Yesterday we considered what a disciple is, today we answer the question: Who Makes Disciples? And I would suggest that there are two ways to answer that question. First, churches make disciples; second, mature believers make disciples. Let’s consider.
Churches Make Disciples
At the institutional level, God has created the church to be a disciple-making community. This is not to say that parachurches, camps, publishing houses, or Christian radio cannot be involved in the process, but in his wisdom, the church is the ordained means of defending the gospel, proclaiming salvation, and making disciples (Eph 3).
Accordingly, churches would be served by asking: If Jesus came today and evaluated our church, on what would he evaluate? What are his expectations? I think the answer and expectation is simple. Jesus would inquire “What are you doing to make disciples?” I don’t think he is very impressed with all sorts of activities, fellowships, and programs that make us busy but fail to make disciples. He has not called us to be active, but to be active in making disciples. Since Christ is in the business of making disciples, that is what he expects of us.
God’s word on this is clear. As the body of Christ, we are to be the hands, feet, mouthpieces of our Lord. Accordingly, if God is going to make disciples in this age, it is through the church, by his Spirit. If his greatest passion is to see the lost converted into disciples, then he expects that his body would be about the same work. The Great Commission is the explicit statement of this truth. “Go into all the world and make disciples.” Churches that excel in ministry but do not excel in making gospel-centered, word-saturated disciples who are able to reproduce themselves are not excelling as much as their numbers might indicate.
Big or small, churches are called to make disciples. That is the first level.
At the individual level, it is mature believers that make disciples. As in life, mature adults have babies, so adult Christians “give birth” (or rather, serve as attending nurses to the birth from above) to new Christians. While young Christians, infants in the Lord, can and do witness with great zeal and effectiveness, it is mature believers who are in a position to “disciple” newborn Christians.
The Great Commission includes a call to teach all that the Lord has instructed. New believers rarely know all there is in Scripture, or how to apply it. This is why Scripture repeatedly demonstrates older believers mentoring or discipling younger believers (think of Paul with Timothy, Titus, and Silas, or Barnabas with Paul or John Mark). Titus 2 gives clear instruction that older women are to teach younger women, and older men are to be models for younger men.
Thus, all disciples should strive for maturity such that they can disciple others. This is not an optional calling, this is part and parcel of being a growing disciple. Sadly, as Hebrews 5 laments, many who should be teachers are in need of learning the elementary truths again.
As a way of evaluation, we can say that mature believers are those who exhibit Christlike character and who are able and actually discipling younger believers. Discipling others shows Christian love, an understanding of God’s purposes in the world, and a self-sacrificing, others-centeredness that behooves a mature believer. By contrast, maturity should not be measured by the number of years a person has gone to church or even by how many studies they have led, how many committees they have chaired, or even by the number of Bible certificates or degrees they hold. Maturity is measured by ones personal Christlikeness and their reproduction.
May God continue to raise up disciple-makers in this generation, that more and more disciples would be born, raised, and sent out.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss