by D. Alexander Rodriguez
The command of Jesus is to make disciples of all people within all places at all times. Jesus did this by investing in a few to reach the many. This is why we must spend more time crafting the people in our small groups than crafting the program of our large groups. To invest in the few is to reach the many is the why of discipleship. So how do we go about doing this?
With someone proactively going out to bring someone in! It is this proactive process of FINDING we see in the Bible. It is Elijah who proactively found Elisha to lead. It is Jesus who proactively found the 12 to disciple. It is Paul who proactively planted Churches. We do not need to wait for a vision, we should not stall in hopes to hear a voice, because King Jesus has already given us a verse: “Go out and make disciples”. If we disobey this command, It’s not for a lack of clarity but a lack of conviction to be proactive in finding people to disciple.
Now, the extreme to this finding aspect of discipleship is bringing people into community only to entertain them instead of disciple them.
The variable between just entertaining people and actually discipling people is intentionally bringing food to the table for someone else to eat. Luke 24:25 says, “….and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” This means the Center of the Gospel is not what man wants, but who Jesus is, what Jesus came to do for us, and in the light of that what we should want to do because of who He is. Discipleship must be about our holiness as a willful response to seeing Christ’s worthiness. We should talk about dating and marriage, talk about money and tithing, talk about priorities and life planning, BUT WE MUST NOT TALK ABOUT ANYTHING WITHOUT TEACHING JESUS EVERY TIME. Jesus must be the bread we bring to the table for someone else to eat. But this cannot be done without abiding in Jesus on purpose instead of finding time on accident.
FEEDING people Jesus, however, doesn’t guarantee immediate life change. This means although we find and feed, the last aspect of discipleship has to be FIGHTING for them.
As Tim Keller illuminates in “The Meaning of Marriage”, When couples fight for truth or love, but not both, this is when relationships die. Truth without love results in hardened hearts from loveless words. Love without truth results in hardened hearts from unspoken words.
The either-or approach to truth or love is the wrong way to fight. The only way to fight fair is suggested in Ephesians 4:15 as the Apostle Paul advocates for us to, ”speak the truth in love”. This is the only combination to fight for solutions in romantic relationships, likewise, this is the only combination to fight for souls in a discipleship relationship.
If we have truth without love we will have a one-sided gospel: always talking about how we must repent without ever talking about why we should believe, preaching about hell without talking about heaven, pushing down against sin without ever lifting Jesus up, talking about what we need to do as Christians without ever talking about what Christ has done for us. This will produce disciples void of the gladness and grace of God because all they hear is what we need to do and what we are not doing. Likewise, If we have love without truth we will still have a one-sided gospel: always talking about why we should believe without ever talking about why we must repent, always preaching how Jesus wants to get us out of hell while never preaching how Jesus wants to get hell out of us, always talking of Jesus taking up His Cross for us without mentioning how Jesus commands us to take up our crosses for Him, talking about God’s love for us without teaching how God has said: “If you love Me you will obey Me”. This will produce disciples void of the gratefulness and grit of God because all they hear is how Jesus has done something in us, forgetting this same Jesus wants to do something through us. We do not need to proclaim truth without love, nor love without truth, The Gospel is the call of Jesus to both “repent and believe”. This gospel is best received when we disciple both truth and love into our people.
The Moravian missionaries preached the truth that Jesus is the only Way to God. With love, they sold themselves into slavery to reach an island of slaves where missionaries were outlawed and the Gospel was unknown. Elizabeth Elliot preached the truth of God’s forgiveness to the Auca people of Ecuador. She did this with love, as this was the same tribe that made her husband a martyr and herself a widow. But forgiveness forgets the past as it sees the vision of the future. AW Milne preached the truth of sin and holiness to the people of the New Hebrides that martyred every missionary before them. He did this with an undeniable love for their souls, as these same people wrote on his tombstone, “When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness”.
When we fight for our disciples through truth and love- We value their future more than their feelings, we are more filled with Heaven than others are filled with hell, and our boldness to do the right thing outweighs anyone’s boldness to do the wrong thing.
This is how to make disciples, to find, feed, and fight for the lost lambs of God. This is the Great Commission of discipleship- required of all Christians in all places at all times.
Daniel Alexander (Alex) Rodriguez is the national training director for XA. He develops core curricula for staff training, presides over essential staff training venues, like the annual Reach the University Institute (RUI) and the national Campus Missionaries-in-Training (internship) program, and oversees the creation of staff training resources, like the Small Group Leader Podcast, Season 1 and 2. He is the author of Real Devotion, Discovering the Whys Behind the Whats of the Gospel (2021) Wisdom House Publishing.