When making disciples we teach what we know but we reproduce who we are. A couple of weeks ago David Jett, pastor of Crossgates Baptist Church, made that statement in a sermon. It's not an original quote to David but one that has been made by others. Our family Bible studies for the past few days has been in the book of Amos. One of the conversations that Amos had with God refers to God using a 'plumb line' to examine His people. Brother David's teaching and the principles from God's Word that I am learning are challenges to examine what kind disciples are being produced through my life. Am I helping to produce disciples who obey Jesus?
The whole idea of disciple-making has been something I have continued to learn about over the years. I certainly consider myself a better 'disciple-maker' now than back in 1987 when I had my first 'job' as a student minister. I'm pretty sure my primary goal as a disciple-maker back then was simply to give people 'information' about how to be be a disciple when my goal now is to 'show' others how to be a disciple. Years ago I was concerned about my students obeying me whereas now it is much more important that those in my circle of influence simply obey Jesus. I tried early in ministry to make students obey Jesus, to talk them into it, even manipulating in positive ways if I had to. I don't have any desire now to force people to obey Jesus. Sure, I really do desire that they obey Him, especially my children and family and friends, but forcing them to obey Jesus is not on my agenda nowadays. The experience of being involved in disciple-making has caused these shifts.
God gives me the task of making disciples who are obedient to Jesus (Matt 28:18-20). Unfortunately many disciples are not obedient to Jesus but are simply religious reproductions of the discipler. This is not necessarily an indictment on the discipler but an animadversion on the methods the discipler is using. The discipler who focuses simply on pouring out information instead of investing in the life of the disciple runs the risk of producing a follower of the knowledge about Jesus. The goal of our disciple-making effort is to produce followers who are obedient to Jesus. Too many alleged disciple-makers define success when all the information is given instead of how their disciples are obeying.
As a cross-cultural missionary I have had to hold my tongue as mission volunteers proclaim great success at discipling when I know their so-called disciples are not equipped for long-term obedience to Jesus. These disciple-makers have given their disciples a ton of information but have not invested time in understanding their world-view, their heart language, and their motivation for wanting to be a follower of Christ. South America is full of 'informed' followers of Christ. We need 'equipped' followers of Jesus. Jesus gave His disciples much more than information. He shared life with them so they could know who He was. He invested. Everything.
Many of you who read these words are disciple-makers. Have you examined the quality of the disciples you are making? Are they obedient to Jesus? I spent years teaching what I knew instead of reproducing who I am. When I teach what I know I look for better material but when I reproduce who I am I look for a better me. The only way I can be better is to be more surrendered, more obedient to Jesus. The disciples of Jesus carried on His mission. I want my disciples to carry on His mission, too.
Information about following Jesus is good. However, to produce disciples who are obedient to Jesus requires that they see someone who is obedient to Jesus. That takes an investment on the part of the disciple-maker. Get out of the classroom or small group setting. Find out what makes this person who is the focus of your disciple-making task tick. Which words open the heart? Have they seen how you handle failure? Have you washed their feet?
As you are going into all the world make disciples. Baptize. Teach them to obey. ALL that He commanded. That's a huge time investment. And He is with us.