The words are as indelible as any ever recorded: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”
That’s how Jesus closed the whirlwind of events and emotions that surrounded His trial, execution, the three days of hopelessness, and His resurrection. But these words weren’t so much as an ending as they were a beginning; they weren’t a close on His story but a launching pad into the future.
The disciples – ordinary, unschooled, some still doubting – stood on the mountainside with their friend and now their acknowledged Lord, and got their marching orders. What they had seen done they would now do; what they had been taught they would now teach; what they had experienced they would now pass on. And so the chain goes throughout history. The story of Jesus and what it means to be His disciple has cut through the generations despite every attempt to stop it. And here we are today, in our own generation, recipients of the same charge Jesus delivered on the mountain that day:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”
First to the original disciples, and now to us. That’s who is to make disciples. But if we could, let’s think for a second about who this call didn’t go out to. Let’s think about who, or what, was never told to make disciples. Chances are you, like me, have trusted at least one of these other things to do the work Jesus gave to His people:
1. A screen. Jesus never looked at a video and told it to make disciples. Yet many of us have assumed that disciples will be made if the video teaching or preaching is strong enough. There’s nothing wrong with video; it can be a useful tool to make disciples. But if all we ever give people is a screen to watch then we aren’t making disciples; we’re making consumers.
2. A line of curriculum. Jesus never looked at curriculum and told it to make disciples. While it’s the ease of video that’s appealing, in this case the appeal is about knowledge. Just as with video, there is nothing wrong with using Bible study curriculum. But if that’s the sole means of discipling people, then we are in danger of helping people accumulate a great deal of knowledge and a very anemic amount of obedience and service.
3. A philosophy. Jesus never looked at a particular philosophy, program, or strategy and told it to make disciples. We, on the other hand, tend to be fascinated with the newest and best; we assume that if one particular strategy works in one church that it can be the magic pill in our own setting to manufacture disciples.
Are you seeing the theme? None of these three things are wrong in and of themselves, and yet none of them can be trusted to do what Jesus has uniquely called and equipped His people to do.
For example, when my company set out to create another tool, we wanted to make one that wouldn’t replace God’s people, but would equip them to make disciples in a way as unique as they are. At smallgroup.com, you can quickly build custom Bible studies as unique as your groups. Every study is completely customizable by the church from their aesthetic down to the actual text. It is a fantastic tool to help churches make disciples.
Just remember: tools don’t make disciples; people do.