Blog 6 in the series “Obeying Jesus 1st Century Command in the 21st Century.”
Blogs two through five addressed what needs to be done and how to do it in four scenes. Blog 6 serves as a conclusion based on the narratives.
There can be no doubt that Jesus commanded His church to be about the business of making disciples. Jesus also set a perfect example for church leadership: He chose men, spent time with them, and then sent them out to do the same (Mark 3:14).
Barnabas caught Jesus’ vision of building into men and did it himself (Acts 11-13). Paul experienced this phenomenon with Barnabas (Acts 11), then did it himself with many men (Acts 15, 16, 18, 20), and taught others to do the same (2 Timothy 2, Titus). Even Peter, establishing a different dynasty of followers, considered the ministry of reminding disciples something that should be passed on to others (2 Peter).
Yet, somehow, two millennia later, with all the good ministry going on, Jesus’ concept of discipling, spending time with a few and developing them—so they will in turn develop others—has been somewhat neglected. Something must be done.
What Does Discipleship Mean?
These blogs have presented the case for making disciples in the local church starting with the pastor training men who will train others. The scenes followed Pastor Pete who first was convicted by the example of his missionary friend and then challenged by him. Pete was convinced that he should be making disciples.
He then went on to challenge his deacons, through leading them to look at several passages that advocate discipleship. They also developed a working definition of discipleship something like this: contributing to people’s joy by bringing them to the point of faith in Jesus, developing their knowledge of Him, and reminding them to live more and more like Jesus every day.
Then he learned that people were using Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship training and resources to see people’s lives changed and disciples made in various contexts: in the States, in Asia, and in Europe.
Still, Pastor Pete was skeptical, so he probed more. At this point, missionary Jerry shared the history of how Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship was initiated as a training department of ABWE because the mission was receiving applications from people desiring to be missionaries with no training and little or no experience in disciple-making. Pete learned that the principal evangelism and first steps discipleship books have gone through several revisions and editions and are now in 25 languages with more being translated currently. He saw that disciples are being made all over the world using Good Soil methods and materials.
Putting Training & Resources to Good Use
Pete was not only encouraged and challenged by the fact that the ministry was so widespread, but that Good Soil had developed several new resources in recent years. Even though Pete was impressed with such attractive resources that were becoming so far-reaching in their scope, Jerry stopped him short with “the training is the most significant piece of the puzzle. . . . The principles taught in the training help people put the tools to good use.”
Inspired but still skeptical, Pastor Pete demanded more than just anecdotal stories. He wanted to know if there was any hard data. So Jerry held Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship training up against the grid of Kirkpatrick’s four levels: reaction, learning, behavior, and results. He demonstrated how the four levels were tested in three venues: among Asian pastors and leaders, in a missionary appointee training session, and in a local church training model over several weeks using the Gaining Ground with Good Soil text. Although the research was not extensive, it did show that over 100 people enjoyed, appreciated, and put the training to use. The results they are experiencing along with stories from hundreds more all over the world convinced Pete that he needed to take the training, begin to train his people, and take advantage of these tried-and-proven resources in order to better follow Jesus’ command to make disciples.
Pete’s story ends well. However, not every pastor has a friend like Jerry who confronts their thinking and praxis when it comes to their discipleship or lack of it. What can be done to challenge pastors and church leaders who are not discipling and have not caught the vision of Jesus, Barnabas, and Paul? We hope that reading these narratives will be the provocation each of us needs to move forward in making disciples.