I do not remember when it happened, but there came a time I knew what the answer to a certain question was going to be before I asked it. The shock of the responses gradually became more of a depressing frustration. Looking out at church congregations, or event participants I always ask the same thing, “How many disciples do you have in your church right now?”
Now, let me ask you the same thing: How many disciples does your church have? Give me the exact number.
Exactly. That silence and blank stare is the answer I have gotten all over the world. We do not know how many disciples we have, and it blows my mind. And if you think all members are disciples there is strike one. Yet, Jesus specifically said, “Go make disciples of all nations.”
Imagine you and your friend both like the same football team. You miss the game, but you know your friend watched it. You run into his house and ask expectantly, “How’d our team do?”
“It was amazing,” she replies, “the color on their uniforms looked so bright.”
“What?” You are not sure she heard you right. “No, how’d we do?”
“I think the grass was too long,” she tells you.
Now you are totally confused. “Please tell me how we did today,” you beg.
“I was shocked,” she says, “our quarterback cut his hair totally different.”
By now you would be ready to throw away your friend card. What were you wanting to know? The score of course. Did your team win or lose?
Now, Jesus comes to His churches and similarly asks, “How’d our team do?”
“Our tithe is up five percent this year,” we reply. Or, “We had ten baptisms.” Maybe we try to impress Him with, “Our Sabbath School attendance is up.”
Let’s be grateful Jesus does not get as frustrated with us as He could, or we would be in a world of hurt. What is He asking? If we are making disciples like He commanded! But the reality is almost no churches even dream about keeping track of this. And if we do not keep score, how do we know if we are succeeding or failing? Hint: it is the latter.
So, what do we need to do to start making strong disciples of Jesus? The answer is not really all that complicated, we need to do three things:
1. We need to know what a disciple is.
You cannot make one if you do not know what they are. Thus, we need to find something that would tell us what disciples look like. We are blessed to have the ultimate guidebook to disciple making - the Bible! I encourage each church to discover what a disciple is for themselves. I have found four basic ingredients in disciples:
a. They love Jesus and cannot wait to share Him with the world. The mission of Jesus becomes forefront in their minds.
b. They want to grow. Disciples want to build their relationship with God and expand their talents to be increasingly effective at their Spirit-led callings.
c. They desire to live in loving relationships. Love is the number one identifier of Christ’s disciples. They love their family within their churches as well as their communities.
d. Disciples always make more disciples. That is our calling, right?
Once we know what a disciple looks like, what is our next step?
2. We need a plan to make disciples.
Every single person who comes to know Jesus must be shown a clear path on how to become His disciple. We need intentional systems in each church that helps a person go from believing in Jesus to rocking the world for Jesus. This can look different in every church. Usually a combination of mentorship, training classes, sermons, experiential training, and personal growth plans are utilized to build strong disciples.
If we get these two steps in place, what is next?
3. We need to keep score.
We need to know if we are actually succeeding in building the disciples Jesus asks us to make. You can use a self-evaluation, like I do, to see how people are growing, or design a type of scoreboard that works best for you.
Please know, there is no one-size-fits-all program. I am not advocating a, “60 days to make better, shinier disciples,” program. People are unique and they also grow at different speeds. However, success is attainable if we lean on the Holy Spirit and be persistent.
Now it is time for one last question, “Are you ready to commit to making disciples?”
Pastor Steve Leddy is the Church Planting Director for Multiethnic Ministries at the Greater New York Conference.