If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
— John 15:7–8 —
Yesterday I preached a message on disciple-making that, for me, is the culmination of about 15 years of thinking on discipleship and Christian hedonism.
In college God used two ministries to shape the core of theological convictions. The first was Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru). Through men like Phil Gillespie, Chris Sarver, and Robert Coleman (via The Master Plan of Evangelism, a Cru staple), God gripped my heart with a passion to make disciples.
A few years later, after grappling with some theological questions related to God’s sovereignty and personal holiness, the Lord brought John Piper and the ministry of Desiring God into view. His book (Desiring God) was an answer to prayer, in that gave me a biblical vision for the glory of God that most satisfies the soul. As Piper puts it, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
After college the fusion of disciple-making and Christian hedonism continued. And while in Chattanooga, Tennessee the discipleship pastor at my church showed the relationship between glory-seeking and disciple-making from John 15:7–8. What is the pinnacle of glorifying God? As in creation, it is the making of an image-bearer who is learning how to live and love like Jesus—i.e., a disciple. Hence by making disciples who reflect the glory of God, God is most glorified in us. The question is, will we be most satisfied in disciple-making?
That was the focus of my sermon yesterday. For the last fifteen years, this paradigm of glorifying God via disciple-making has undergirded so much of my thinking. But I don’t think I have preached on it much—until yesterday.
In our series on spiritual disciplines, I made the argument from Luke 12:32–34 that the primary way we store up treasure in heaven is to make disciples. Just like the Israelites of old “stored up” treasure in the tabernacle (Exodus 25 and 35) and temple (1 Chronicles 29), so disciples of Christ store up treasure in heaven, God’s heavenly temple, by investing their lives in others. As we use our lives to help others walk with Christ, we become Spirit-filled instruments in Christ’s temple-building hands. Discipleship therefore includes evangelism and encouragement, leading others to Christ and helping them walk with him. This in turn magnifies the work of Christ and the glory of God.
All of this I argued is the way in which we store up treasure in heaven—by sharing God’s view that disciples are the greatest treasure. And therefore setting our heart on making disciples, so that God’s glory is magnified and our joy is multiplied. You can listen to the sermon online or read the notes here. Discussion questions are below, as well as a few resources to help you multiply your joy by making disciples.
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
1. We have included disciple-making as a spiritual discipline. Why is that? Why is disciple making a discipline (and not a gift)? Why is not often included in lists of disciplines?
2. What is a disciple? What are the characteristics of a disciple? What do disciples do? What does a disciple need to know about discipleship? How does Luke 12 help us be disciples?
3. What is the context of Luke 12? How do we see discipleship in Luke? Luke 12? While the word ‘disciple’ is not in verses 32–34, what indicators are there that disciple is in view? Cf. Luke 9:57–62 and 14:25–34.
4. In our passage, what is the comfort (32), the challenge (33), and the counsel (34)? Why is it vital to mediate on the comfort of our identity as disciples (= sheep, heirs, children of God) before considering calls to follow and make disciples?
5. What does it mean to store up treasure? What makes this difficult (or easily missed)? How much do you think about storing treasuring? Making disciples? How can disciple making as treasure seeking help you follow the Lord?
6. Practically, what can you do to make disciples? How can you grow in your love for discipleship? And how can you keep that vision of disciple making before you?
For Further Study
Randy Pope is the lead teacher at Perimeter Church (Atlanta, GA). His book on discipleship is called Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church. Other books on personal disciple-making that are worth your consideration are
- Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism. This is the gold standard of disciple-making. To date, its abridged version has sold 3.5 million copies. Coleman is father of the modern “spiritual multiplication” movement. This is the first book you should read on disciple-making.
- A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve. Pre-dating Coleman, this larger volume looks at the life of Jesus with this disciples and picks up a number of the same features as Coleman.
- Christopher Adsit, Personal Discipleship-Making. Christopher is a Campus Crusade for Christ guy who gives a step-by-step approach to leading new believers to maturity in Christ.
- Robby Gallaty, Growing Up. Robby the senior pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He has an infectuous desire to make disciples and to help others make disciples too. His leads Replicate Ministries, a ministry devoted to inspiring and equipping others to help make disciples.
- Bill Hull has written a number of important works on discipleship. To date, I have not read them, but have heard great things about them. They are Jesus Christ, Disciplemaker; The Disciple-Making Church; and The Disciple-Making Pastor .
- Finally, a recent book that is at the top of my list for discipleship is Mark Dever’s Discipling. Mark is a personal example of discipleship and his book makes the complexities of discipleship simple. If you read any book on this list, start here (or with The Master Plan of Evangelism).
May God gives us discipleship fever and be faithful make disciples.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds