One of our major focuses at The Forum Christian Church over the last year has been centered around the question, “How do we make disciples who make disciples?” I asked this question openly to myself a year ago, pondering over Jesus’s command in Matthew 28:18-20 and concerned over whether I was seriously committed to the teachings of Jesus. After a few months of reflection and reading, I asked a question that I believed would lead me to a deeper place of understanding, “Is there a difference between disciple-making and discipleship?
The Church is constantly involved in discipleship. Every spiritual program, community group, sermon, and Scripture reading is an engagement in the process of discipleship. But the question I was really asking is “What am I doing as an individual to empower people to know God in a meaningful that they could then teach to others?” Or put simply, “Am I making disciples who follow Jesus’s command to make disciples?”
As I began to explore this avenue of discipleship, I began to notice that in my own community existed a sort of mentality of “trained professionalism.” There is this idea permeating among believers and laity in America that evangelism and discipleship is for the seminarian, the pastor, or preacher. I have heard this sentiment echoed in my community over and over again. And it stands contrary to that core Baptist distinctive that I hold so close to my faith: the priesthood of all believers.
Discipleship in the Church as a whole seems to be focused on growing a single individuals faith. Most curriculum is great for helping believers reflect and institute Christian principles in their own life, but so little program is made and centered on empowering laity to lead and grow others in their faith. In horticulture, there is a simple phrase farmers use when a branch absorbs all nutrients for itself without devoting any resources to bearing fruit, a phrase I have come to use in my own church: excessive tree vigor. Excessive tree vigor is a real problem for farmers who are trying to grow mature crop that grows to the point of reproduction, which is really not too dissimilar from what we want to see in our church: a culture built around raising leaders and growing faith, a culture of disciple reproduction.
As my church moves into 2018, we have planned discipleship groups starting in January. We are taking four persons to a group and are centering around building strong friendships and faith with the intention of every participant in the group to lead another group later in the year.
I really do want to be intentional at following Jesus’s words to make disciples, but I also want to do my part of helping my christian fellowship do the same. I want to encourage you this year that you too can make a disciple. You too can build friendship and encourage faith. You too can make disciples who make disciples.