I’ve been on a personal journey the last couple of years to learn more about discipleship from Scripture as well as learn from those who are currently obeying God in this area. I’ve read books written by Stetzer, Rainer, Putman, Chan, Platt, Blackaby and currently Idleman. My wife and I went to a Real Life Ministries conference in Post Falls, Idaho last Spring focused on making disciples through small groups. I’ve also participated in a pastor’s forum in Omaha which included reading and discussing the book Real Life Discipleship written by Jim Putnam. I’ve attended a pastor’s forum on discipleship in Lincoln during the winter. And most recently, Cheri and I attended a Discipleship Conference in Orlando. As a pastor, living the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20 to make disciples and leading our church to obey the “Great Commission” is a serious matter to me. It is a matter of obeying and honoring God. What can be more important?
My study and desire to obey God has lead me to implement a couple of grass roots areas of discipleship. First, the deception that discipleship is automatic or someone will do it for you has to be crushed. The concept of worship being restricted to a one hour worship service on Sunday morning must die. The mentality that discipleship can be limited to a weekly Bible study has to come to an end. Why? These are man-made ideas and implementations. Biblical discipleship is a grass roots effort of training and equipping believers in Christ which includes “showing,” not just telling you how to make disciples. That’s right–disciples make disciples. The two areas of discipleship that I’m working on are Shared Life and Life2Life. Shared Life focuses on small groups while Life2Life is one-on-one coaching/mentoring. These ministries are simply the application of discipleship modeled by Jesus and the Apostle Paul. As we do life together, we model what it means to be a disciple. In effect, the process continues as others catch the concept and then reproduce or multiply through making disciples.
However, in reading The Man God Uses by Henry & Tom Blackaby, I’ve realized that there is something even more grassroots than the process of making disciples who make disciples. It is even more grass roots than implementing small groups and a mentoring ministry. It is relationship—primarily developing our relationship with God. The following is a quote from the book. “God is known for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. Throughout Scripture God used ordinary men to affect his kingdom in extraordinary ways. One thing, however, set them apart. If we look carefully, we can see something they had in common. Each man God used had a responsive heart ready to hear God and a life that was available to obey God. Each also possessed the integrity to honor God.” –Henry & Tom Blackaby, The Man God Uses, p.3
As Henry & Tom Blackaby scoured the scriptures they concluded that the man God uses begins with a deep and abiding relationship with God. What are the characteristics of this deep and abiding relationship?
1) “A responsive heart ready to hear God.” Are you listening to what God is saying through reading and studying scripture and through prayer?
2) “A life available to obey God.” Do you love God so much that you refuse to tell him no or wait?
3) “Integrity to honor God.” Are your lifestyle and priorities in Biblical alignment bringing God honor and glory?
In short, we grow into becoming disciples who make disciples as we grow in our relationship with Christ. All roads to becoming a disciple and making disciples go through Jesus and our relationship with him. John records the very words of Jesus which makes it clear for us. JN 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If the life of Christ permeates a disciple, fruit will be inevitable. What is the fruit? It, at the very least, includes making disciples who make disciples in obedience to the “Great Commission.”
In conclusion, allow me to encourage you with some advice from personal experience. My relationship with Christ and my relationship with other Christians and my service in honor of Christ are all tied together. It begins and ends with my relationship with Christ, and the relationship always bears fruit. It bears fruit in my relationship with others and my obedience in making disciples who make disciples. If you want to learn where you are in the process of becoming a disciple who makes disciples, look at the fruit in your life. If you want to know the health of your relationship with Christ, look at the fruit in your life. As with an apple tree, the spiritual fruit in a Christian’s life always reflects the health of the branch which, in turn, reflects the branch’s relationship with the vine or trunk. Again, the grass roots of discipleship is relationship—a deep and abiding relationship with Christ.