Before Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, his last command was for his followers to make disciples. He made sure to spend his last days on earth giving instructions to his disciples and speaking about the kingdom of God. Before he went up on a cloud, he had this conversation with his disciples:
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:6-9)
However, we will see in recent studies that even though Jesus gave his own variation of a dying wish, many Christians have failed to live out what he wanted – discipleship. In fact, only 20% of Christians are involved in discipleship. This percentage already includes participation in various activities such as mentorship, accountability, Bible studies, and small groups.
Partially, it’s due to a lack of commitment on the believer’s part. On the other hand, it can also be due to the lack of initiative from the leaders in the church to establish discipleship as an important part of their congregation’s culture. Several Christians even claim that they handle their spiritual growth better if they are by themselves. While this is largely due to the individualistic western culture we have, it can also be due to the church’s lack of substantial community interaction.
God’s Design for Community
This is a dangerous mindset that has started to go around in Christian circles, and we need to put a stop to it while we still can. We need to remember that God designed us to be in a community and should start being more deliberate about establishing an environment where our leaders and members can truly flourish as children of God.
Furthermore, it has been seen that particularly traditional churches have been set on a particular slate of leaders and refuse to integrate and empower new ones. This discourages those interested in disciplining others, as the structure refuses to make room for them. Meanwhile, some Christians believe that discipleship is only for the ministers and those in full-time ministry. This view could not be further from the truth. A church can have the best programs, the most active ministries, and the greatest technological advancements anyone could possess. Still, if they fail to disciple others, then they fail at actually being the church.
The Great Commission
In another version of the great commission, Jesus had this to say:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus empowered all those in his small group. Jesus modeled how to make more disciples, teaching them and baptizing them as they go along. Christ called them to devote their entire lives to this cause. If they were truly to permeate the whole world with the Gospel as Jesus wanted. We also need to make disciples who also make disciples.
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