Make Disciples, not Converts

The last great commandment that Jesus gave us before he left us to continue the work is the one we call the Great Commission. Matthew is most succinct about it:

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

In the English translation, there are four verbs in this command: go, make disciples, baptize and teach. So we teach our people to support missions, we make doctrines about baptisms and we expect the pastors to do the teaching.

I think we’ve misunderstood the heart of what Jesus was talking.

You probably know, the Bible (including this command) wasn’t written in English. It was written in Greek. In the original Greek text, there is a single command: Make disciples.

The rest of the verbs are actually participles; they discuss how to make disciples:

· Make disciples by going.

· Make disciples by baptizing.

· Make disciples by teaching.

So there is a single command: “Make disciples.” By the way, the command is not: “Make converts.” Jesus is not commanding us to count the number of hands raised at an altar call or to finish meetings with the famous line, “With every eye closed….”

For the record, He’s also not commanding us to make “church members,” “fellow believers”, or “saints” or “new converts classes.”

He’s telling us to make disciples.

The question arises: what is a disciple. Jesus never defines the word, but He models it:

Matthew 10:25: “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.”

Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

Paul expounded on it a little more.

1 Corinthians 11: 1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

2 Timothy 2: 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

For the sake of completeness, Vine’s Bible Dictionary says that the Greek word (which is mafetew for those who need to know) says “A ‘disciple’ was not only a pupil, but an adherent; hence they are spoken of as imitators of their teacher

So here’s the assignment: clone yourself. Whatever you have, give it away. (Don’t worry about the things you don’t have: you don’t have to give that away. Yet.) As you follow Jesus, lead by example. The Book describes it this way:

1 Thessalonians 2:8: We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

One of my pet peeves is that the Church has been taught for so many years that we’re sinners, we’re bad people, and it’s only by the grace of God that we’re not like those tax collectors and harlots of the world. “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I’m not good enough!”

Bosh! The Book says we’re saints, even priests! Everyone running the race has someone ahead of them that they can learn from, and someone behind us that we can help. Let’s find those people.

Our whole purpose, from the very beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane, has been to “Go forth and multiply!” That means “make disciples”, not “make converts.”

So it’s not all about keeping the midwives busy with new babies. Sometimes it’s about making spiritual babies into spiritual leaders. There are different levels of maturity, and our job is to help each other – those ahead of us, those beside us and those behind us – to keep moving forward towards maturity.

I have three suggestions for walking this out:

1) Make a conscious choice to become an influencer of people. If you see yourself as a sheep, you’ll never see the opportunities. If you see yourself as a shepherd, suddenly, you’ll see sheep everywhere. Be ready to be a disciple-maker.

2) When you have opportunity, leak. Let the character, the values, the actions of heaven show. Don’t ever be pushy, don’t try to make a program out of it, but look for opportunities. I was surprised recently to discover an opportunity to speak into the life of a successful sales rep who was concerned about the fact that his territory included Las Vegas. I had the chance to speak into him, and we prayed together on the crowded sales floor.

3) If you’re not in a in discipling relationships, it’s time to change that. It’s time to make sure that we are a disciple before we become a disciple-maker. I guess it’s kinda hard to give away what we don’t have.

But let’s make disciples!

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