Saturday, July 08, 2006

Being and making disciples

Evangalism is a word you dont find in the bible. We, as Christians, are not called to make converts of the world, but disciples. So what is a disciple? And how does being a disciple link to making a disciple?

To answer this accurately the obvious thing to do is look at the bible. The gospels tell us about Jesus and how He lived - the ultimate standard for our lives. We are being transformed daily into His image, so obviously what He did, we should be doing. Going on into Acts we see how this is possible - we see what a true disciple of Jesus looks like.

The fisrt step of these disciples was an undying, all encompassing committment to and belief in Jesus.
'So when they had brought their boats to land, they left behind all and followed Him' (Luke 5:11)
They lived their lives for Jesus, through Jesus, and as Jesus did, preaching His gospel after His death and resurrection and making disciples of all nations.

I think to truly 'preach the gospel' and 'make disciples' we have to show Jesus in His entirety, and that includes His power that we see so clearly in Acts. This is what I meant before when talking about meeting people's needs. Jesus impacted people's lives by meeting their needs - both spiritually and physically. Take the paralytic in Matthew 9. Jesus knew that his spiritual needs were most important, but He used the man's physical healing as a demonstration of His power, not only to command physical healing, but to forgive sins too. How often do we see Jesus in this role of Healer? If I were to reference all the times Jesus healed someone we'd be here all day, but the point I'm making is that these demonstrations of Jesus' power working to help, heal and save people are our example for how we too should be living. Jesus describes these works as a form of evidence for who He is in several places - Matt. 11:4-5, and particularly in John 14:9-11. This, for me, is the most amazing part.
'Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves'. (John 14:11)
It is not the works of Jesus that save us, thats a given, but they are evidence of who Jesus is, and people do need to believe that, because its only due to who Jesus is that what He did on the cross has any meaning at all.

That in itself is amazing. Even Jesus, the Son of God, didnt just persuade people through His words (though in John 20:29 He makes it clear that to believe His words is better than basing faith purely on actions), and if Jesus used signs and wonders, what makes us think we shouldn't?

Look on down to verse 12: 'most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.'
That statement just completely blows my mind. We dont have the power or authority or right to forgive someone's sins like Jesus did, so what works is He talking about? The healings,deliverances - the meetings of people's needs and the demonstration of God's love - naturally and supernaturally. Its evidence.

Jesus is our model of discipleship, as He is our model of everything, and to see how this discipleship should really work we have to look at the first disciples. Acts is full of examples of how we can all live like Jesus and how much power God has made available through Jesus to do this.
'But you shall recieve power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8).
Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to give us power to be witnesses - people who give evidence. We are attesting to the truth of who Jesus is. Mark 16:15-18 tells us to go out and 'preach the gospel to every creature' (v.15), and then talks about the evidence that will follow the believers:
'And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.' (Mark 16:17-18).
2 Tim. 3:16 is enough to convice me of the divinity of these words of Jesus, and they are borne out by the actions of the disciples in Acts.

Look back at Acts 4 and you can see the results of these actions. In Acts 3:6 Peter healed a lame man in Jesus' name, and it is this man, I think, that they are referring to in the beginning of Acts 4. Look at verse 10:
' "let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole." '
Jesus gave us the power to do these things through the Holy Spirit for a reason. Bringing 'wholeness' to people is bringing them evidence of Jesus, and people need to know the evidence for the truth before they can believe it, whether that be words or mircales. Verse 21 shows more results of the disciples' actions:
'so when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.'
Persecution is a given for any Christian who steps out for Jesus, but this verse tells us something more than that. It tells us that people glorified God because of what was done. Earlier on verse 4 tells us that:
'many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.'
5000 - by chapter 4! Wow! And how did they do this? By combining word and wonders in witness.
We pray for revival at Reading with such fervancy - yet how much revival would we see if we healed the sick, raised the dead, set captives free?

Verse 12 of chapter 4 gives us our message:
'Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven by which we mist be saved.'
This is our 'Good News' - that through Jesus we can be saved and enter into a relationship with God. We mustn't be distracted by searching for miracles - Mark 16:17 makes that very clear: these signs follow believers, they dont lead them. We have to point people to Jesus always, and have Him as our focus - but then, thats part of the point. If we want to be true disciples and be like Jesus, we have to do the things He did.

