Monthly Archives: October 2017

45 posts

Make Disciples Like Jesus

This blog is an excerpt from the free eBook, Invest in a Few: Giving Your Life to What Matters Most. Download it free here.

Now that we’ve looked at the dimensions of a disciple and toward the aspects of how to make disciples, let’s go back up to the mountain in Galilee. Remembering this scene will give us a clear vision of the end goal.

Jesus is casting his global vision to his disciples. He said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20, NASB). As we have already seen, embedded in this vision statement is the purpose of the church—to make disciples. That is, the church exists to make disciples. Also embedded in this statement is the process of how to make disciples. This is incredible and serves to underscore the brilliance of Jesus. In one sentence he summarizes the product and the process!

Go Make Disciples

So what’s the process? From this passage, we can discern that Jesus taught disciple making with four clear steps. (Even though it’s not quite as simple as four “steps”, these steps will give you the basic framework of Jesus’ method.) The first step is to engage with spiritual explorers about the gospel of Jesus. As we have already seen, evangelism is the first step in the disciple making process. An evangelist once told me, “You can’t spell gospel without spelling go.” I like that. Jesus told his men to “go make disciples.” While not all of us are called to be missionaries, we are all called to be proactive. That’s what we can each take away from this verse: Jesus’ heart for us to go and move and shake the world for his kingdom. The word “go” is actually a participle and is better read, “as you are going make disciples.” As you are going along your normal routine, make disciples.

This is from Craig Ethredege’s eBook, Invest in a FewDownload the eBook here in your favorite format at no cost.

The gospel in the early church was clearly relational. The word often translated “household” (oikos in Greek) is used repeatedly in the New Testament. While it is usually translated “household”, it was also used in a broader sense to include extended family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. The early church grew rapidly because they took the good news of Jesus back to their oikos. When Jesus healed a man possessed by demons, he told him to go back and share the good news with his family (oikos; Mark 5:19). When Zacchaeus came to faith in Christ, Jesus declared that salvation had come to his house (oikos; Luke 19:9). So disciple making begins with going to your established relationships and telling them about Jesus (see also John 1:40, 4:53; Acts 16:14-15; 16:30-34).

The second step in the process is to connect new believers into a biblical community. Jesus said in our passage to baptize new disciples “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism not only identifies the person as a follower of Jesus but also includes them in the new community of believers where they can grow and be nurtured in the faith. As you look throughout the Scriptures, you find new believers being baptized and immediately included into the new community of faith–the church.

When Peter preached the gospel at Pentecost, thousands heard the gospel and believed in Jesus. We read that immediately upon their profession of faith in Jesus, they were baptized: “So those that received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:41-42). It’s clear that once a person believed in Jesus, they were quickly baptized, identifying themselves with Jesus. They were included into a new community of Jesus followers. These new believers were not baptized to just go home and continue life as before. No, they were baptized and then they became “devoted” to the apostles teaching, and to the fellowship of their new community of believers. They were even devoted to breaking bread together and praying together. Baptism and fellowship went hand in hand. From this point forward, the normal pattern of the Christian experience was for baptized believers to immediately be included in the fellowship and community of believers. In fact, it would have been inconceivable in the New Testament to find a baptized believer who refused to be a part of a local church. Even those who seemed to be baptized when there was no church became instrumental in starting new churches. The Philippian jailer who was baptized with his family at night is thought to have become instrumental in the new church at Philippi that supported Paul in his missionary journeys (Acts 16:33). The Ethiopian official that was baptized in the desert after hearing the gospel from Philip is thought to have carried the gospel to Ethiopia and started the first church in Africa (Acts 8:35-38). Jesus set the pattern in motion: once a person comes to faith in Christ, he should immediately be baptized and included in a local community of believers.

The third step is to train disciple makers to walk with God. Jesus said disciples are to learn to obey him in everything: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20, NASB). In this phase of disciple making—and it continues forever in a sense—the disciple is trained to walk with God on their own and to begin to develop the character and competencies of Jesus. In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul says “train yourself to be godly” (NIV). Paul said that just as the athlete “goes into strict training” to get a temporary crown, he disciplines himself for an eternal reward (1 Corinthians 9:25, NIV).

This phase of equipping and training involves discipline, including teaching disciples how to read God’s word on their own and cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer; it involves teaching how to share their faith and reflect the love of God to the people around them; and it involves teaching disciples how to trust Jesus with every circumstance of life, putting him first in everything.

The fourth and final step is not clearly stated in this passage, but it is implied. Jesus said disciples are to obey everything he commanded, which includes the command to “make disciples.” Jesus intended for his disciples to make disciples. Therefore, the fourth step is releasing new disciples to multiply their life in others. Before his death, Jesus told his men, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Maturity multiplies. A mature plant bears fruit, a mature animal produces offspring, and a mature follower of Jesus multiplies disciples.

