Matthew 28:18-20, NIV – (18) Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) 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, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
What is this passage commonly known as? … The “Great Commission”.
What does this Great Commission teach us about evangelism and making converts? … Absolutely nothing!
What does this passage tell us to do? … To make disciples. We were never asked to make converts, but to always make disciples. Certainly, making disciples includes winning people to Christ, but the goal is not making “converts”, but “disciples”.
So what can we learn about discipleship from this passage, and what are its implications for us?
- Jesus gave us a simple three step process for making disciples: (1) Go, (2) Baptize them in water, and (3) Teach them to obey God’s word (not just know it).
- Making disciples is everyone’s responsibility. We are all to go into the world and make disciples.
- We must make disciples of every “nation” (“ta ethne” = every ethnic group, every people group, not just our own ethnic group.
- Jesus gave us authority to make disciples. So we need to use our authority to make disciples, and then give our disciples authority and teach them how to use it, so that they can make disciples also.
- Because we are to teach people how to obey, discipleship is therefore about heart-obedience, not just head-knowledge. If we are going to teach them to obey Jesus’ words, we must know Jesus’ words. We are to share God’s words, not OUR words. It’s not just teaching the natural (information), we must also teach the supernatural. And we must be a model – an example.
- We must rely on Jesus’ presence every step of the way – Jesus is with us!
- Discipleship is a process, and so it takes time. It should not be rushed. And because it is a process, we need to have a plan.
Because discipleship is a process of teaching to obey, we can even disciple the pre-saved. We can see this process clearly demonstrated in what is known as “The Good Soil E & D Scale”, originally known as the “Engel’s Scale of Receptivity”.
What are some of the implications of this scale?
- If we can discern what step a person is at, we can know what they need next, and what we must do next to help them. And we can know what to pray for in each person’s life.
- We can honour people by not forcing them up the scale too quickly. We honour them by making sure they understand each step, and move forward only when they are ready).
- Discipleship also includes simply sharing our life (because God is in it) and as we share our life, they learn our worldview, and learn about God.
- Discipleship is modeling love at every step of the process. We must prepare the “soil” of people’s hearts by making sure we show love, and making sure that they understand truth at each step, so that the “seed” of faith can start to grow in their soil.
- If all we do is move people up the scale a few points, we are still a success. We can trust God to send other people to help us move a person us the scale.
- This charts helps us to understand what we personally need to know in order to disciple someone else at each step of the process.
How do we “teach people to obey”?
- After teaching someone a truth, we should always tell them “how”.
- We should demonstrate what we have taught – be an example (model) to them of the truth we are sharing.
- Give them an opportunity to practice what we teach. We should always help them to come up with an application.
- We should develop a simple accountability system, and ask them how they did with the application when we meet again.
- We should show them God’s Word in the Bible, and not just quote it. And even better, we should get them to read the verses so that they can see, and say, and hear the Word of God.
- We should share the Bible and ask them lots of questions about what they read.
- We should show them God’s promises, and get them to read them.
- We should make them feel safe, comfortable, and show them empathy. We should develop an environment of acceptance.
- We should admit that we struggle too, and always be “real”.
Developing an atmosphere of safety, security and acceptance is very important. What can we do to raise spiritual disciples (and natural children) to keep them safe?
- Educate them – teach them the truth.
- Fill them – fill every void in their life with God’s love and our acceptance.
- Protect them
- Help them – to develop healthy boundaries
- Pray for them.
So where are you on the scale, and what do you need next, to grow as a disciple?