Put Your Knowledge to Use
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
In case you didn’t know, Jesus said that. Just so you grasp the seriousness behind that statement. Anyways, what do you think of when you hear the word ‘evangelism’? What comes to mind when you think about ministering to others? For most people (I know this was my viewpoint), it would be telling someone about Jesus, maybe giving them a tract, or if you’re really ambitious, handing them a Bible. This is very good – but it’s just a start. Jesus told us to make disciples – which are not just converts. Disciples are trained – enough to be functioning on their own, and are committed to a lifestyle of growth. Evangelism should consist of us telling others about the sacrifice Christ made for them, but it shouldn’t stop there. We need to get these new converts so they can eventually function on their own, producing even more disciples. How do we do that though?
Would you believe that Jesus gave us the answer right after He gave us the challenge? Wow, it’s like this ‘guy’ knew us or something! But yes, He did give us the answer, and it’s pretty simple if we just start doing it and asking God for His guidance. The answer is, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. That’s how we make disciples. (Sidenote: baptism is a necessary step too, as that is a public confession of Christ – but this post is addressing the training part)
That answer – the teaching part – is your job. It’s not just a pastor’s job, it’s not just an evangelist’s job, it’s not just for the people that are really outgoing and bold. Jesus charged you with this task. Please don’t rationalize it away. There’s no excuse big enough to dismiss yourself from this task. If you know Christ, it’s your responsibility to share Him with others and train them so they can in turn share Him with others. I’m not trying to give a guilt-trip, but what if you’re the only Christian in someone’s life right now – or ever? How would you feel on judgment day if nobody took the time to really explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to you?
I’m not dismissing the importance of getting plugged into a church, and being under a pastor’s teachings. That’s very important, but discipleship goes hand-and-hand with it; discipleship is not to be replaced by hearing a sermon once a week. In the early church, the Bible states that the believers met up every day at the temple to be taught. You can bet it wasn’t just a short sermon – there would be one-on-one encouragement and guidance too.
So what would discipleship look like, if it were to happen in your own life? Well, let’s say someone comes up to you after years of friendship, and they ask why you’re ‘religious’. You explain how Christ died for your sin and asks us to live for Him now, and the person makes a decision for Christ – they’re saved now. Discipleship would be asking them “would you like to meet up, maybe weekly, and just see how things are going, if there’s anything you need me to explain or help you with?” Take them under your wing for a year or so. During that time, assess their needs. Are they struggling with a certain lifestyle change? Do they not quite get the concept of prayer? Do they have an easy to read version of the Bible? Help meet those needs as much as possible. Make sure they attend church every week. Pray with them, and keep track of their progress. Basically, be their mentor. This is the key here: don’t worry about what you don’t know, but share what you do know in order to help the person grow. Take your knowledge, and put it into action by sharing it with them. Knowledge in your brain is relatively useless; it’s only useful when it comes out and accomplishes something. When they have a greater understanding, let them know it’s their responsibility to train others like you’ve trained them.
The way discipleship works is phenomenal. [Below this paragraph is a picture that helps visualize it – the disciples you trained have green dots, the disciples your disciples trained are just red dots.] Over 4 years, you only personally disciple 4 people. However, if each new disciple disciples another person each year (not during the year that they are being discipled), after 4 years you would have directly and indirectly trained 15 people, not to mention the growth you yourself would have gone through. (Read the post Use Your Talents! for an idea of why it’s important to use your knowledge to disciple others and what will happen to you when you are faithful with what knowledge you possess) Now imagine if 10 people in your church decided to disciple one person a year. Over 4 years, you would have 150 new well-trained people in your church. For those of you who don’t mind math, the formula for this kind of growth would be [ d=(2^t)-1 ]. D = disciples (excluding you) and t = time. Go ahead and plug in 20 (years) and see how many people you would have in some way trained. For those of you who don’t like math, the answer is 1,048,575. Yes, if everyone you trained for a year discipled another person every year and so on, you would have indirectly trained over a million people in just 20 years. We don’t live in a perfect world, so it won’t work out quite the way it does in the formula. But what if it was only 1/10th as effective as the formula predicts? It’d still be over a hundred thousand people.
If you have a good amount of knowledge, pray that God leads you to someone you can disciple. If you don’t know very much at all, consider finding someone who can disciple you for a year.
The BOTTOM LINE: Jesus commanded us to make disciples, so let’s get to it!