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What is a Disciple?
Brett Anderson ©2005

'Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 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, baptising 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.'" [Matthew 28:16-20]

My friend, John Abramse, in his talk, made a very interesting statement about this passage. He said that our purpose is disciple- making (and not simply convert-making as I spoke about last week) but then he went on to add this idea:

What is a disciple? A person that follows you. When Jesus was living on earth He gathered 12 men around Him and taught them everything He wanted them to know and they followed Him. So I think in a sense the passage could be saying 'make disciples' (as in gather some people around yourself) and then join Paul in what he says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."

The focus is always on Jesus - we are not trying to get people to follow us, but the emphasis here is more on having a group of people that we are in relationship with, who we can be discipling and mentoring so that they will be growing in their following of Jesus. Then hopefully they will be gathering disciples around them who can be learning from them and so on.

To give it a little bit of perspective, Jesus (Son of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, never sinned) worked pretty much fulltime with a group of 12 men for three years to have the kind of effect He had, and so it makes sense that most of us will probably manage one or two people at a time and should not be trying to do that type of discipling of many more than that. But if each Christian was taking up the challenge and call of making disciples then it would not matter how many disciples each person had. Also, if that much time and effort is being poured into one or two people, then the relationships and growth are likely to be stronger and longer lasting.

Who are you discipling? A disciple is also someone who makes disciples.

BE KEEPING AN EYE ON YOURSELF, COS THEY WILL BE!

Another quote that was shared on the weekend was this one by Richard Baxter (don't worry, I don't know who he is either, but I wrote his name down!) which says:

"We lead others to the living water, but muddy the waters with our filthy lives."

My friend Edgar Ramsami shared on the conference: "The strength of your relationship with God is going to be reflected in the lives of your young people - you can't take them further than you've been."

I have seen both those statements to be so true. I used to do a lot of Scripture Union camps for young people and it always used to bother me when the leaders would push into a meal queue for example. And I guess you could pull out the whole 'You're being too legalistic' flag and wave it around a bit, but actually the message that the leader is sending out is 'I don't have to keep the rules.' And if the leader doesn't have to keep the rules, why should the kids have to, right?

You can be the greatest speaker or worship leader or evangelist or whatever, but it is your actions that will speak much louder than any 'ministry' you do, no matter how powerful it may appear to be. Far too often we as Christian leaders lead others to the living water, but muddy the waters with our filthy lives. And it is not about being perfect because obviously we aren't. But it is largely about not being hypocritical, saying one thing while living another.

There are a lot of other legalistic objection flags that are being waved, such as:

What kind of music I listen to/What kind of books I read/What kind of movies I watch Having pirated music/movies/games How I behave in my relationships with members of the opposite sex

And so on... is it really legalistic? Or are you failing to ask the question, 'How is Jesus involved in that part of my life? Am I living a life that glorifies God in the area of...?'

And if we are not, then why should the people following us? Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. [1 Corinthians 10:23] The passage goes on to say, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." [10:31]

Other translations of that Matthew 28 verse say 'As you go, make disciples...' or the Message which says, 'Whenever and wherever you go, make disciples...' - this is not an additional extra to being a Christian, but one of the basic fundamentals. We are all called to be worshippers of God (first and foremost) and then we are all called to make disciples and teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded us.

So once again, who are the people that you are intentionally discipling? Not just hanging around and spending time with, but deliberately pouring into their lives, teaching, training and holding up in prayer?