Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. Matthew 28:19 NASB95
Since “go and make disciples” is the last and greatest command of Jesus, we should ask two questions:
- What is discipleship or how do you know if you are a disciple?
- How do you disciple? If we are given the command to go and disciple, exactly how do you disciple?
What is discipleship?
Some consider discipleship as becoming mature in the faith. Again, the same problem – what does maturity mean? When Jesus told all of us to go and make disciples, He did not define it or tell us exactly what to do.
After 49 years of studying discipleship, let me give you my definition: following Jesus.
Jesus teaches how to follow when he says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:28). Paul echoes the “hearing and following” when he writes that we are “to keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
The word “disciple” used often in the Gospels is not used by Paul, Peter, James, or John in their letters. Discipleship is still valuable and useful.
Discipleship changed after the ascension of Jesus from the disciples following Jesus to the church following the Spirit. Jesus said that it was better for Him to go so that the Spirit could come, teach, and convict the church.
Let me expand my definition of discipleship as following Jesus by having a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
As the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 1:17, “May Jesus give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Paul adds, “For all who are being led by the Spirit, these are sons and daughters of God” (Romans 8:14).
Jesus did not have to tell us how to go and make disciples because He left the Spirit to guide us!
How do you disciple?
If discipleship means following the Spirit, and a sizable percentage of church denominations deny the relational and miracle-working presence of God’s Spirit, discipleship is quenched.
In 2015, George Barna conducted the most comprehensive study on discipleship. In his executive review, he said, “Only one percent of church leaders say today’s churches are doing well at discipling new and young believers.”
Wow. Pause. Uh, oh.
The command of Jesus is to go and make disciples and only one percent of leaders in America say we are doing a good job. I realize the survey is from 2015, but does anyone believe we are doing a better job in 2021?
Following Jesus or following the Spirit is easy. Keep in step. A step or two behind is best so that you can see which direction He leads. There are two opposite but equal errors in following the Spirit – running ahead or lagging behind.
Discipleship is following Jesus by having a relationship with the Holy Spirit. When you hear and obey God’s Spirit, you are a disciple of Jesus.
Okay, Pastor Grant’s very ambitious claim: a solid foundation of the Spirit is the basis for discipleship. Most churches don’t, many denominations don’t, most Christians don’t, and many Christian leaders don’t.
Which explains the lack of discipleship.