Jesus gives the marching orders to the Church in Matthew 28:19 – “Go and make disciples.” Our first priority, the best thing that we must seek to do above all else is to make disciples. A disciple is a follower of Jesus. Jesus looked at people and said, “come, follow me.” He was telling them to spend time with Him and get to know Him. He was telling them to trust Him. He was telling them to accept His priorities as their priorities. He was telling them to redefine their lives in terms of being His follower. Being a disciple is more than just being a believer, it is being a follower.
If a disciple is a person whose life is redefined by Jesus and is following Him, then a Disciple-Making Community is a group of believers who are completely focused on growing in their relationship with Christ and helping (encouraging, challenging) others to do the same. This involves evangelism, but it can’t stop there. It involves offering programs to teach people and to help them grow in their faith, but it can’t stop there. Making disciples is personal. Making disciples is relational. It takes time and sometimes it’s messy, but, according to Jesus, it is the number one priority of the Church.
This is going to take some effort to get right. It just might cause us to radically redefine our priorities and our understanding of what the Church is about. I hope that we care for people, but helping people is not necessarily discipleship. I hope that we offer quality educational and social programs, as well as great worship experiences, but these are not necessarily discipleship either. I hope that we maintain the tools God has given us – the budgets, buildings, property, and equipment that can help us do what God has called us to do – but the tools are only important to the degree that they are helping us to accomplish the mission of making disciples.
Would making disciples be at the top of a list of the most successful things we do as a church? If not, then it is time for some serious evaluation and realignment to the mission Jesus gave us to “Go and make disciples.” Let’s have business meetings, committee meetings, and staff meetings that are primarily concerned with discipling people. Let’s recover the idea that being a leader in the church is about making disciples and bringing everything the church does in line with this important mission.
There are many things churches are doing that we should be proud of and feel good about, but if I’m understanding Jesus correctly, none of it means anything if we are not making disciples.