There is an apocryphal story about Jesus returning to heaven after his death and resurrection. The host of heaven is rejoicing over the victory and the question is raised as to what Jesus has done to insure that the message of the good news will be spread. “What is your plan,” He's asked.
Jesus responds, “I have invested in a few men to see that the message is taken to the entire world.” “What if these men fail, what is your back-up plan?” His response is both sobering and instructive. “I have no other plan.”
The story is, of course, not true, but there is truth in the story. He had no other plan then. He has no other plan now. We are his plan. We are his hands and feet in this world. So, how is the church doing at winning the lost and making disciples? Lousy; to put it bluntly.
Too many Christians are church potatoes at best and, at worst, never attend worship or participate in mission. Our pews are occupied by people who want to be moved, but who don’t want to move. Nominal Christians are the biggest obstacle to the spread of the “good news.”
Church consultant Bill Easum says that it takes ninety church members to reproduce one new Christian. George Barna notes that, “A majority of those who make a decision for Christ wander away from the church within eight weeks of making such a decision. This is largely because no one disciples or mentors these individuals.”
What we need today more than ever are Christians who want to be reproducing disciples, who want to kick a dent in history by investing their time in people who will reproduce. You can be a harbor hugger, play it safe, stay in your comfort zone, or you can launch out into the deep and “have a great catch.”
Which will it be? You can’t stay in port and sail at the same time. Mark Twain expressed it well. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”
Are you ready for the challenge? Do you want to do more than warm a pew…be faithful to a few programs? Do you want to launch out on the sea of spending your life making disciples and being obedient to Jesus’ great commission? Is YES your final answer? Let’s do it, let’s make disciples and disciple makers for the glory of God!
We are all familiar with the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Jesus commands us to love as he loves and he commissions us to go out into the world and make disciples. Turning church members into multiplying disciples is the most pressing challenge we have before us. We will never accomplish it through anointed sermons, inspiring programs or strategic plans, as good as these may be. It will only be realized through fired-up disciples investing their time and energy in others face to face and heart to heart.
The most expensive education you can get is one-on-one tutoring. The most expensive car you can purchase is custom made, one at a time.
We have Christians everywhere who have knowledge and doctrine coming out of their ears. What we need is not more knowing but more going. “Go and make disciples of all nations.” More important than what a Christian knows or believes is can that person reproduce himself or herself by making disciples? A.W. Tozer said, “Only a disciple can make a disciple.” Programs don’t make disciples. Sermons don’t make disciples. Methods don’t make disciples. Materials don’t make disciples. Only a disciple can make a disciple. And making them one life at a time is the quality way to do it.
It's not the task of the paid staff or clergy in a church to make disciples. Ephesians 4:11-15 makes it crystal clear that their job is to equip the saints (you and me) to do the work of making disciples.
A number of years ago when I first became a Christian, I was very active in my church. Practically every time the door was open I was there. Any opportunities, I volunteered. I was invited to a Navigator retreat and had my understanding of what a fruitful Christian is was blown to pieces. It happened as I listened to a tape of “Born to Reproduce” by Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators.
When the question was raised on the tape, “Where is the man who is living for Jesus Christ today because of your life?” I was speechless. I was president of the young peoples’ group. I preached at youth meetings and evangelistic rallies. I was in the choir, a deacon, involved in visitation. I was up to my ears in programs and activities, but honestly couldn’t think of a single individual I had invested my life in. Then it hit me. I was giving my life to programs, not people.
I was not involved in making disciples, but making dust and noise. As I sat under a pine tree after listening to that tape, God changed my entire philosophy of ministry. From now on, with His help, I would focus on the Great Commission, not the “Great Programs."
Jesus modeled it for us. He spent most of his time with the twelve. Many times he focused on just three: Peter, James and John. By investing in a few, He set the stage to influence millions, and so can you. Disciples who want to make a lasting difference spend the bulk of their time working with the few who are ready to take on the responsibility of investing in still others (II Timothy 2:2).
Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple was trying very hard, but with little success, to recruit John Sculley to the vision that he clearly saw. Jobs was exasperated, and in his frustration he asked one more question, the one that finally caused John Sculley to make one of the most talked about corporate moves in modern American business. He asked, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?" Sculley said it was as if someone reached up and delivered a stiff blow to his stomach. The question simply eroded all his resistance and it made him think like a dreamer or a visionary. He subsequently left Pepsi Cola and joined Apple "After all,” Sculley mused, "changing the world is a heady thought."
Yes, changing the world is a heady thought--and a biblical one. Stop selling your colored water (whatever that is to you) and come help change the world by developing reproducers. Welcome aboard!
“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your number until you become a community of peoples.” Genesis 28:3