The primary reason for this is because it is biblical. Matt 28:18-20 tells us, “18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” A second reason is because the spiritual benefits both to the individual believer and to the church as a whole is tremendous.
Jesus taught that faith means to follow. That was His first test of a person’s faith. In Lk 9:23-25 we read, “23 And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”
Following, however, isn’t short term. In his book, …., Bill Hull says,
Discipleship isn’t a program or an event; it’s a way of life. It’s not for a limited time, but for our whole life. Discipleship isn’t for beginners alone; it’s for all believers for every day of their life. Discipleship isn’t just one of the things the church does; it is what the church does. It’s not just part of the advancement of God’s kingdom; the existence of serious disciples is the most important evidence of God’s work on earth. Without enough of these workers, the task languishes and the work remains incomplete.
Matt 9:36-38 tells us, “36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”
But a dilemma now faces us. If it is true that “the existence of serious disciples is the most important evidence of God’s work on earth” and that “without enough of these workers, the task languishes and the work remains incomplete,” why has the discipleship movement never quite made it into the heart of many local churches? And it is particularly puzzling especially in the light of the clear imperative from our Lord Jesus in Matt 28:18-20 to “make disciples.” Why don’t we automatically place discipleship at the center of every ministry?
Perhaps it is because many people struggle with concepts connected with discipleship like, influence, vision, submission, accountability, vulnerability, confession, study, sacrifice, and commitment. In 1Tim 4:7, Paul tells us, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” This may very well be another reason why many Christians are not attracted to the concept of discipleship. Let’s be honest – discipline isn’t something most of us like or look forward to. Truthfully, we avoid discipline if we can, because it disrupts the normal and comfortable pattern of our life.
Bill Hull is once more very helpful in this regard when he states, “The great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis wrote that the word he detested most was ‘interference.’
Interference occurs when someone sticks his nose in your business. However, that’s precisely what discipleship is all about. If you want to grow in a meaningful way, you not only must tolerate another person’s intimate knowledge of you, you must also willingly invite that person into your life. Even more startling, you’ll grow to love and depend on the ‘interference.’”
Most believers want to reap the harvest of a discipline while living a life of relative laziness. We want all the benefits of humility and growth without being humble or being humbled, or without working and persevering to grow.
Yet the Bible tells us quite clearly that we require a great deal of interference to deal with our great tendency toward self-indulgence. Without this interference, we would not have a healthy “check and balance” mechanism in our lives. We would have no sense of the practical accountability that we need for a healthy and God-honoring spirituality. That is why this kind of interference is positive and lies at the very heart of making disciples – a process Jesus described as teaching others “to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20).
Why is the call to make disciples the very heart of God’s work? Why is God pleased when we make a total commitment to discipleship? Let’s start with the obvious:
DISCIPLESHIP RANKS AS GOD’S TOP PRIORITY BECAUSE JESUS PRACTICED IT AND COMMANDED US TO DO IT, AND HIS FOLLOWERS CONTINUED IT.
It is my prayer and burden that as a church and as individual believers in Jesus we would all be greatly spiritually benefitted by the truths that we will study on the subject of discipleship. Most of all, I pray that our Lord will be most glorified in the fruit that these truths will bear in our lives when we begin to apply them as a church and as individuals.