The Promise

That’s what happened in the early church. In Acts 6:7, Luke says “The word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” So Jesus gave us a clear product: make disciples. He also gave us a clear process: engage explorers, connect believers, grow disciples, and go multiply. Jesus also gave us a wonderful promise: “If you make it your goal to make disciples and you follow the process I have given you then I will be with you—always—to the very end of the age.” That’s an incredible promise for you and me. When we are committed to making disciples the way Jesus did, we will never lack his presence, and along with that, his power! Now that you have a good idea about the product and process of disciple making, it’s time to get down to practice of making disciples. The first question is, Who should you disciple?

Written by Craig Etheredge

A gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher and the Lead Pastor at First Colleyville, a thriving church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Craig Etheredge is the host of Morning Thrive, a radio program that covers central Texas. He is Founder and President of discipleFIRST ministries and a regular speaker at the FlashPoint Conference across the United States. Craig is also Adjunct Professor of Discipleship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and is actively involved in his local community serving on various boards.

How to Identify Disciples: Helping the Harassed and Helpless (3 of 3)

This blog is an excerpt from the free eBook, Invest in a Few: Giving Your Life to What Matters Most. Download it free here.

Are They Deployed into the World?

The final dimension of a true disciple is deployment. True disciples are engaged in the ministry of Jesus. More specifically, they are making disciples by walking with God, reaching the world around them, and investing in a few. “Deployed” is an action word, a boots-on-the-ground word.

This word reminds me of several friends of mine over who were in the military. One friend in particular was a commander in the Air Force during Operation Desert Storm. He flew several sorties into enemy territory during that conflict. For him, deployment meant leaving the safety of home and engaging in the battle.

This is from Craig Ethredege’s eBook, Invest in a FewDownload the eBook here in your favorite format at no cost.

Now apply that image to the mission of Jesus. A true disciple is a deployed disciple. He isn’t just someone who simply believes in Jesus and spends his time working on spiritual disciplines like reading his Bible and prayer. He is actively advancing the kingdom of God by reaching people for Christ and helping them walk to maturity. He has skin in the game, having left the bench and walked onto the playing field.

Harassed and Helpless

One day as Jesus was traveling from village to village, teaching and ministering to the crowds, he was overcome with compassion. He saw that they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The word “harassed” here—skullo in Greek—means “to be mangled, torn apart, or cut to the bone”. The word “helpless” (rhipto) means “to throw to the ground”. Jesus saw these people the way his Father saw them: victims of the enemy—hurt, betrayed, abused, torn apart, beat down, discarded, and walked on. They had no one to care for them.

I’ve seen my share of hurting people. I’ve walked through the slums in India where children are playing on garbage heaps, subsisting without clean water or shelter. I’ve been in inner-city schools, tagged and marked by the local gangs. I’ve looked into the eyes of the homeless, the single mom, the elderly, and forgotten. During the economic recession of 2008 and 2009, the United States job market lost 8.4 million jobs. At the time, those jobs represented 6.1 percent of all jobs in the nation. I saw the implications of this loss up close, because the area I’m pastoring today was hit especially hard. All those people were hurting for one reason or another, just like the people Jesus describes in Matthew 9 who were “harassed” and “helpless”.

I’ll never forget seeing a middle-aged man standing on a street corner dressed in a nice suit and tie, briefcase at his side, holding a handwritten sign, “I need a job.”

He looked harassed, helpless.

Jesus was broken for these people. When I stop long enough to see people the way God does, my heart breaks, too. In that moment of his honest emotion, Jesus called for a solution. What’s the solution to the pain and heartbreak in our culture?

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37). He said our response to human suffering in the world is prayer. We are not to pray, “Lord, help these people. They are really hurting.” Instead, we are to pray, “Lord, help these people by sending more laborers into the harvest field.”

Working in the Harvest

We often hear the verse just quoted when someone is making an earnest plea for more volunteers at the church. The children’s workers are running low, for example, so the pastor quotes this passage and the signup sheet goes out to the information desk near the exit sign. Jesus isn’t telling us to pray for more volunteers within the church, though; he’s telling us to pray for people to be sent out from the church into the harvest field. The harvest is where the lost people are. The harvest is where the hurting, the harassed, and the helpless are—those who need the hope of the gospel.

True disciples are deployed into that harvest field. They intentionally and purposefully seek out those who are far from God and they invest their lives in a few believers to help them walk with Jesus. Many disciples today are doing just this, even in the face of hostility and resistance.

