One of the biggest needs I see in our conservative, Bible-believing churches today is the need to be in the business of making disciples. There needs to be a mind-set that is focused on that responsibility. Our Lord said the following to His disciples, “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, 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”, Matthew 28:19-20. He has given us the task of making disciples and that should be a primary focus of church life.
A disciple is a follower and learner of the Lord Jesus Christ. A person who would be a disciple is one who desires to learn all he or she can of the life that God would have us live. In order to grow more like Christ, all of us are challenged to teach others what we have already come to know. So in reality each Christian should be a teacher. The writer of Hebrews admonished his readers for not growing enough to teach (Hebrews 5:12).
We find in Scripture that people should teach one another (Colossians 3:16). Faithful men should teach other men (2 Timothy 2:2). Older women should teach younger women (Titus 2:3-4). Husbands should teach their wives (Ephesians 5:26; 1 Corinthians 14:35). Parents should teach their children (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Everyone should be teaching someone.
God tells us that it is important to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and to continue in what we have learned (2 Timothy 3:14). If we are not growing and continuing, we will be declining in our walk with Christ. It’s a constant struggle to keep learning and growing and we have a responsibility to one another to teach, admonish and encourage such growth. When Paul realized that he wasn’t going to depart and be with Christ, which, he said, would have been better, he told the Philippian Christians that he would be staying here for their “furtherance and joy of faith.” In other words his mission was to do what he could to help them in their progress in the Christian life. All of us should have the same goal.
The question then becomes, “What should be taught?” Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 that we should teach all that He has taught us. And now that we have the full Scripture that includes everything the Bible teaches. In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul writes, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” He’s calling for diligence and right interpretation and application of the Word of God. There is a body of truth that needs to be passed on.
Teaching usually involves 1) Instruction in facts and their relationships, 2) Skills that need to be mastered and 3)Guided practice and application of the facts and skills. This is what needs to occur among Christians through the life of the church. These things must be purposeful and intentional. That is they must be planned. It won’t just happen. The cost is somewhat high because it takes time and effort. But it is worthy every bit of the effort.
Let me suggest a few steps that each Christian should pursue. First, make a list of people who are potential individuals for you to impact through teaching. If you are parents, start with listing your own children (even if they are adults) and then grand children as well. Men, you should identify other men who you know to be faithful men, desiring to grow in the faith and who you might be able to help in their growth in the faith. Women should make a similar list of other women on whom they might be able to have a fruitful impact. Some of you may desire to grow in the faith in some particular area. You should seek out an older or more experienced Christian who you could ask to help you in that area.
Begin making a list of the important things you have learned that you think should be passed along to others. For example, dads, what are some of the key truths from the Bible you want your children to know before they leave home? Have you thought about this before? Church leaders should think about what important truths and concepts from Scripture you want your graduating seniors to know when they move on into the adult world. These truths should be the structured focus of your Christian Education program.
Prayerfully consider who on your list you might begin an intentional relationship with so that you can be of help to them and they in turn to you as you begin to build God’s truth into each other’s life.
Do not just let this thought die. Set some goals for yourself. For example, by the end of this week I will have identified key people with whom I might have an important impact. Begin praying today for how God would have you invest your time and energy into that kind of ministry.
If each of us Christians and our churches could develop a mindset of disciple-making, we would be more obedient to our Lord and we would find our churches strengthened and encouraged in the mutual faith we share.