Make Disciples (1)
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5.15, 16
We return to a theme we have already visited in this series, namely, the calling of every believer to teach the things of Christ to others. All disciples of Jesus “ought to be teachers” and make disciples, so we all must give more careful consideration to just what this requires of us, and how we may fulfill this high and holy calling.
Over the centuries the Christian Church has been favored with a great many excellent teachers whose faithful and diligent labors have enlarged and nurtured the Church, helping her to realize more of her potential as a sign and outpost of the Kingdom of God. The names come easily: Paul, Polycarp, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Columbanus, Alcuin, Hildegard, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Edwards, Kuyper, Newman, Machen, Lewis, Schaeffer– we could go on and on.
Certainly, every disciple of Jesus should thank and praise the Lord for so many excellent teachers, whose works continue to instruct and equip the saints and make disciples unto our own day. We should also give thanks for all those, called to make disciples, who have helped us grow in our walk with and work for the Lord.
Disciples making disciples: That’s the divine pattern and the Kingdom agenda God has prepared for all who believe in Jesus. We don’t need advanced degrees. Our calling does not require a classroom. Jesus said that we are to make disciples “as you are going,” in all the daily activities and contexts of our lives. We who are disciples of Jesus are called to make disciples of the people God brings into our sphere of influence and will. We all ought to be teachers.
A calling to witness and teach
Preachers, teachers, theologians, writers, and others like them are not the only, and in many ways, not even the primary source of the Church’s witness and instruction in the world. Each disciple of Jesus has a Personal Mission Field to which He sends us daily as citizens and ambassadors of His Kingdom. And no small part of that calling is the work of teaching Jesus to others, both believers and non-believers.
Which, in fact, every believer is already doing. You and I are making disciples in the “as-you-are-goings” of our lives, even when we don’t think we are. But what kind of disciples are we encouraging others to be? The light of Jesus shines in and through us at all times, sometimes more brightly than others. And the truth of Jesus should come to light in all our words and deeds. The challenge is to make sure that what and how we are teaching Jesus should be like the Lord’s own teaching, and that we are making the most of every opportunity to be and make disciples.
We cannot rely only on those who are called to the office of teacher to do the work of advancing the Kingdom by witness and instruction. Indeed, all those cited above would agree in a moment that their primary desire was to equip other believers to take up the calling to teach and make disciples, for only in that way can the message of the Gospel and the Christian worldview continue to grow like leaven and glow like light through the sinful loaf of this dark and fallen world.
Consider: Jesus promised His followers that, once they had received the Holy Spirit, they would know power to be His witnesses (Acts 1.8). A significant part of that witness, as we see in the Book of Acts, involved talking to others about the Lord, explaining to them the significance of the coming of His Kingdom, and teaching them how they, too, might enter with us into this glorious life of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18). Because all the disciples took up the work of making disciples at some level, the Gospel spread rapidly, much more rapidly than if only Paul, Peter, and the other apostles and teachers had been the only witnesses and disciple-makers.
We long to see that book of Acts spiritual contagion in our day! But if we as disciples of Christ do not take up this disciple-making mandate and make it a central part of our daily walk with and work for the Lord, then the progress of the Gospel will slow, stall, and even be set back.
The apostle Paul commands all believers to let the Word of Jesus Christ dwell in them richly, so that we might teach and admonish one another accordingly (Col. 3.16). Christians have abundant opportunities for contact and conversation with other Christians, but, so often, we waste these opportunities on frivolous, trivial, and mostly mundane things. How much stronger, more energetic, and more effective would the Church be in the world if every believer was equipped, alert, and capable of teaching the things of Christ to other believers with real power and effects?
There simply is no way around it: If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are called, and you have been empowered to fulfill your calling, to teach the Gospel and the things of Christ’s Kingdom to the people to whom God sends you each day. Disciples making disciples: That’s the essence of our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God (1 Thess. 2.12).
Make the most of the opportunities
Paul wrote that we must not miss such opportunities to bear witness and teach one another. The world is a spiritual wasteland; the powers of wickedness and deceit are always active. Every opportunity lost for advancing the Kingdom will be capitalized on by the devil and our secular, materialistic age.
We must be always alert to these opportunities, always ready with a word of instruction or encouragement or witness, and always earnest in pressing the things of Christ and His Kingdom on anyone and everyone who will listen.
To this end let us embrace the fact that, as the disciples of Jesus Christ, we are all called to make disciples in the daily settings and opportunities of our lives; and let us prepare ourselves accordingly.
1. Do you think of yourself as a teacher? A witness? What part do teaching others and giving a witness for Christ play in your walk with the Lord?
2. When most Christians think about teaching, what comes to mind? Why?
3. What does it mean to be a witness to Christ? How does teaching factor into this calling? Whose job is this?
Next steps – Preparation: Make a list of the people you see each week, in all the places you go. Which are believers? Which are not? Begin thinking and praying about ways you might daily share with these people concerning what God is doing in your own life.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.