When Jesus came to the earth 2,000 years ago, his mission was simple: to help people pursue God. To accomplish his mission, he discipled twelve ordinary men for three years. Then he left. Those regular guys changed the world by passing on the truth of Jesus to others who would also pass it on. The biblical strategy for helping people pursue God is clear: every follower of Jesus must become a disciple-maker like Jesus. But most Christians simply aren’t doing it.
The Early Church Was Started by Simple Disciple-Makers
The first followers of Jesus were not the educated socialites or sophisticated elite of his day. Jesus could have picked anyone for the important task of building his church, but he chose average people.
Matthew 4:18-20 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
If Jesus had invited Pharisees instead of fishermen, the early church would have started as an institution centered on trained clergy. So Jesus chose fishermen instead – regular guys just going about their ordinary business. They were not celebrities and had no illusions of changing the world. But Jesus called them, and they responded. And they changed the world through disciple-making.
Disciple-Making Does What Sermons Can’t Do
Consider how we defined a “disciple” in Foundations. It’s someone who goes “full circle”: trusts Jesus, honors God, and makes disciples. Somehow, Christianity has gotten away from this. Today it’s normal for Christians to go to church and listen to a sermon… and leave it there. It’s normal for Christians to read their Bibles, pray, and go to small group… and that’s it. Christianity has largely become about consumption. And the main thing we consume? Sermons. Preaching isn’t bad, but it was never Jesus’s main strategy for making disciples. Even after Jesus himself preached to massive crowds, he recognized there was something more to ministry.
Matthew 9:36-38 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Jesus preached to the masses, and still his heart broke for them. He knew they needed a more personal experience to truly embrace the truth of the gospel in all of its applications. They needed “shepherds” – everyday disciple-makers equipped and ready to personally help them pursue God. We call these people “mentors.”
The Church Is Broken Without a Culture of Discipleship
Jesus envisioned a vibrant church filled with regular people helping regular people pursue God. Pastors aren’t wrong to preach great sermons. But without regular people going out and personally helping people discover and apply God’s truth on every topic, we’re not functioning the way Jesus envisioned his church. A church without disciple-makers is broken.
You can fix the problem of the “crowds” – masses of people who have heard about Jesus but are not yet fully devoted followers. You can be a shepherd for the lost sheep, and you don’t have to be a pastor to do it. Jesus wants all of his disciples to get in the game and start helping people around them pursue God. In your church or at home, in the workplace or at school, there are people who need to know that you care and are willing to invest in them.
You need to learn the lost skill of disciple-making, and it’s easier than you think. We’ll get into the details in the next lesson in this series.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- What do you think of when you hear the word “mentoring?” Has anyone ever mentored you? Describe the relationship.
- Who personally helped you to pursue God? How did they do it?
- Read John 1:43. Is it surprising to you that Jesus picked a bunch of fishermen as his closest disciples? Explain.
- Make a list of the activities you consider to be “normal” in the Christian life. Is disciple-making on that list? Have you actually ever done it?
- Read Matthew 28:19-20. Do you think the disciples felt qualified to become mentors? Do you feel qualified? Why or why not?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.