In Matthew 28:18-20, we find a command that Jesus gave to his disciples when he saw them after the resurrection. We call it the Great Commission. In it, Jesus gives his disciples the authority to go into all the nations on his behalf. This verse is often used to call the people of God to tell others about Jesus. But what is the only command in those verses? It is to "make disciples." The other action words are actually modifying the primary action of making disciples. So they are to make disciples by "going," "baptizing," and "teaching." The conclusion is that Jesus says that the very essence of the church is to "make disciples."
How long did it take Jesus to make disciples? Three years.
How many people did Jesus focus on during his ministry? 12 (and inside of that, 3).
Did Jesus have masses of people coming to hear him teach? Yes, he frequently had large crowds around him; but many times, he would withdraw from the crowds and discuss things further with his disciples.
At Grace Point, three statements drive how we think about discipleship:
1. Discipleship is the crux of ministry as opposed to it being another program that we offer.
2. Disciples are made through information and imitation. We seek to develop intentional relationships that learn and apply the Gospel over a long period of time. Discipleship is not merely teaching a biblical lesson but also learning through shared experiences of life.
3. We are seeking to establish a "discipleship culture" rather than simply "doing church." This means that we will only begin to accomplish this when people who we have been discipled start to disciple others (2 Timothy 2:2).
What are the effects of "doing church" compared with developing a "discipleship culture"? "Doing church" leads to people being consumers who wait for the next thing that will bolster their spiritual life. It leads to people having little involvement in the work of ministry. It also leads to trained leaders feeling like they have nothing to do. On the other hand, what does a "discipling culture" create? It produces kingdom-partners who know that they will find life as they give their life away. It leads to a network of deeply intimate relationships where we encourage each other to live out the high challenge of the Gospel. Thus, we empower God's people for the work of ministry and release them to trust God to work in their spheres of life.