Disciples make disciples
Learning is an amazing thing. Some of you are teachers, so you probably know a thing or two about learning.
Jesus seems to have known a great deal about learning. During three years he taught his followers how to be disciples, and he taught them how to make more disciples, who they taught how to make more disciples. And so on all the way down to today.
Jesus is our standard.
You’ve learned some amazing things. How did you learn them?
Maybe you know how to fly a plane. Maybe you can drive a car, or a truck. Maybe you know how to ride a bicycle, or a horse. When I learned to ride a horse I did it by first watching my cousin do it. Then my uncle gave me basic instruction. All he said was ‘hold on tight and sit up straight’. That was the end of the lesson. Mostly I learned to ride a horse by getting on the horse, falling off the horse, and doing it all over again.
How did you learn?
For example, you learned how to walk. Did you do that by taking classes and getting a certificate? You learned to talk before you went to school.
How did you learn to talk? You didn’t learn the rules first. You listened to others talking, and then you copied them. Your language and accent is a reflection of the environment in which you learned to talk. But you didn’t just copy, you also experimented.
As their minds mature, children attempt – through a sort of gradual trial-and-error process – to construct a system of rules that will allow them to produce sentences like those they hear others use. These are subconscious rules. Felt rules rather than thought.
My point is that we learn by doing. If you don’t do, you won’t learn.
This learning is then reinforced and refined by discussion. We talk about riding a horse, about why we fell off, or why we didn’t fall off.
This is why making disciples is intricately connected with learning to be disciples.
Jesus first did it, then he told his followers to do it, then he told them to teach others how to do it.
Jesus taught to transform lives rather than to impart information.
We should have the same goal. Jesus gave his followers assignments to teach them how to share their faith. We read in Luke 10:1–20 how he sent out 72 of his followers to find more workers for God’s fields.
We never see Jesus get anxious about trying to cover too much information in his short 3-year ministry. Instead, Jesus understood that receiving information is not as important as having your life changed.
Jesus did give instruction to his followers. We have the famous sermon on the mount as an example. Or in Mark 4:1-2, where it says: “Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables.”
But mostly Jesus was about doing. In the very first chapter of Mark, verse 17, when he calls his first disciples, “Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ ”
And that is exactly what he did. He showed them. Jesus cast out demons as his disciples watched. Jesus healed people as they watched. He forgave sins. Jesus showed them how he expects his disciples to live when he ate with sinners such as tax collectors. And when he carved out private time to be alone with God in prayer.
This is what happens in the opening chapters of Mark. Then we come to chapter nine and his disciples are asked to cast out a demon and find they can’t.
When they have the opportunity, they ask Jesus why they couldn’t do it. There is a time for discussion. In addition to the 72 disciples sent out to practice what they have seen, in Mark 6 we find he sent out the 12 disciples first.
Can you see what Jesus is doing here?
He’s mixing up all the parts of learning. The showing, doing and talking are all going on at the same time.
The instructing, modelling, reflecting and experimenting were almost happening simultaneously, certainly all mixed in together if you read through any of the Gospels. This is a great model for us as we grow ourselves as disciples and grow other disciples.
Like learning to drive a car, the learner needs to experiment and reflect on what they have learnt. In our everyday discipleship, our walk with the Lord, we all need to be constantly learning from Jesus through reading his word in the Bible, observing his and other disciples modelling, reflecting on what we have learnt and putting it into practice in our lives.
The life of every disciple of Jesus should be a healthy balance of instruction and modelling from Jesus and reflection and experimenting based on our learning from Jesus.
We did exactly this in our cell group meeting on Thursday evening.
We had some instruction in healing, we talked about healing, and then we did healing.
What has to happen next though is to do more healing, and talk about it with each other. Then do more and talk more. We don’t stop. We don’t say we’ve done healing.
In time of open prayer, we must pray aloud to learn how to pray. We must do healing. We have to do these things. During this service and after, with friends and with strangers. Take every chance to learn by doing. And share your experiences.
We don’t ever allow ourselves to say, ‘We tried it once and it didn’t work’. The disciples tried casting out a demon once and it didn’t work, but read the acts of the apostles and you will see that they didn’t stop there. They tried again and they succeeded.
Please get out of your head the lie that we are only making disciples to boost church membership.
We are making disciples because we are disciples. We cannot be disciples if we aren’t making disciples.
By making disciples you are learning how to be a disciple. Of course, the other reason we make disciples is that we have a burning desire in our hearts to rescue our lost brothers and sisters from danger. We feel desperately the heart of God pained at the separation from his beloved children, who he is calling to come home.
As we do this we will be examples to others who follow us of how to be disciples. As we learn, so others learn. It is impossible to be a solitary disciple. Everything about being a follower of Jesus is about relationship. Relationship with God. Relationship with Jesus. Relationship with each other.
What did Paul say? Let’s read what he says from prison in Philippians 2:1-5 – “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
As Christian disciples, we do not serve a meal at a homeless shelter or sign up for a Bible study because it will count towards our good works. We make disciples because it is what Christ did and we seek to be imitators of Christ.