Jesus tells us that we are to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything he has commanded us to do. ( Matthew 28:19-20)
For many professing Christians, this is quite a strange teaching to embrace.
If we are merely to “tell them the Gospel”, which often translates to only telling them they are sinners in need of forgiveness that is offered by Christ’s atoning sacrifice which they need to accept, how then are we ever to begin to “teach them to obey all of Jesus’ commands?” If telling them the “gospel” means only to have them repeat a little prayer of “asking Jesus into their hearts,” when do we ever get the chance to share the rest of Jesus’ teachings with them? (By the way, this way of “evangelizing” was never taught by Jesus or his followers.)
To make a disciple is to make a student of a certain discipline. A student is someone who learns the way of the teacher, (or the disciplines of the teacher) and in the case of the Christian teacher, our job is to point back to Jesus’ teachings. So what are we supposed to teach them, according to Christ? Well, it looks like we are to teach them to follow (i.e, obey) Jesus’ teachings, ALL of them! (e.g. John 15:14, Matthew 28:19-20).
In the popular “christian” teaching today, we don’t need to make disciples. No, according to most popular “christian” churches today, we should simply invite them back to the church we happen to attend, so that they can hear the “preaching” of our beloved pastor. That’s easy, isn’t it? But is this the way that Jesus taught us to go about our Christian work? Not at all.
If we are called to make disciples, we should do our best to fulfill this command. We need to seriously consider what it is we think we are doing when it comes to our Christian walk. We are to be out there, looking for anyone who wants to be a student of our Master, Jesus. We are only students ourselves, but that does not stop us from trying our best to obey what we are told to do by Christ.
Why is the idea of “making disciples” so foreign to the average Christian? How can we make this mysterious command of Jesus a part of our daily practice? The first thing we can do is try to obey Christ in the many other matters He has instructed us follow ourselves. A good idea would be to look in the four Gospels for anything that looks like Jesus is asking us to do (or not do), then begin to put into practice those things we can clearly understand. For example, if Jesus tells us not to retaliate when someone wrongs us, then we should actively try to find ways to be loving to someone who has shown themselves to be opposed to us (Matthew 5:38-42). This helps us to overcome our animalistic nature that would naturally want to “hit back” in some way.
For those who might feel it is somehow arrogant to teach someone else, it would be good to bear in mind that Jesus actually tells us to do just this, providing we are not applying a hypocritical double standard where we don’t try to practice the same things we are teaching others.
Let’s start casting our nets now so that we can become “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)