command?”  If I’m honest with myself and God, I’d put myself at about a 2.5 or 3 out of a potential 10. 

            About now you’re probably thinking, “Well, what’s the point?  If pastor thinks he’s a 2.5 out of 10, and he’s gone to school to learn to be a disciple-maker…and he’s been doing this for 35 years…and he even teaches other people how to do it…what chance do I have of reaching and 8, 9 or 10 in my potential as a disciple-maker?” 

            Honestly?  A better chance than I do.  Many of you are younger and will hopefully learn faster and avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made and continue to make.  Most of you don’t have to “unlearn” nearly as much as I have to in order to just be a disciple-maker of someone you know. 


You see, I started this journey in ministry with a false premise.  I grew up in the era of “church growth” when we were taught that it was our job to make sure that churches grew.  If we followed certain methodologies, our church would “grow.”  So I came to functionally believe that the best way I could “love God and love my neighbor” was to “grow the church” wherever I was.  And, by God’s grace, I was able to see a church in Madrid grow from nothing to several dozen…and a church in Spokane grow from several hundred to nearly a thousand. 


But there are a couple of problems with that mentality.  First, I can’t find one verse in the Bible that commands me to “grow God’s church.”  I can’t think of a single verse that says it’s my job to even “build” the church.  Rather, I think Jesus said that HE would “build” his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Mt. 16:18). 

            Secondly, the older I get, the more I’m inclined to believe that getting people to sit in a church building for a church service a few times a month has very little to do with actually making those people fervent followers of Jesus Christ or equipping them to “make disciples” of their family, friends and neighbors. 

            IF “doing church” week after week is what “being a disciple is all about, what will most of us end up thinking “being a good disciple of Jesus” is all about?

  • Coming to a building that holds a lot of people…
  • At a certain time and day of the week…
  • To sit still and listen to a paid professional lecturer…
  • Who knows a lot more about the Bible because he/she has gotten higher-education degrees in the subject.
  • Be polite to people next to me.
  • Put some money in an offering.
  • Sing and smile at the right time.
  • Go home and do it again the next week.


Can you point to any verse that commands YOU to do any of those things the way I just described?


But we have all been told that WE are to “make disciples” of all peoples/nations/ethnic groups…every one of us who calls ourselves a disciple of Jesus. 

So the next logical question is what?  HOW???  HOW am I supposed to become a follower of Jesus who helps other people become followers of Jesus Christ?  How am I to “make disciples”?  The interesting thing is that I think Jesus told us the answer to that at the same time he gave us the command to do that in Matthew 28. 


So let me give you a very rough skeleton upon which to develop your understanding today about this command and instruction in Mt. 28.   

1.)    Read Mt. 28:18-20.

2.)    Explain the singular command:  “make disciples”

3.)    Explain the 3 participles that modify this singular command, i.e. tell us how to “make disciples”: 

  1. having gone:  Past participle, like giving someone instructions such as “having arrived at the grocery store, please pick up a gallon of milk.” 
  2. Baptizing  
  3. teaching to obey what Jesus has commanded


So here’s what I want you to do for the next 6-8 minutes

1.)    Copy down Mt. 28:19-20 on the note card.  (We have pens and cards.  It’s on the screen here.)

2.)    In groups of 3 or 4 people, try and figure out what it means.  Do this by asking a couple of simple questions:

  1. What did Jesus actually say to do?
  2. What does that mean we will have to do in order to obey Him? 

Small passage…easy assignment for 6-8 minutes…right? J

NOTE:  This is already making some of you uncomfortable because it isn’t fitting what your concept of  a “church service” is all about.  But if “doing church” should really be about “making disciples” then we’re all going to have to change the way we’ve been doing church. 


