Disciple-Making is Ordinary Christianity
What is your job as a Christian? If God gave you a job description for the Christian life, what would he put on it?
At the core of the Christian’s job is the task of discipleship. We read this clearly in our Lord’s pre-ascension words:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” (Mt. 28:18–20)
What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we make disciples we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow him (conversion) and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives (maturity).
Many Christians hear this and file it away in a cabinet of idealism. Sure, I’d like to disciple people but I really can’t. They feel like discipleship is above their pay grade. Is this true? Is discipleship something that only pastors, elders and the “mature” do? Or is it for everyone?
Here is my main point: disciple-making is ordinary Christianity. It is fundamental to it. Like learning to count and say your alphabet in the natural realm, there is scarcely any part of the Christian life where discipleship does not touch. In so far as Christianity is a community faith, it is a disciple-making faith.
There may be a dozen different paradigms flying around when you hear discipleship. Some people insist on reading a book, meeting for coffee, eating a meal, working out, etc. All of these may aid the work of discipleship but they are not a prerequisite for or the necessary substance of it. Jesus never gave us a program for discipleship but he gave us his example and a broad, far-reaching command to do it. As a result, we have great freedom and a great burden for discipleship.
What does it look like? When Jesus commands us to make disciples he intends for us to live our lives in obedience to him in the presence of other people (believers and unbelievers). This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.
Let me give you some examples:
Discipleship happens when a guy wants to be married but doesn’t have a game-plan for how to go about it. He asks another brother for guidance and help. This brother takes him out for lunch and talks through some biblical and practical principles. He then commits to pray for him, to be available for questions, and to meet occasionally to talk about his progress.
Discipleship happens when a mom with two toddlers drops something off that she borrowed from another sister at church. During the exchange they get to talking and the young mom expresses her feelings of fatigue and failure to measure up to her perceived standards of motherhood. The other woman listens to her, reminds her of Scripture, prays with her, and then continues to come alongside of her for encouragement in the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a dad points out a scantily dressed lady and tells his teenage sons that what they see is not beauty. He explains to them what beauty is as it relates to God’s character and will. He continues to tell, show, and emphasize the true beauty that God delights in (1 Pt. 3:3–4).
Discipleship happens when a brother notices another brother is running hard after his job and neglecting his family and ministry. He comes alongside of his brother to remind him of the true and lasting treasure, and the proper perspective on work.
Discipleship happens when a mom is at the park with her children. At one point the kids become unruly and she patiently, graciously but faithfully, disciplines her children. There are many watching eyes around her. Both the believing and unbelieving women are intrigued. Conversations begin and soon the fruit of the Spirit points to the matchless worth of Christ.
Discipleship happens when a home-school mom breaks away with free time only to go to the same coffee house hoping to make new friends and open doors for sharing the gospel.
Discipleship happens when a single woman senses another single woman’s discontentment in being single. She makes it a point to come alongside of her for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.
These are just everyday, ordinary occurrences. In fact, I picked them from the ordinary lives of people in our church family. It is this ordinary work that pushes the church ahead toward maturity while protecting her from spiritual shipwreck.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:13–14)
Discipleship is the ordinary practice of believers. You could say that Christianity is more than discipleship, but it is not less. We are our brother’s keeper. It’s in the job description.
Erik Raymond is pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and he writes regularly at his blog, Ordinary Pastor.