How Jesus Made Disciples

how Jesus made disciples

Many Christians and churches in North America do not reproduce themselves. Nearly four thousand churches close every year in North America. Ed Stetzer estimates that 70% to 80% of all evangelical churches in the U.S. have either stopped growing or are in decline![1] The main reason is this: North America’s church is not reproducing. In contrast, the church in the global south (Asia, Africa, and Latin America) is exploding in number simply because they are reproducing. The Disciple Making Movement (DMM) that we hear about in North America is based on the experience of the disciple-making movements in the global south. We need to learn from the global south and our Lord Jesus how existing churches in North America can become a reproducing disciple-making movement once again.

The ultimate goal of discipleship is to reproduce disciples with the gospel through developing disciple-making leaders and church planters.

Reproduction ensures that a movement will live past its founding stages. The church was never intended to be an end in itself; instead, it is called to reproduce and fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples. Reproduction is the goal of every living thing. We see this throughout the pages of the Bible. The Bible is full of reproductive language. God created humankind, animals, and plants to reproduce. Reproduction is also seen in Jesus’s agricultural language throughout the gospels.

The Evangelical Free Church of the Philippines has a vision of planting two hundred churches in the Philippines and internationally, including Canada and the U.S., by 2026. The Evangelical Free Church of Canada is part of this exciting project. To put it simply, their plan is for each local church to reproduce, at least to plant one church within four years!

Intentionally reproducing disciples’ results from selecting, training, and empowering leaders and church planters who will reproduce themselves in others. This begins locally with the church and then can take place on a larger scale through the reproduction of church plants regionally and internationally. You and I can be a part of a 21st-century disciple-making movement that can change our world for Christ. Let us reproduce and multiply!

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

[1] Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can Too (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2007), p.18

The Walk

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” (Galatians 5:25 – MSG)

One of the odd things about discipleship, is that we live in a physical world, but discipleship involves spiritual realities. If I’m honest, I know that much of what I have called spiritual growth could be done just as easily if the Holy Spirit were not present. I remember the day when some of this physical, spiritual divide really started to come together for me. Unexpectedly, it was the act of going for a walk that helped me bring the physical and spiritual aspects of discipleship together in a way that has changed the way I experienced my own walk with God and the way I seek to help others in their discipleship journey.

I came across an interesting path. The path was centered around the shape of a cross. If I followed the path. It would lead me to the center of the cross. It was not possible to make a wrong turn and get lost. Even though the next steps were always clear as I walked, I could never tell if I was getting closer or farther from the center.

Sometimes the path would take me very near the center and then it would turn, and I would be walking at the outer edge again. This physical walk is meant to provide a participatory demonstration of what it’s like to walk with the Spirit. To walk this path, you have no choice but to trust the path. It will lead you to the center of the cross. But even when everything in you says, leave the path and take a different route, if you trust the path, you will never get lost.

As I followed that path back out from the center, I began to understand what I had not before. In the process of trying to live the life of the spirit, I was always trying to force the issue. If I did not feel spiritual, I would pretend or invent spiritual stuff. If it seemed I was not close to God as I was before, I was filled with guilt and even shame. As I left the path that day, I understood what it means to believe better than I had. Trust the path. Trust the spirit. Trust the promises of God.

Follow the spirit and the path will be true. I will never know when the way the spirit takes me will lead me closer or farther. But if I remain in faith, it will lead me to Jesus. In God’s way and in God’s time. I will not be lost. Trust, believe, walk in faith. You can imagine that this understanding transformed how I seek to disciple others.

If I can help another fellow disciple in finding the path, and then walking with them until they trust the path, I can trust the life of the spirit to take it from there. Sometimes it seems the other person is moving away from Jesus and sometimes it seems they are closer than they really are. I no longer try to force others to be where I think they should be. They will not be lost. Trust, believe, walk in faith.

“Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.” (Galatians 5:25 – MSG)

Marvin Penner
EFCC Alberta Parkland District Superintendent

Following Jesus is not like SnapChat

following Jesus is not like snapchat

Social media is such a mixed bag. One thing it has done is bring back the word “follow.” However, it feels to me like it has made the word distant and passive.

“Follow me,” was Jesus’ call to the first disciples. Action was the response. Proximity of relationship was required. A saying of some Jewish rabbis was, “Cover yourself in the dust of your rabbi’s feet.” The idiom means being right on the heels of the rabbi. Following closely, observing, imitating, learning to be like the rabbi. In the rabbinical system of Jesus’ day, the call to follow a rabbi meant you would leave the life of the family trade behind and enter a new life with one goal and only one – be like your rabbi.

