By Robby Gallaty
Anything old is old fashioned to much of the western world. However, two movements that altered the course of human history were the Renaissance (1300-1700) and the Reformation (1500-1600), both of which recovered or rediscovered that which was lost. By looking into the past, they were able to take giant strides forward.
A return to discipleship will enact the reformation of the twenty-first century. The strategy is not new. The method has been time tested and is culturally relevant in any context. Discipleship works as well in a small, rural church as it does in a major city megachurch. A seasoned pastor can experience the same results as an inexperienced minister. Laymen without seminary education or years of ministerial experience are able to reach the nations by implementing these core discipleship principles.
My driving motive for writing Rediscovering Discipleship is not to raise the banner of discipleship; it’s a clarion call for cultivating a deeper walk with Christ. I am passionate about disciple-making because my desire is to obey Jesus. When a person grows closer to him, the yield will be discipleship.
Discipleship is effective because it empowers believers to shoulder the work of ministry. Every individual in a discipleship ministry has another person they are working with. Disciples, many for the first time, are equipped to take responsibility for their faith and ownership for their God-given ministries. We are here because the first disciples took Jesus at his word. They made Jesus’ last words their first work. What would happen if we did the same? I believe we would rediscover what it means to be a New Testament church.
The Greatness of the Great Commission
What makes the Great Commission so “great”? It is that small two-letter prefix “co-.” Jesus could have told us about the Great Mission, something he would do alone. Instead, he enlisted us to join him in what we call the Great Co-Mission. As believers, we cooperate with him in a synergistic manner—working together.
In his book WikiChurch, Steve Murrell tells the story of a ten-year-old judo student who was seriously injured in a car accident. The student’s arm was so badly injured that the doctors were left with no choice but to amputate it. Everyone thought his judo career was over, yet despite his handicap, he persevered and continued his training. His teacher, aware of a plan the boy didn’t yet understand, taught him one move and one move only. The boy petitioned his teacher every day to teach him more than one technique, but the teacher would not change his mind. Every day of every week of every month was spent perfecting this one move.
The boy entered his first tournament after the injury and, against all odds, advanced to the finals. His opponent in the finals was more seasoned, faster, stronger, and, as was immediately apparent, in possession of all of his limbs. The match was a stalemate until the seasoned competitor lost focus for a moment. The one-armed boy performed the only major move he knew, and his opponent could do nothing to counter it. To everyone’s surprise, the one-armed boy was crowned the champion.
According to Murrell, the one-armed student won the match for two simple reasons: “First of all, he has mastered one of the most difficult moves in all of judo. Second, the only defense against that move is to grab your opponent’s left arm.”
Although I cannot confirm if this story is true, it still communicates a principle we must all learn: simplify. Learn to keep the main thing the main thing. When we do this and stop majoring on the minors, we become far more effective in our ministry efforts. Until disciple-making becomes the ministry of the church and not just a ministry in the church, we will never see our discipleship efforts impact the world the way that Jesus envisioned.