Shortly before Jesus left this earth to return to heaven he had some final words to give to His disciples. Matthew 28:18-20 is often called the Great Commission passage and it says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is called the great commission because it is like the final marching orders given to the followers of Jesus. You probably have heard this passage preached on many times. Often at missionary services where there is the call to “Go.” However, that is not a correct understanding of the passage. The emphasis is not on the “going” but rather on “making disciples.” It is beyond the scope of this article to look at the Greek wording and dissect these verses but the emphasis in these verses is the main verb that is translated “make disciples.” That is the driving thought in these words. Jesus was telling his followers “as they go along in life they are to MAKE DISCIPLES by baptizing and teaching others to obey.” This is what discipleship is all about.
Every one of us is to be involved in discipleship if we are followers of Jesus Christ. This is not just for those with the spiritual gift of teaching or evangelism. This is for all of us. Just remember that disciples are made not born. So how do we make disciples? Much of the New Testament is written to explain discipleship and in this article I will give 7 tips on discipleship. These are in no particular order and are not an exhaustive list but the seven tips discussed below are essential to true discipleship.
1. Live a Christ-Centered Life
To live Christ centered is to truly find Life the way it was meant to be lived. This is the life in which Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him is the center of our life. When our relationship with Christ is the center, it will impact every area of life and that is what it was meant to be like!
2. Modeling: Lead By Example
Modeling for your disciple is so important. This does not mean that we are perfect and that the disciple we are investing in will see us that way. No what it means is that we can show another person how important that Christ is to us by watching the way we live. This may involve going out to lunch together and bowing for prayer in a busy restaurant. Invite them to your house for a night of fun watching football or a show of your choosing. People can learn how important that Christ is in us in the way we treat our spouse or even in the way we interact with a waiter or waitress.
3. Be a Humble Servant
Humility is near and dear to the heart of Jesus. This is often one of the hardest characteristics for even long-time Christians to be consistent in. We can show our humility in many ways. In the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, Jesus includes both humility and meekness in His description of a mature Christian. When we humble ourselves and put the needs of other’s before your own, it is then God’s responsibility to take care of you. He will give you favor with Him and with man (Proverbs 3:3-5).
True discipleship requires accountability. If you are going to disciple someone, this must be more than a social gathering where you get caught up on the things of life. Have fun but don’t forget why you are meeting together and that is to make disciples. One practical way to do this is by having a set of questions that both you and your disciple knows you are going to discuss each meeting. Questions like…what did you read this week? Were the internet sites you looked at this week pleasing to God? How was your prayer time this week?
5. Practice Spiritual Disciplines
Christians over the years have learned that certain disciplines and practices help them keep the spiritual channels open and help keep the heart turned toward God. These disciplines cannot bring you salvation; they can’t even make you a holy person. But they can heighten your desire, awareness, and love of God by stripping down the barriers that you put up within yourself and some that others put up for you. What makes something a ‘spiritual discipline’ is that it takes a specific part of your way of life and turns it toward God. A spiritual discipline is, when practiced faithfully and regularly, a habit or regular pattern in your life that repeatedly brings you back to God and opens you up to what God is saying to you. Christian devotional practice is squarely centered on Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament.
6. Faithfulness: Be there for them
A discipling relationship needs to be a faithful relationship. It is important to meet regularly with them and to be someone they can count on. Be reliable and committed to them. This will be very evident for them to see if you are committed to meeting and being with them or if it is just something that you are trying to fit into your schedule. If you give your disciple something to do (like homework of reading a certain Scripture passage or maybe sharing their faith one time over a week period), please remember to check if they did it. This will let them know you are committed to their spiritual well being. Faithfulness in any of the areas that are most important in life requires that we discipline ourselves for the long haul, not the quick fix. Another way of putting it is: life is a marathon, not a sprint. Whether in our marriage, a job, a diet, or our relationship with God, sticking to it day after day, week after week, and doing it right, is a challenge.
1Cor. 4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. 2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
7. Prayer and Scripture Reading
Your discipling relationship must be bathed in prayer and the reading of God’s word. This will keep all of the other tips in balance and to make sure that this relationship is not just earthly wisdom from you and your life experiences but rather a committed relationship where Christ and the Word of God is at the center of everything that you do. Prayer is so important also. Make sure that you pray before you meet and pray when you meet. Depending on the spiritual maturity of the one that you are discipling, you may pray when you meet in the beginning of the relationship. This is fine initially but slowly transition into having both of you pray. Pray for individual needs and requests.
One thing missing from many church bodies today is individual discipleship. Many churches do a great job at hosting larger events such as spiritual retreats or great Sunday school classes where people can learn but individual accountability and discipleship is so very important. My prayer for you today is that you think about a life that you can invest in for the Kingdom of God. Pray about the right person for you and then talk to them about it. They probably will not approach you. You will be blessed by God in working with another believer in Christ. Investing in the Kingdom of God has eternal benefits.~~ (Author Unknown)
**Contributor's note: Simply because we are more than two thousand years this side of the Lord giving "GREAT COMMISSION" to us and all generations of Christians does not excuse or relieve us of the SACRED DUTIES OF DISCIPLESHIP. Let us be working, for the night is coming. - - Cliff Holmes