Jesus’ call to us is similar. Our society is different. We don’t have family trades and Jesus doesn’t call all of us to leave our current jobs behind. Although that might be the call for some of us. However, the call to be a disciple is a call to leave our previous life behind and enter one of close relationship with him, with one goal – being conformed to the image of Jesus. This goal is not one we manufacture. We are transformed by the Holy Spirit’s work in us.

Does that sound passive? Just sit and let the Holy Spirit go to work? But that’s not following like a disciple. That’s closer to the kind of following we do on social media. If we follow Jesus like the first disciples, it will be active. They made time for Jesus, walked with him, went places together, talked with him, watched him, ate with him, were astounded by him, and devoted years of their lives to him. Yes, there were also times they failed him, forgot about him, doubted him, and even betrayed him. They weren’t perfect. Neither are we. Yet without active long-term relational connection with Jesus, they would never have grown more like him. The same is true for us. Disciples don’t SnapChat with Jesus. The more time and space we make for Jesus, the more we are transformed by the Spirit. Paul says it this way,

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God…Let them be a living and holy sacrifice…Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:1-2

What does this mean for you and me? Whoever you are, whatever you do; the highest calling for all of us is to be followers of Jesus.

Do we desire to be close to Jesus? What are we doing to get closer?

What practices shape your day around him? How do they help you listen and see him better?

When you hear and see him better, how do you imitate (obey) what you observe?

Disciples need each other as well. Who is walking along side you in this journey of following Jesus?

Neil Bassingthwaighte
ServeCanada Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst

The Methodology of Mission – Making Disciples

the methodology of mission

Our Lord Jesus tells His disciples what the specific task of mission is to be:

19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that I commanded you, and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is the focal point of the Great Commission. The highest priority of Jesus’ mission is evangelism. Jesus tells what specific outcome evangelism is to have – making disciples. What that means and how it is to be done is clarified by Jesus.

An examination of Matthew 28:19-20 shows that this Scripture text consists of four verbs. It consists of an imperative tied to three accompanying participles. The central imperative or command is not the first verb to “go” but “make disciples.” The centerpiece of Jesus’ command is the making of disciples.

How is disciple-making to be done?

Jesus tells His disciples that making other disciples is a three-step process: first, by going to those who had no exposure to the gospel; second, by calling them into a relationship with Jesus that culminates in baptism; and third, by teaching them to observe Jesus’ commands.

All three activities – going, baptizing, and teaching – are necessary components of transformational or real-life discipleship. When done correctly, lives are genuinely changed. This is the ultimate objective of disciple-making – the transformation of lives.

However, the greatest omission of the Great Commission worldwide is the lack of changed lives. All too often, decisions and proselytes are made instead of disciples.

When this happens, churches are filled with bodies that exhibit little evidence of changed beliefs and behaviors. This results in spiritually apathetic “believers” who deteriorate into nominal Christians. And nominal Christians, although wearing the tag “Christian,” are not Christ-followers at all. They are superficial followers of Christ in need of conversion experience.

It is incumbent on every disciple of Christ to reproduce themselves and to engage in the process of making disciples that have the transformation of lives as the final goal. Only then are people genuinely disciples of Christ. Only then is the intended outcome of the Great Commission achieved among all nations.

Ike Agawin
ServeBeyond Director

REAL LIFE Discipleship

real life discipleship II

Over the next couple of months, you will have the opportunity to read some great blog posts related to the issue of discipleship. Discipleship is ultimately what we are about — making obedient followers of Jesus. The topic certainly deserves our attention. Bill Taylor introduced the topic last week, but as we embark on this short journey of discussion — and before we get too deep into the issue of discipleship — I want to spend a couple of moments contemplating the descriptors of “REAL LIFE.” Why have we attached that to the concept of discipleship?

Of course, there are several potential responses to that question. We could say that we want to consider REAL “life discipleship.”  In other words, not theoretical, academic, or even ideal, discipleship but discipleship that is truly life discipleship, honest and real. Not fake or pretend.

While that is true, I would like to suggest that there is something else bound up in that description. The discipleship we want to focus on is a discipleship that is expressed and experienced in “real life.”  And what is “real life?”  Bill suggested last week that it is complex – and messy. But allow me to push into further detail with a question.

Is “real life discipleship” made up of two hours in church on a Sunday morning?

