(Matthew 28:18-20), 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 end of the age.”
How do we make a disciple? Although we have read books on discipleship and have heard many teachings in churches on the great commission, but frankly speaking, I have not seen anyone who has been properly disciple in churches in this generation because of a misconception and misapplication on how to make disciples.
Although the Lord Jesus mentioned to make disciples of all nations in a general term, discipleship is a one-on-one basis. Paul as a human being was used by God to demonstrate how to disciple believers properly. You cannot disciple a non-believer. You cannot disciple a non-Christian because no one can obey everything which the Lord Jesus had commanded unless he or she is a born again Christian.
By reading the book of Acts, we can understand and overview the pure motive of the man used by God on how to disciple the church. Let us read Acts 20:17-21: From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Verses 30 to 36), Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.” When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him.
What I’m trying to emphasize here are the word “tears” that Paul mentioned. Christians are not sissies. No Christian man is an effeminate or a coward but why did Paul make mention of tears? Because Paul had encountered real problems in life, that even how manly and brave we may be, we can’t help but be emotionally affected because of the severity of the problems we will be facing as Christians.
Once you committed yourself to serve the Lord Jesus, the devil and his demons will work over time to hinder you from following Jesus Christ. Those who are close to you, even your own family will be used by Satan to make your life miserable, so proper discipleship here are needed. Paul said, “I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” Notice the word, “each of you”. Paul was doing one-on-one discipleship.
For three years Paul have disciple the flock with non-stop, “night and day”. That was the reason why intimacy or close relationship was developed between the pastor and the members of the church. “They wept as they embraced him and kissed him”.
In Paul’s ministry the ones who were benefited spiritually and morally were the believers. “I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you.” They have grown spiritually. The quality in life as Christians was invested in each believer. Paul was not after quantity but his goal was quality.
Paul declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in the Lord Jesus. Nowadays the Jews and Greeks refer to non-believers and to church members because there are a lot of people who just joined the church but with no real repentance in their hearts. There are those who grew in the church who have never repented from their sins. Repentance from sin is a must. You can’t turn to God without repentance and that is how to have real faith in the Lord Jesus.
Paul never stopped warning each of them night and day with tears that even from among the church members men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
Paul’s motive in the ministry is not for greed. “I have not coveted any one’s silver or gold or clothing.” He was working with his own hand to supply his needs and the needs of his companions. Not only was he preaching the Word but he demonstrated it with his life. He was not always asking for contributions or for money forcefully from the people, although he reminded them from the Lord’s word “It is more blessed to give than to receive”.
God’s original plan for His church is not a big, huge organization but a small group of believers to be attended by a pastor. When the church in Jerusalem grew in number, after they have been taught by the apostles, God allowed great persecution to happen after Stephen was stoned to death. So they were scattered and thus the original plan of God for His church was implemented. Then the unthinkable happened when the church became an idolater and pagan temples was converted into a church buildings that was the time when the Lord’s prediction was fulfilled when Jesus talked about the mustard seed.
In Matthew 13:31-32, a mustard seed needs to be planted in a garden and be cultivated. But it was sown in the field. Mustard is an herbal plant not a tree. But the Lord Jesus said it became a tree, so that the birds (which represent demons) of the air came and built their nests in its branches. In this parable, the mustard represents the church. The church is supposed to be only small groups of believers that would be easy to disciple.
But no! The church becomes an organization. It becomes an institution. It becomes a building, a stadium and an auditorium. It becomes a tree and demons are lodging in its branches teaching contaminated doctrines like idolatry that worship other gods, health and wealth doctrine and self-esteem. The teaching in the church these a days are mostly man-centered, not Christ- centered. Nobody had properly done good discipleship to a couple or a family because the church becomes “this huge tree”. The church becomes a big business. The church, which is supposed to be like a mustard seed to be planted in a garden and be cultivated, which means to disciple properly becomes an institution. Pastors leave each member to live alone by themselves. Some have attended seminars or bible schools but these do not assure the proper way of discipleship. Pastors become cowboys tending herd of cattle they are not shepherding sheep.
Church organizations and its leaders focus on quantity because of the word from the Lord “ALL NATIONS”, so what they have in mind is mass production as if in the assembly line. They are only after quantity to make converts to their church or to their denomination. The problem there is that we are cutting corners. As long as the numbers of converts grew we don’t care if they follow everything which the Lord has commanded or not. Church leaders are contented with the numbers that grew and church denominations brag about their number of their members, but what about the quality of life in each believer?
As I always explain that man by nature is a religious being and also because of so many attractive gimmicks in churches, a lot of people who become members but are unconverted believers. How can you disciple an un-regenerated spirit? (Meaning, not born again) There are also few who are born again but because there is no proper discipleship, they are malnourished. Christians are suffering from improper nutrition or insufficient food. My wife and I had accepted Christ. After being born again we have been left alone, abandoned like new born infant thrown in a river. We were gasping for life to survive. No one have disciple us. Yes we never skip Sunday services and so many churches’ activities but every time we have church gatherings we spent a long time on singing, too long to stimulate emotion. To let the Holy Spirit move we have to sing over and over again until people fall down to the floor frantically. The whole church wasted their time in hysteria with hyper faith. We became religious fanatics but there was no growth in our Christian lives. The church grew in number but lives of the members are in chaos like unruly and undisciplined children in a family. Pastors and members are no different from each other. Families were in disarray. There was no order at all because no one was teaching sound doctrine. We just become religious fanatics.
I longed for a church that taught proper discipleship until I joined a group that emphasized “sheepherding”. Their theory is that since Jesus had twelve disciples, so to disciple twelve persons and only twelve is the limit and each one had to have twelve by themselves. I finally found out that it was a scam. It was patterned from the “Pyramid scam Business”. I have wasted my effort, money and my time to an organization that was motivated by greediness. Because tithing was strictly imposed, can you imagine how rich you become if you have twelve disciples under you and each one has each twelve and so on. There are confusions in Christianity because of wrong motives of people who used the Lord’s name just to make money and I was one of the victims. (II Peter 3), “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping.” (Acts 20:30) “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
My spiritual daughter, Theresa and her husband Dennis just recently visited a couple in their house and because they were friends the couple confided their personal problems to them. The husband said, “I’m tired of going to church. I would rather go back to the world and go back to my vises because I have not seen any changes in our lives. My wife who brought me to church had not changed at all. Her attitude becomes worst yet she is very religious and doesn’t want to miss church services. Our family is in chaos so, what’s the use of spending time in the church?” Because my daughter knows her Bible by heart, she advises the wife quoting verses from 1st Peter 3:1-6, “Wives be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
The wife was stunned and asked; “Is that in the Bible?” How come that she doesn’t know this context from the Bible when she had been a Christian for a long time? In fact their church has a program about discipleship. What kind of discipleship is their pastor is teaching? Discipleship is teaching the believers all what is in the Bible. If a pastor doesn’t know his Bible how can he teach discipleship in the church? The Lord Jesus said; “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Success in a ministry is not base upon the great number of converts in a congregation or big and beautiful buildings, but true success in a ministry is based upon the quality of life in each believer. God is not empress on quantity but quality. Only those who have pure motives in making disciples can have the promise of the Lord when He said; “And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Continue reading the topic: “Do you truly love me?”