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The primary focus of Jesus’ brief life and ministry was not on preaching, teaching or healing people, but on making disciples. So we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that at the end of his ministry, after his resurrection and before his ascension, he commissioned his own disciples to make new disciples (Matt 28:16-20).
But in his final commission, Jesus did more than just command his disciples to make disciples. He also taught them how to make disciples by doing three things: 1) going to the lost in evangelism, 2) baptizing the converts into his church, and 3) teaching them how to obey his commandments.
This three-fold method for making disciples was not new to Jesus’ disciples. It was the same basic method he used to make them his disciples.
And Jesus modeled this method of disciple making with them for almost three years. His disciples experienced firsthand how Jesus: 1) reached out to them and called them to himself, 2) folded them into his gathering of other disciples, and 3) taught them how to obey his commandments.
Jesus’ final commission to them is to follow his example with them and make disciples of all nations.
To help us be more effective in making disciples, let’s take a closer look at the Master’s method.
Jesus’ Method was Relational
Christianity began in the first century as a small Jewish sect. But it quickly spread throughout the Greco-Roman world to become the state religion of the Roman empire. In the Middle Ages it spread into Northern Europe, Asia, and Russia, then to North and South America, Africa, and throughout the world.
Today Christianity is the largest religion of the world.
Jesus could have chosen any method to ensure that all nations would be discipled. All the resources of the world are at his disposal. Yet he chose to invest his life in a small group of people who were not particularly impressive by the world’s standards. None of them were religious leaders. He didn’t choose a priest, rabbi, scribe, or Pharisee. None of them had religious education.
They were common people, including a fishermen and a tax collector. In his book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman writes,
When his [Jesus’] plan is reflected upon, the basic philosophy is so different from that of the modern church that its implications are nothing less than revolutionary. It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow Him. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men, who the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before He ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. Men were to be His method of winning the world to God. The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to his life and carry on his work after he returned to the Father.
Jesus discipleship method was primarily relational. He taught his disciples how to obey his commandments while he lived his life alongside them. His classroom consisted mostly of helping his disciples solve real problems and answer real questions that would never be on an exam.
The New Testament gives us many glimpses of the Master’s discipleship method.
Here are a few:
- He prayed for them and with them. (John 17:6-26)
- He helped them deal with worry and fear. (Matt 6:25-27)
- He gave himself to them as a servant. (John 13:1-17)
- He demonstrated how to suffer and doubt. (Matt 26:45)
- He trained them by allowing them to follow him. (Matt 13:36)
- He focused on application more than information. (Mk 12:43)
- He gave them responsibilities and challenges. (Matt 10:1)
- He supported them in their ministries to others. (Matt 17:19)
- He modeled for them and taught them love for the lost. (Luke 15)
Jesus’ Method was Missional
Jesus’ discipleship method was not only relational, it was missional.
Jesus was consumed with a passion for doing the Father’s will during the brief time he was on earth. Toward the end of his life, just before his crucifixion, he lifted his eyes to heaven and said,
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. (John 17:1-4)
Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks about being sent by the Father to do the Father’s will and work. He also speaks of the essential role of his Holy Spirit in bringing this mission to completion. (John 14:15-26, Acts 1:8)
Throughout the Gospels Jesus ties his mission to do the Father’s will to the glory of God and for the coming of the kingdom of God. His mission is to see the Father glorified by his kingdom coming to earth and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
As a way of communicating this vision and mission to his disciples, he taught them to pray:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:9-10).
Now that the work of Jesus on earth is accomplished and he is ruling as King at the right hand of God the Father, how will this mission be accomplished?
By the disciples of Jesus making disciples of all nations until he returns.
In another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples, he gave them more insight into this mission, saying, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
The Father sent the Son to seek and save the lost, to serve and not be served, to proclaim good news to the poor, to set the captives free, to gather his sheep into his fold, and to love and nurture them by teaching them to obey all his commandments.
Now, as the Father sent Jesus, Jesus sends his disciples to complete his mission to make disciples of all nations until he returns to make all things new.
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