“Included” yes, “made up,” only partly. “Reflected in” – maybe, “exhausted” – by no means. Sunday morning is only a small part of what we are thinking about. Any discipleship that is limited to our Sunday morning (or Saturday night, or Sunday evening) experience is more than just truncated, it is immature and unbalanced. The discipleship that Jesus calls us to is a real-life discipleship, which means discipleship that embraces all of life as we are experiencing it.

Monday morning is as much a part of our discipleship as Sunday morning. Your interaction with your boss, or employee, or client, should reveal your discipleship as much as your interaction with a friend after a Sunday service around a cup of coffee. Your tone with your children in response to their disobedience or defiance is as much discipleship as taking them to youth group on Thursday night. Your engagement with your neighbor is as much discipleship as your engagement with your pastor.

Real Life is your Sunday experience with your church family. But it is also so much more. Real life includes your workplace, your school, your kid’s school, your family, your neighbors, your hockey rink, your “enemies,” your politicians, your…. You get the point. Real life discipleship impacts all of life. Complete life, and honest life. It is about being a disciple in all of your real, actual life. The good. The bad. The ugly. The bright spots. The dark corners.

This is our calling, to help make real life disciples. And it can only succeed if we as leaders are embracing and exhibiting real life discipleship. Let us take off the masks, open our discipleship daytimers to all 7 days of our week, and expose our entire real life to the call of discipleship Jesus has for us. Are you brave enough to do that? I hope so. Join us in the journey.

Terry Kaufman
EFCC Leadership Catalyst

Real Life Discipleship

real life discipleship

In a word, what I am saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”  Matthew 5:48 (The Message) 

I love this paraphrase of Matthew 5:48. It rightly summarizes what Jesus is calling His kingdom subjects to (especially in light of the previous verses). In this season we are focusing on real life discipleship. There is no doubt that disciples of Jesus ought to look different than subjects of the kingdom of this world. Jesus is our King. As His subjects, we are ambassadors to this foreign land we live in. We ought to reflect His kingdom values and be a faithful, non-anxious presence in this high anxiety world.

Carey Nieuwhof recently shared a fabulous blog entitled, 3 Ways the Modern World Destroys Your joy, Hope, and Faith in Everything (and How to fight back). He argues that having too many choices undermines our joy. We become paralyzed by FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. If we choose, then we may miss out on something better. So, we avoid committing to things, or choosing. And we miss out. The second thing he highlights is the commodification of loneliness. One would think that social media would alleviate loneliness. Instead, relationships are more surface and designed for validation from strangers rather than being honest, vulnerable (and yes, dangerous) friendships. The third issue robbing us of joy, hope and faith is the apocalyptic spectacle of “politics as entertainment.”  We live in a world of selective reporting that leads to a negative view of the world; a negativity bias that sees the “world going to hell in a handbasket.”  This leads to a polarization on issues based on gross oversimplification. We do not want reality – reality is boring and complicated. We want simple, apocalyptic entertainment. Nieuwhof argues that we live in an affluent society addicted to a hunger for apocalypse – every little issue is seen as “the sky is falling.”  He notes that we want from the world what we are hesitant to dole out to others – justice, love, understanding and kindness.

It seems to me that we do live in a society short on Joy, Hope and Faith. Worse, followers of Jesus can get caught up the very things that destroy human flourishing. This is where real life discipleship comes in. As subjects of Jesus’ Kingdom, we are called to grow up, to be mature. To live out our God-given identity towards others generously and graciously (as He lives towards us). This is to make a simple point.

Real life discipleship is not about more knowledge. It is about living as kingdom subjects who dole out what we want from others – justice, love, and kindness.

We need the power of Jesus and His Holy Spirit for this. Yet we have a part in this too. My part is to focus on things above, practice contentment, thankfulness (undermine FOMO!). I am called to live out my faith in community, not substituting “safe” surface validation of strangers for the honest, refining deep communication of brothers and sisters.

Lastly, I am called to put away this addiction to oversimplifying and overdramatizing the events of the world I live in. I am called to live out my faith as a disciple in the real world. And the real world is more complex than the media portrays it to be (and as I am tempted to think it is). That is why James and Jesus reminded us to be slow to judge. The world and its issues are complex, and I do not have all the data. So obedient disciples of Jesus are slow to speak, anger and judge. We are quick to listen and entrust justice to the One who has all the data. And while we are here (as His ambassadors), we should ask ourselves, “If success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do…How would I be? What would I do?”  This might lead us to being real life disciples who in some small ways, create pockets of grace and flourishing in this post-fall world that reflect God’s pre-fall design.

Bill Taylor
EFCC Executive Director