Making Disciples: Does One Size Fit All?

by | Jul 15, 2012 | Church Leadership, Church Planting

Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Mathew 28: 19, 20, NLT).

Jesus’ commandment is clear, unequivocal, and non-negotiable. What is more important to our God-ordained mission than making disciples? Nothing! Stated in the present active imperative, making disciples is an ongoing expectation. It is not bracketed by time, location, circumstance, or individual status. Every Christian at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances is to follow this command.

It is of interest that Jesus’ words are descriptive—commanding us what we must do—but not prescriptive—describing explicitly how we are to make disciples. Of course, we have his example and the example of the disciples and apostles as models. We also have principles set forth in the Bible. While following the examples set before us and adhering to biblical principles, we still need some flexibility in how we can make disciples. On the one hand, every disciple maker has unique spiritual gifts, talents, and levels of spiritual maturity. On the other hand, every new disciple begins discipleship at a unique place spiritually, responds differently to various inputs, and progresses in an individualized manner.

In a recent blog post, Bob Logan reports some observations based on the work of one of his colleagues: (a) most leaderships problems are actually discipleship problems and (b) most of the qualities of effective leaders are the qualities of disciples. Therefore, in order to develop effective leaders, we need to put first things first: make effective disciples; then develop competent leaders. These observations are sobering. Given the ineptitude of many of our leaders, these findings suggest that we fall short in carrying out our discipleship mandate. They also remind us of the challenge as well as opportunity we have to carry out this Great Commission.

So here is a question. How do we use our freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1) and its corresponding flexibility to make disciples? Somehow we must model the examples set before us and adhere to the principles provided for us, while authenticating our uniqueness and ministering to each disciple as an individual?  I wonder if some of the programs we call discipleship are overly inflexible, bounded, and ensnared. Does one size of discipleship fit every time, location, circumstance, and individual? I don’t think this is what the Bible teaches. Remember Paul’s testimony: “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (I Corinthians 9: 23, NLT).

We need conversation on how disciple makers as unique individuals find common ground with new disciples as unique individuals. I hope to participate in the conversation.

Church Website Hero

Church Website Hero offers a done-for-you service that takes all the stress, hassle and guesswork out of building and managing your church website.

Charles Ridley

Chuck Ridley is professor of counseling psychology at Texas A & M University. Previously, he has taught at Indiana University and the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Dr. Ridley is an avowed scientist-practitioner, one who applies sound social science principles to individual and organizational functioning. He also is deeply committed to the integration of psychology and theology. As a faculty member at Fuller Seminary, he developed the Church Planter Profile. Read More About Charles Ridley At His Author Page

WP RSS Plugin on WordPress
FREE E-Book by Steve Sjogren and Jeff Hoglen

FREE E-Book by Steve Sjogren and Jeff Hoglen

Jeff and I are big fans of quotes. For communicators, a powerful quote that’s well placed will stir your listeners and/or readers. The following are some of our favorites — in fact this is a just a small part of several thousand on hand. Perhaps more quote books will follow… — God’s best to you and your communication gifts — may these be powerful tools in your hands! – Steve Sjogren

Check your email for a confirmation message and the link to your ebook!