Mat 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV
Even on a first read of this very familiar text, it seems obvious what the intended outcomes of disciple making should be: disciples should make disciples. That would include Jesus’s “yoke” (his teaching) as well as emulating his lifestyle. Jesus himself guarantees the journey of disciple-making with his personal presence and authority. This is a clear instruction and cannot be avoided by anybody who identifies in any real way with Jesus. Not making disciples would be disowning Jesus himself.
But how on earth could we do it? How do we translate “to follow” in the literal footsteps of a physical Jesus into the following of a resurrected Jesus in such a way that the outcomes will be congruent? How does Jesus guarantee the journey of disciple-making with both his presence and his authority?
Eph 4:7-13 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. …. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4 paints a picture of Christ expressing the fullness of his ministry through his body on earth in order to continue his ministry. The way this comes about is through a multiplicity of gifts that together takes responsibility for the effective equipping, that is discipeling of every follower of Jesus. It can be described in the diagram:
The outcomes for this discipling process are clear:
- The body of Christ is equipped for a very specific purpose and this is works of service that in reality belongs fully to Christ.
- Spiritual maturity is not an end in itself, but preparation for service.
- The body is discipled towards unity in purpose and function to be able to as one body collectively act out Christ’s ministry.
- The risen Christ is actively doing works of ministry so that his purposes with the world will be realised. In terms of Jesus’ own definition this is all about Kingdom transformation and the breaking through of the age to come.
For those of us who mobilise the body of Christ towards Kingdom transformation it is important to note that what we call mobilisation is nothing but a function of disciple-making. Of course that implies that disciple-making cannot be confined to the first steps of faith or to the contents of a curriculum. Disciple making is the preparation of a collective life style of service through which the risen Christ mobilises his own body as the whole body flows from the head and is dependent on Him.
It is no surprise that we have seen quicker results of the mobilising ministry in faith communities with a strong disciple making basis – they could immediately flow into the end-game of the whole journey. The opposite is equally true – where disciple making is stunted or absent, this apostolic foundation have to be laid first before Kingdom transformation spills over to the community at large.
In order to explore the how of this process, we will have to look into the dynamics of the five fold gifts mentions in Ephesians 4, but that will have to be explored next time.