Part 1

When I was a kid, I would play in the front yard of my stepdad's house with a bunch of neighbor friends, not having a care in the world. We would play with the garden hose so much that we probably caused the drought that California is dealing with today. While playing with the hose, we’d pull it down the front yard and onto the driveway.

Often, as the water was flowing, it suddenly would just stop running. Our first thought was always that some parental unit had shut it off and was about to ruin our fun. But, after inspection, we realized that it was just a kink in the hose, which had stopped the outpouring of enjoyment.

I believe that the "kink in the hose" today in our churches is that we don't define what discipleship really is. Most of us use the word “discipleship” if we have learned anything or have been mentored by someone in the church. And even though I believe both of those are important to discipleship, they are an incomplete view of all that discipleship is.

As of this post, I have been a follower of Jesus Christ for 13 years and a little less than 2 months. In that time, I have attended and/or worked at 10 different churches. Not all were created the same, but every single one of them has had “making disciples/discipling/discipleship”somewhere in their language regarding the values and mission of their church.

Before He left this Earth to sit at the right hand of the Father, Jesus told His faithful followers to: “Go and make disciples…” Another way to read that is to: “Make disciples as you go.” Even though this sounds awesome, there’s a problem—how and what does that look like?

It makes me so nervous when someone says, “I’m ‘discipling’ him/her.” Really? How do you define that? What does the act of discipling look like to you?

If you pull the word apart, you see: “The act of making disciplined pupils.” And, “disciplined pupils” are those who are disciplined in their learning and obedience, and are students of their teacher/discipler.

In the American church, we often see “decision-making” but not “disciple-making,” because getting someone to believe in Jesus is a lot easier than pointing people to be committed to Jesus. I have learned that decision ministry is not where it is at. It often does more harm than good, because many people who have not been transformed by the Holy Spirit assume that they are good, because they raised their hand or came forward in a church service.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” not decisions of all nations. The reason being is that decisions mean nothing without a heart that has been changed. Even though a decision is the start of the willingness to be a disciple of Jesus, we must not stop there. If our Western culture is honest, we have propagated “decision making”. What I mean by that is that in the church, we really, really want to see people say “yes” to Jesus. But training them to observe everything that Christ commanded… not so much.

We are completely satisfied with making converts, church attenders, and supporters of our church, but are not fiercely frustrated with the fact that we are lacking in the way of reproducing disciples of Jesus!  

In the Bay Area, we have a culture that doesn’t “believe” in God. We have all of these church buildings, but need to have a culture of discipleship. If all we want to do is fill a church building, we have missed the point of disciple making and we lack the structure in place to keep, equip, and train all of the people to be disciples of Jesus. 

So, maybe, the hope and goal of today’s church of Jesus Christ should not be to just incubate church attenders—while a pastor lectures about his quiet time, giving people an excuse to not read the Bible because they assume that the pastor will do it for them. But we, as followers of Jesus, should do all that we can to help replicate ourselves. We should pour out our lives into those who will listen and apply. We hear and intake all of this knowledge through Bible study, devotions, and weekend sermons, but rarely do we apply 1/8 of what we have heard.

Not knowing what a win is, or defining what discipling actually is, is a HUGE problem that I see in the church of Jesus Christ. Think about it. What do you think when you hear: “I am discipling someone”? What do you think that person is doing?  Mentoring? Spending time with someone? Teaching? Becoming accountability partners? Encouraging? Being a prayer partner? All of those? What?

Most people will not define discipleship, so the word/idea/practice of it has become incredibly ambiguous… And not very effective.

As Zig Ziglar said: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Therefore, if we do not define discipleship, we will continue to make ambiguous disciples of nothing.Jesus Christ did not leave Heaven, and live the perfect life that we could not live. He did not die the death that you and I should have died for the payment of our sins, and rise from the dead 3 days later so that we could make church attending, non-fertile, apathetic, consumer driven “believers” of all nations.  

I believe the “How to disciple someone” subject is the most important and undefined term in all of Christianity, and our lack of understanding is a key component to why so many are NOT being discipled in our churches today.Therefore, I am going to stop right here and let you personally reflect on the question: “How would/do I disciple someone?”

I want to hear from you, so feel free to answer in the comments: What is it that you do with someone you are discipling? And why do you do that?

Part 2 will attempt to answer the question "How do we disciple people?"

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Here is part 2 of "making disciples, not decisions!"