While on a trip to Bangalore, India, I had the opportunity to sit with pastors who have suffered greatly to follow Jesus. We gathered in an upstairs cinderblock building. Fifteen to 20 Indian pastors sat politely in their seats, excited to hear what our team had to say to them. A local denominational leader who had wanted to encourage pastors in his district organized the meeting. I was the scheduled preacher for the day, but I was humbled because I realized that I was sitting among giants. Every one of these men had come from a Muslim background and had chosen to follow Christ at the risk of his life.

One pastor heard the gospel in his remote village over a radio broadcast. He wrote in to request a Bible. For months he studied it in secret. When he was discovered to be a Christ follower, the village men beat him severely and threatened his life. His mother helped him escape as he left behind his wife, children, home, and job. After leaving, he had absolutely nothing.

Then, I met a young woman named Fatima. When her family learned that she was a Christ follower, they threatened her with death—an honor killing. Later, she escaped and found refuge among Christians. In the years that followed, she married a Christian young man and had a small child. Over time, she was able to communicate with her father and mother. Their hostility toward her seemed to have abated, but when she returned home to retrieve some personal documents, her brothers beat her husband and her. This had happened recently, so as she told me her story, I could still see her bruises and the blood in her eyes.

Jesus warned his followers that deployment into the harvest field wouldn’t be easy, but he promised that he would be with us. Can you imagine a cadre of men and women in your church, who were trained and mobilized to reach people with the gospel? Can you imagine hundreds of people trained to invest in others and show them how to walk with God? Jesus could. That was his vision for his church. It still is.

Written by Craig Etheredge

A gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher and the Lead Pastor at First Colleyville, a thriving church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Craig Etheredge is the host of Morning Thrive, a radio program that covers central Texas. He is Founder and President of discipleFIRST ministries and a regular speaker at the FlashPoint Conference across the United States. Craig is also Adjunct Professor of Discipleship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and is actively involved in his local community serving on various boards.

Photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

Church Planting and Disciple Making

Exponential is leading a track called “Church Planting and Disciple Making,” which focuses on the connections between church planting and discipleship.

Have you ever made something harder than it needed to be? We all have the tendency to focus on the complexities instead of the simple questions that get us to where we need to be. As church leaders, we can complicate the simple, especially Scripture. For example, when I read the Gospels, I see no wiggle room in the fact that our Savior commanded us to make and multiply disciples. He was crystal clear! The mission he laid out for us is not intended to be complex. And in the simplicity of his strategy, Jesus knows that if we focus on making disciples the way he did, we will see kingdom multiplication.

The question is simple: Are you producing biblical disciples who make disciples that plant churches that plant churches?

Get more content like this in person at the 2017 National Disciple Making Forum.

This is one of the largest gatherings of disciple makers in North America with 65+ workshops, 30+ speakers, and 10+ tracks. Join us to learn practical ways to make disciples of Jesus this November 9-10. Register for the 2017 National Disciple Making Forum here.

When I wrote Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication (Exponential’s first multiplication-focused book), I talked about disciple making through the lens of adding disciples (making converts) and reproducing disciples. The pathways for adding disciples—connecting with people, introducing them to Jesus, and bringing them to a point of accepting him as Lord—also serve to create the entry point for us making disciples and pursuing kingdom multiplication. The “adding” and the “making” work together, as those far from God become disciples who in the process of becoming more mature disciples, naturally make disciples of others.

In fact, if each of us made a disciple every three years, and every three years, those disciples continued to multiply—we could accomplish the Great Commission in our lifetime. It’s called Great Commission math. Jesus is brilliant!

Unfortunately, we don’t always hear and embrace the simplicity of his command. Instead of focusing on disciple making as our core purpose that drives all of our programming, we tend to align our activities around other motives rooted in accumulation.

Without disciple making that multiplies—we have little hope of moving the needle on church multiplication in the United States. Exponential calls it our “4-10” mission—to see the number of reproducing churches increase from less than 4 percent to a tipping point of greater than 10 percent. Without fruitful disciple making, we’ll fall desperately short of this mission—and, moreover, Jesus’ call. We unintentionally stunt the Great Commission math.

If you sense dire urgency in my words, you’re correct. Exponential is all in, saying and doing everything we can to drive home this message because with every 1 percent increase, millions of lives and eternities will be forever changed.

What would it look like in your church and the world at large if you make disciples who make disciples who plant churches that plant churches? I can’t help think our world would look tremendously different if the disciples we made took the Great Commission to head and heart.

Leading this track are Exponential leaders Todd Wilson and Ralph Moore. Todd is co-founder of Exponential and provides vision, strategy, and direction for the ministry. He is a kingdom-entrepreneur, who is naturally drawn to anything around the next corner. Ralph is a church planter and disciple maker. He planted Hope Chapel Hermosa Beach in California, Anchor Church in Hawaii, and Hope Chapel in Honolulu. He helped start the Hope Chapel movement, which began with just 12 people, and the ‘movement’ mushroomed to more than 2,200 churches worldwide.