Regroup as a large group:


  1. Made or born?  (Born again…but “made” by the joint human-divine work and power of the Gospel.)
    1.                                                   i.      Different from “conversions”?  How?  (More complete, life-long, harder, life-on-life, etc.)
    2.                                                 ii.      Of whom?  (All nations/ethnic groups/ people groups/etc.)
    3.                                               iii.      How?  (see the participles)
    4.                                               iv.      Who is responsible to do this? (All.)
      1.                                                   i.      Assumes what?  [We’re going somewhere.  Acts 1:8—crossing streets and cultural boundaries that will otherwise keep people from hearing the Gospel.]
      2.                                                 ii.      Whose job is it to step across cultural barriers?  What kinds of cultural barriers exist between unsaved people and our church culture?  [Circles of culture image.]
      3.                                               iii.      Where are you and I “going” every week where we are encountering people needing Jesus?
      4.                                               iv.      Assumes a strategy built upon what others needs, not what we’re used to.  STORY of sweat shop Asians in San Francisco with a church food-bank across the street.  Even with that outreach opportunity, that group of people remained unreached.  Only as some of the Asians in the congregation gave up their higher-paying jobs in order to go work in the sweat shop with those workers could they reach into the lives of those people. 
      5.                                                 v.      We won’t know how to “make disciples” of other cultures unless we actually put ourselves in a different cultural place in our own daily lives.  [The early church’s challenge of neglecting the Grecian Jewish (Hellenistic) widows in the daily distribution of food, Acts 6.  Even the early church had challenges stepping into each other’s cultural shoes/differences.]
      6. BAPTIZING:
        1.                                                   i.      In Acts, done at the time of conversion. 
        2.                                                 ii.      Was the initial public act of obedience to Christ and identification with Him.
        3.                                               iii.      Was public testimony of a private/internal surrender to the Lordship and leadership of Jesus Christ.
        4.                                               iv.      What difference would this kind of immediate public profession make in the life of the church today?
        5.                                                 v.      What if all of us were in the habit of sharing something every week with someone outside Christ about what God is doing in our lives.  EX:  What if we were in the habit of sharing either one thing God spoke to us about from the Sunday worship experience or one story from the Bible that we had studied that week with 1 unbeliever?  If week after week they heard a string of stories, God-sightings/ encounters or spiritual tidbits from us, wouldn’t God begin to use His Word more in their lives?  And when they came to Christ, wouldn’t they understand/think that Christians are just supposed to be talking about God and his word all the time? 
        6.                                               vi.      “…in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit….”  Why is the Trinity important to our faith experience?  (The same reason fathers and mothers are both important to children—we learn and see different aspects of God’s nature through different members of the Trinity.)
        1.                                                   i.      What should be the focus of our teaching?  (Obedience)
        2.                                                 ii.      What is wrong with a lot of teaching that we do in churches today?  (It isn’t obedience-focused, expected, inspected, etc.) 
        3.                                               iii.      Won’t this lead to legalism?  (True obedience never will, whether modeled or taught.  Legalism comes when we are trying to earn something by our effort that God gives by his grace.  It’s an attitude, not an action.  Grace-based obedience sets people free to experience the life of Christ in continually fresh ways.  Knowledge-based teaching confuses knowledge with obedience and leaves people discontent and disappointed with their experience of Christ.
        4.                                               iv.      Where do we find “everything [Jesus] has commanded us”?  The BIBLE.  That is why the Scriptures are always central to a vibrant walk with Christ.
        5.                                                 v.      DANGER:  The “medium becomes the message.”  What “message” does the average church service experience send to us and anyone that happens to stumble into church? 
          1. Whose job is it to study and teach the Word?
          2. Whose job is it to share the Word?
          3. Whose job is it to pray?  Lead in worship?
          4. What is the job/responsibility of the people sitting in the congregation to do each week? (Come, sit, listen, sing, give, smile, go home.)
          5. What gets left out of the Christian life if the only “church experience” we have is what happens on Sunday morning?
          6. What potentially false definitions of spiritual success do we end up with if our predominant church models are “doing church” like this?
          7.                                               vi.      What might a more obedience-oriented approach to teaching God’s word look like in each of our lives?  As a church?


Now we come to the really challenging part of this morning. 

2.)    If we obey this passage, what will it look like in our lives?  Take 2 minutes to ask God HOW you can obey some part of this verse this week.  Then complete the sentence, “By the grace of God, I will….

Video:  This Is Discipleship [http://youtu.be/JoGp765TjPo]