making disciples

Jesus Didn’t Come to Make Christians, He Came To Make Disciples

Revelation Discipleship - Part 1

Before we jump into Revelation Discipleship, we need to begin with what “discipleship” means. So often in our modern church language it has come to be equated with certain classes we take, or subjects that we learn. Many in the North American Church view discipleship as a luxury rather than a necessity; we see discipleship like heated seats in our car, nice to have but not really essential.

There has been a significant cultural shift where "discipleship" has been eroded to the point where simply attending a worship service 3 out of 4 Sundays is the new normal. We keep lowering the bar and now, with how things have shifted during the pandemic, there is the possibility that we don’t even have to actually show up, we can simply pop in our earbuds while we mow the lawn or walk on the treadmill.

The larger our churches have become, the more prevalent un-discipled Christians have become. In small churches there was no opportunity to “hide in the pews”, everyone was needed and expected to serve. You were missed if you weren’t there for the Sunday night classes or the Wednesday night prayer meetings; the places where much actual discipleship used to happen.

I grew up learning about how to walk with Jesus by going to church whenever the doors were open and watching how my elders worshiped and learned about Jesus. I was a sponge ready to soak up everything around me. We had church services on Sunday morning, “Discipleship Training” classes on Sunday night, and on Wednesday there was always a lesson of some sort and a prayer meeting. 

I was blessed to have a father who was always learning new things and then teaching them to our church, so I went to many classes taught by my Dad. I learned under him about “Experiencing God” (discipleship), “Fresh Encounter” (revival), “The Baptist Faith and Message” (what our denomination believed about doctrine), “Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses” (Cults and how to recognize things that were unbiblical), “The Sanctitiy of Life” (abortion), and these are just a few I remember. (Thanks, Dad!)

Youth group time was Bible teaching. We had a lot of fun together as a group - movie nights, sports, camps, just being together; but our church time together was about discipleship. As a teenager I remember sometimes thinking that was boring (let’s be honest), but now that I have teenagers I see it as such a blessing. It’s just not the same today.

Looking back, I realize now that my generation was one of the last generations where discipleship was highly prized. My husband and I worked with college students for 10 years before pastoring, and we saw over and over the chaos that can come upon one’s life when they don’t really know what they believe, so they can’t properly filter what is Godly and what is not.

Undiscipled Christians are easy prey.

So what exactly is discipleship? Is it going to church on Sunday? Is it having a “quiet time” with God every day? Is it taking a “discipleship” class?

Yes… and no….

Wikipedia says “It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.”

So, when someone says that being a disciple is living like Jesus, that is TRUE! But there are so many steps to take in order to know what that means…

David Platt says about discipleship, “In light of Jesus’ authority, every disciple is to share the Word, show the Word, teach the Word, and, for the glory of God, serve the world.”

Yes! In order to do that we need to KNOW the Word. You don’t get to know the word of God in 30 minutes every other week or so.

Robbie Gallaty states “At the very core, a disciple is a learner, one who is set on growing and developing. In nearly every sphere of life, people learn specific skills from someone else that has developed those skills. An electrical certification is attained only after an extensive apprenticeship with a more experienced electrician. When a prospective doctor finishes medical school, he or she invests several years in a residency, a time of shadowing an experienced physician. This concept of learning directly through the expertise and experience of another is the foundation of what Jesus envisioned when He used the term “disciple.”

The term “Christian” is used only 3 times in the Bible (twice in Acts and once in 1 Peter), but the term “disciple” is used 269 times! Jesus didn’t come to make Christians, he came to make disciples. 

The implications of being a Christian, but not being a disciple are far-reaching. First, when we don’t know what the Bible says, and therefore what we are to believe about something, we can easily be swayed by all sorts of false doctrines. I don’t mean crazy, “out-there”, kind of doctrines like cults and such. I'm talking about every day things like what the Bible says about sexuality or sanctity of life, for example. 

We see it all the time in the  Christian media. A popular Bible teacher suddenly takes a stand that is not biblical and they lead literally millions of followers down the same path because those followers were not grounded biblically themselves, and so are easily swayed by a charismatic personality.

The Bible calls them “wolves”. Paul warns the Ephesians, in his final goodbye to them, to expect teachers like this to come and seduce some away from the truth. He warns them to watch out for such “wolves” and to oppose them. 

Those wolves are still around today, prowling around the flock of Christ and teaching doctrines that are subtly skewed from the truth.

The most dangerous lie is partially true. 

We always have to remember that we have an enemy. The Church is the greatest threat to Satan, and why wouldn’t he send in wolves to confuse us? We aren’t looking for red horns and a pitchfork, people, we’re looking for smooth talking, just-slightly-off-doctrinally, wolves in church-goers clothing.

Secondly, being a Christian but not a disciple keeps us from following the commandment Jesus left us with in Matthew 28:19-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This wasn’t a commandment meant for the super-christian, the minister, or the uber-devout amongst us - this was meant for every single follower of Christ. We are to go make disciples. Period. In order to make disciples, we must be disciples. Period. 

The 21st Century Church in North America has more professionally trained ministry leaders than ever before, we have more programs than ever before, and yet you can make a case that we are producing fewer disciples. Disciples of Jesus are never mass produced, they are individually handcrafted.

Now that we know the goal, and the roadblocks along the way, let’s jump into the letters to the churches in Revelation and see if we can find a blueprint for how we are to undertake this lifelong journey to discipleship.

Next: Revelation Discipleship: He Wants Our Hearts - Letter to the Church in Ephesus

 

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