In our house, we like to give simple instructions to our kids that help our family flourish and generally keep them on the lighter side of disgusting. So when we give directions that start with the word “go,” it’s usually followed up with some task that they need to accomplish.
We’ll say something like “go make your bed,” or “go brush your teeth,” or “go take a shower,” and of course the kids respond like we’ve just asked them to do this horrible thing that they’ll never fully recover from. Sometimes when it’s not going well my wife will say to me “go help them”… to which I respond like she’s just asked me to do some horrible thing that I’ll never fully recover from.
But there’s something here worth noting—all of those instructions have two parts. First there’s a going, and secondly there’s a doing. We’ve got to “go” in order to “do.”
In Matthew 28, there’s a final and most-important instruction from Jesus just before he’s about to ascend into heaven. It is well known as the Great Commission, and “go make disciples” was the call.
Yet even though the directive to make disciples is clear, there are few things in the Christian faith that we’ve neglected more than the application of this principle. If we really take an honest look at the situation, we’d be doing a far better job if Jesus had said in Matthew 28, “I’ve been given all authority in heaven and earth, therefore go to church,” or… “I’m leaving, but the Spirit is coming, and he’s gonna empower you to get together on Sundays with people who believe the same stuff you do.”
If our vision of gospel transformation is going to take place in every heart, home and neighborhood, then there’s got to be a going–but is it possible that most of us have forgotten that we’re already sent?! Going doesn’t have to be complicated. If we have proximity to and frequency with folks who don’t yet have faith in Christ, we’re sent people.
Of course it’s more than that, right? It begins there, but just because we’re near someone a lot doesn’t mean that their lives are going to be transformed.
There are few things that I find more rewarding than making something with my hands. About a year and half ago with my friend Dave’s help, I made a dining room table out of five beautiful spalted-maple boards. Cutting, shaping, joining, planing, sanding and finishing that table was a journey, but the result was really something special that I hope is in my family for generations. Any artisan, whether a baker, carpenter, architect or otherwise, will tell us the same thing: making something worthwhile requires an investment of love, effort and patience.
So why do we think it’s any different with our faith? Jesus is saying go make disciples, not converts. In other words, it’ll be a glorious investment of love, effort and patience.
If we’re already sent via proximity and frequency, and we’re to pour our lives into an investment of making… what exactly are we making again?
The word disciple in the Greek simply means “learner,” but to develop that a bit further in the Christian context, “A disciple is a learner who is moving from unbelief to belief in the gospel in every area of their life, and helping others do the same.”
If a musician follows the methods of the great jazz trumpeter Winton Marsalis, plays jazz in the same style and really emulates Winton well, we might say that they’re a disciple of Winton Marsalis.
But ya know what really has the power to transform that musician? It’s if Winton teaches him personally, effectively “discipling” that student in the ways of jazz. Though even Winton Marsalis would say he’s still learning himself, he understands that for the good of jazz his knowledge is worth passing down to another learner.
This is really the foundation of what Jesus envisioned when He used the term disciple: learners teaching learners that ultimately it’s Jesus’ perfect life, death and resurrection that will bring them back into friendship with God.
I’m prayerful that the more we de-mystify this call to make disciples, the more God’s people will awaken to the truth that, for the good of God’s kingdom and the rescue of humanity, what we’ve learned about Jesus is worth being passed on to other learners.
Go: you’re already sent!
Make: anything worth making is an intentional investment
Disciples: we’re learners commissioned to teach learners
For more on this topic, check out:
A Life of Discipleship: What Does That Really Mean? by Jeff vanderstelt