To preach this gospel and live it out is hard - I'm rarely brave enough to do it - but I truly think this is the true gospel in its entirety. It challenges and questions us to the max - why dont we see things happen today? The easy way out of all of this is to say 'that was then, this is now. Those things just dont happen any more.' But Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, and the Holy Spirit who was in Him and those early disciples is in us too. The bravest response is to acknowledge that we have unbelief about it which stops us seeing these things, and to study the Word till we have a revelation of it. After all, if salvation is still applicable today, then healing, deliverance, and everything else that Jesus did is as well.

The apostles saw thier numbers added to daily, yet we struggle to even get our friends to church. Whats the difference? We dont show people how Jesus can meet the needs they see. They think Jesus isnt necessary today because they dont know they are dead inside. They do, though, know about the bills that need paying, the children that need to get well - and its our responsibility as disciples of Christ to demonstrate His love to them and pray with them for all these things.

Easy to say and difficult to do I know, but thats why Jesus gave us power in the Holy Spirit.

Acts 4:33 says: 'And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.'

So this is what a grace-driven disciple's life looks like.


  • i would say in defense of evangelism it has never classically meant just getting some kind of tally of converts and then abandoning them.

    Also, Agrippa does say to Paul - are you thinking you can convert me so easily... and Paul doesn't question conversion, only that the timing is God's work...

    One of the Spirit's works in us is the boldness to preach, persuade, argue, proclaim, witness, speak, testify... I suggest we pray and go! Keep it Jesus.

    Nothing has changed since the first century - either in the condition of people or the content of the gospel.

    And it is happening!

    I'm not sure healing is part of the content of the gospel, though it can accompany it. The gospel surely deals with that need we all have - forgiveness, and where there is need for healing God can sometimes provide temporarily (we still get ill, we still die).. and the Christian life is not the comfy life... Christians having been sworn to a life of hardship by Jesus.

    Keep your thoughts coming.

    By Blogger thebluefish, at 6:25 PM  

  • "Evangelism is a word you dont find in the bible. We, as Christians, are not called to make converts of the world"

    Hmmm. Coming back to this. I think probably evangelism is in the New Testament... The word is "euaggelizo" meaning to "preach the gospel" which occurs 61 times blueletterbible.

    Word studies are not all we have - we only have to look to see Jesus going around preaching, and the disicples likewise - announcing the news of the kingdom of God... doing the "ministry of the word" etc... and as they do they see a rapid increase in the number of disciples... converting, persuading, arguing, appealing, pleading as we go...

    The work of the church is always "preaching the gospel"... which has the aim of exalting the God of the gospel... of spreading the fame of God (his gospel)... which will either result in that word judging and hardening people, or bringing them to eternal life as disciples of Jesus Christ.

    By Blogger thebluefish, at 4:30 PM  

  • Do we really do discipleship the way Jesus did?

    I am currently working on a long-term development plan for a discipleship ministry. In the process of thinking through key directions, I feel God challenging me to examine our whole approach to discipleship, generally asking... why we don't disciple the way Jesus did. I have been in ministry for over 30 years, but I have been stopped in my tracks over this, and I'm having a difficult time identifying any present day examples of discipling as Jesus did.
    Obviously, most church-based discipleship is classroom oriented. Even those more relational, one-on-one approaches are still quite didactic, cognitive, or curriculum-based. Some mission-based approaches add experiential components, but could they be proposed across the board and effectively applied to all Chrisitans in all walks of life?

    I have four questions:

    1) What were the essential qualities in the way Jesus discipled others?

    2) Do you know of good, present-day examples/models in use?

    3) Could we suggest a truly biblical model for today based on the clear example of Jesus in the four Gospels?

    4) Is there any justification for our wholesale abandonment of Christ's own example?

    For me this is not simply an acedemic exercise, since I am working on a plan that could change the direction of an entire ministry. So I do hope there are some good answers to be found.


    By Blogger C. Michael Johnson, at 3:27 PM  

  • Here's one way to get at it... What if we first took what might be seen as the basics of good mentoring: 1) provide essentials and key principles, 2) dramatize and demonstrate in real life, 3) commission them to do it on their own, 4) provide evaluation, support, affirmation, and guidance to perfect, internalize, and integrate with personal life and calling.

    And if we would say that the core ingredient of the enduring disciple was loving God (with a whole heart), then what could the discipleship process look like? Would the process look like anything we presently see? And how would you provide experiences that impart an authentic, enduring love of God?



    By Blogger C. Michael Johnson, at 10:29 PM  

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