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Discipling the Twelve

Jesus commands us, "go and make disciples of all nations". In doing this, what applications can we derive from his own ministry to the twelve?

He instilled in them a sense of intimacy with God,
particularly through his prayer life.

Luke 11:1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
We need to develop a prayer life which communicates intimacy with God. We need to spend time alone with God. For discipling other Christians is not a matter of always being around them. Others learn a great deal from our actions, and what we do in private often communicates more than what we say in public.

He instilled in them a sense of value for seeking and serving God.

The value of seeking

The value of responding properly to persection The value of providing for the poor The value of helping other Christians The desire for personal benefits for following Jesus is selfish. We should seek and serve God just because it is the right thing to do and not because of what we get out of it. Nonetheless, it's apparently OK with God if we're a bit self-serving in our motivation in following him. For even Biblical faith is characterized by seeking for rewards: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Heb 11:6 Probably due to the innateness of our sinful nature, God doesn't place particularly high expectations on our motivation. But realize that such rewards are out of God's graciousness not out of his obligation. He's not paying us to behave properly, but rather rewarding us for doing so. Therefore do not demand that those you disciple have perfect motivation. If they sense there's nothing in it for them, many immature Christians will not be motivated to minister and thus remain immature. Give them promises that Jesus gave to his disciples.

He instilled in them a sense of authority.

Authority, of course, goes hand in hand with responsibility. He not only gave them the responsibility to make disciples of all nations, but also the authority to do so.

Men especially are made for positions of authority. Unfortunately in the effeminized society in which we live, in which, for example, the role of "husband" is not recognized as a role of authority, men tend to have less a sense of responsibility. Wives even usurp authority over their husbands and then complain that they don't do anything. No surprise there! We need to instill a sense of authority to those we disciple. Yes they have authority to preach. Yes they are ambassadors for Christ. Many institutional churches suppress this sense of authority by limiting the preaching to the pastor alone. Even "evangelism" becomes simply inviting people to church to hear the pastor. The body of Christ is not efficiently being edified unless everyone is allowed to exercise their gifts.

A Message to Disciplemakers

Also if those you "disciple" really don't accept you as a spiritual authority over them, then neither will you have much of a sense of responsibility. I can tell you that there are very few people who are willing to be discipled. Most of those you disciple will be reluctant to accept you as a legitimate authority figure. They won't generally listen to you in the same manner in which Jesus' disciples listened to him, nor will they accept direct commands. At most you'll be limited to making suggestions or "counseling" and you'll have to make a good deal of effort to win a hearing. It's almost like doing evangelism!

Part of this is due to the culture we live in in which too much is made of "freedom" in which "submission" to authority is almost equated with slavery. Part of it is also due to the fact, I am sorry to say, that most of the Christian community really doesn't take the faith seriously. Religious leaders will treat you with suspicion, even as a threat to their authority. And your ministry will be treated with contempt as if not having legitimate authority. It's a thankless job to make disciples of Christ in this age. Those who are willing to be discipled are few and far between.

But then again we walk by faith and not by sight. Reckon yourself to have legitimate authority in the sight of God - authority to teach and disciple - even though others don't acknowledge it. Jesus' authority was also called into question - and that by the religious leaders, which I will write more about in another paper. Identify with Christ.

He instilled in them a sense of mission, a sense of responsibility.

Authority is not an end in itself. Authority should instill a sense of responsibility. But we must help them to get a vision to develop their own ministry. The Father sent Jesus on a mission. Jesus send his disciples on a mission. So we should send those we disciple on a mission - tailored, of course, to their particular giftedness and circumstances.

At this stage we must play the John the Baptist role when he said, "He must become greater; I must become less." Joh 3:30 This is opposite to our nature. Many relatively godly men have historically gotten too caught up in their own popularity and success, only to make too much of themselves and fail to reproduce. Don't let the ones you disciple become too dependent upon you, but rather let them feed the sheep. Remember that Jesus left them after about 3 years. Of course he returned in the person of the Holy Spirit to guide them. But I think Paul also tended to limit ministry in particular area to a few years so as to allow for some independence. "Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." Acts 20:31 "So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years." Acts 19:9,10

He instilled in them a sense of community

Jesus' disciples ended up spending most of their time ministering to other Christians. Disciples must be involved in the Christian community. Going to church is a common habit which is along these lines, but realize that loving other Christians is not accomplished by simply being in the same place with them. Love is a fulfillment of the needs of others, as such many churches are rather limited in providing opportunities to practice love according to the real needs available and according to one's giftedness.

Use of Time in Community Service

In a rich, worldly environment, disciples face the problem that most Christian don't want you to meet their real needs, but rather to waste your time fulfilling their worldly desires. It is better in the Christian community, if the needs are limited, to focus on the quality of your service rather than get overburdened with church programs and meetings. Remember Christ's example. His involvement with the synagogue was limited. He didn't spend much time with the "religious" people, nor those reluctant to hear him. And if they are ready to minister, I would recommend disciples not to go to a healthly church but to a sick church, where there's more need. And they can practice both evangelism to the "nominal" Christians and discipleship among the redeemed.

Verses quoted from the NIV version

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
Aug 02,2020