Friday, March 28, 2014

Rethinking Discipleship: 12 Disciple-Making Essentials from Luke 10

Many are talking about "making disciples" these day. But what exactly is disciple-making, really?
What disciple making, or discipleship, has become in most American churches is a program for becoming the best ‘Christian’ an individual can be, whatever that may look like.

Certainly we are called to pursue personal holiness (Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 12:14, James 1:27) and to grow in the knowledge of the Lord (Colossians 1:10). That’s great...unless it is the only result of our discipleship.

In our self-focused marketing-driven culture, the problem with most discipleship models is that they are, well, self-focused. If I only read this book, attend that seminar, go to that conference, study my Bible, and pray – I can be all that Jesus wants me to be. Or so popular thought goes.
Then we struggle, in our own power, to become that better person and have the ‘ideal Christian home.’  This model of discipleship sells big in the U.S.A., to the tune of many billions of dollars per year.

This is not what Jesus taught as discipleship. Jesus taught his disciples to “teach them to obey” not “teach them everything I taught you” and there is a huge difference.  We are over-educated beyond our level of obedience. The result is we have large and growing churches that are not making disciples.
Jesus taught his disciples to put God’s mission first (Matthew 28:19-20), to put the welfare of others second (Matthew 25:40) and to share life with them – just as he did. That is how we love God and others best (John 14:15). Which is why Jesus sent his disciples out – first the 12 and then the 72.

In Luke 10 (may I recommend you read the chapter before you continue), we learn a lot about how Jesus made disciples and what was important to him in the process. Let’s look briefly at 12 disciple-making essentials, what we need understand to make disciples, from this passage:
1.       Jesus elects us to mission
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others.”

Jesus had initially sent out the first 12 on a mission training exercise. Either from the fruit of their disciple-making or from Jesus’ own ministry as he set the example, a new crop of disciples is sent out. This now growing band of disciples had been “appointed” by Jesus.  The word “appointed” means to proclaim any one as elected to office. We are “elected” by Jesus to be his messengers, his ambassadors (2.2 Corinthians 5:20) to represent him. This is not a role we self-elect but rather are chosen for (1 Peter 2:9 ). The word “appointed” also means to “lift up anything on high and exhibit it for all to behold.”  Being “elected” to God's mission is a high calling that must be taken seriously and it is a call for all believers.
2.       Jesus directs our going  

“and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.”

Jesus directs are going in two ways. First, there are no lone rangers in disciple-making. Jesus sent out his disciples in teams of two. We can conclude that this was done not only for companionship but for accountability. Second, we can make our plans but Jesus directs our path (Psalm 37:23), which is more about attitude than location.
3.       Jesus instructs us how to pray

“He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'”

Prayer is essential for the task of disciple-making, as it is to the mission of God, as the abundance of opportunity is overwhelming. The fact is today that we don't really have a shortage of workers. As one church planting friend puts it, "There is no shortage of workers. The workers are in the barn, instead of in the field." We need to pray that the "barn" doors would be opened. 
4.       Jesus sends us out

“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Jesus was well aware of the challenges and hazards of the mission he is sending his disciples on but he sends us out anyway. No soldier should enter battle unaware of the perils (2 Timothy 2:3). Jesus  does not want us to be unprepared. As he was sent, he sends us out (John 20:21).
5.       Jesus taught dependence on God

“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”

Our dependence is on God alone. Our focus is to be on the task. Jesus was saying do not be distracted from your assignment. There is a sense of urgency and priority in what Jesus was communicating here. How often do we allow even good things to get in the way of great things (Luke 9:57-62)?
6.       Jesus instructs us who to look for 

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.”

The term “house of peace” is used today to describe this particular instruction of Jesus. What Jesus is saying is that as we “go” we are to look for those places where God is already at work. When we come in the name of Jesus and we are received, if our message is received, that is where God is at work (John 6:44). We are to stay and develop a relationship, not randomly move from “house to house.” We are to work strategically where God is already at work.
7.       Jesus instructs us what to do

“Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’"

The two part mission Jesus sends his disciples on is serve the needs of others and proclaim the Kingdom. We should not separate these two, because Jesus doesn’t. One may follow the other effectively as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead. The Kingdom is more than a message of salvation. It is a living reality where the will of God is done - “on earth as it is in heaven.” That is why the “heal the sick” is so instrumental to the “tell them” about the Kingdom, and vice versa.
8.       Jesus will be rejected

“But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’”

The point here is don’t waste time on those who are not receptive, there are many waiting to hear. What Jesus is saying needs to be understood in the context of the culture of that time. We should be confident in our Kingdom message, while extending a blessing to those who do not receive it. It is simply our job to go and tell, to plant seeds, look for where it is taking root and cultivate that new growth.
9.       Jesus is the message

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

When people reject our message, they are not rejecting us but the one who sends us. We should not take personally such rejection, but pray that the Lord would open their hearts to receive his word. This should help us to overcome the fear of rejection. Jesus is the message (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ).
10.   Jesus 'name' is power  

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'”

Good things happen when we follow Jesus instructions, because Jesus’ 'name' is the power of life and death. Jesus' 'name' is everything that he has revealed about himself.
11.   Jesus overcomes the world

"He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'”

Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). The enemy is a defeated foe, in the authority of Christ, which means we can be assured that as we follow Jesus pattern of disciple making, we can anticipate Kingdom results. It is not our work that makes the difference but Jesus and our obedience to “go” as he commands.
12.   Jesus rejoices at obedience
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.’”

Our obedience yields Kingdom results that brings great joy to Jesus. All glory to God!

At the conclusion of this now second short term mission trip. Jesus declares this amazing truth:
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
We are so greatly privileged to be disciples of Jesus!
The more I learn about discipleship Jesus' way, the more I realize just how simple Jesus model of disciple making really is. It can be boiled down to this…

A. It’s all about Jesus
B. It’s not about me, myself and I

C. Therefore, go and share Jesus with others

This is not to discount training in theology, missiology, sotierology, or cosmology. All training however should serve the process of disciple-making that is Jesus-focused. Our knowledge does often get in the way of our understanding (1 Corinthians 8:1).
He must increase we must decrease (John 3:30). There is no better way for living sent today!   

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