Why Make Disciples?

Visiting a Hindu pottery village in Bangladesh, 2012.

Motivation is Everything

I was reading a book the other day when a thought came to mind: Why do you want to make disciples? Knowing the question to be a genuine question from the Lord, I set the book aside and seriously considered it. Why do I? Is it simply because I’m commanded to (Mt.28:16-20)?

The more we read the scriptures, the less -I think- we can dodge the necessity of Jesus’ commands to each of us to reproduce life change in the lives of others through the truth of His words. This looks confusing and difficult, burdensome, and time-consuming to us because, well, it is. Disciple-making is a true, enduring task. We must become transparent, foolish, and the everyday work involved in it is not merely a sit-down on Saturday mornings over some coffee experience. There is a misconception in the church today around discipleship; one focusing primarily on teaching, on workbooks or theories, arguments over 1500 year-old stances from church forefathers, preferences, and so many other divisive or preferential issues.

On the other hand, true discipleship is found in the genuine relationships developed among acquaintances, until friendships form, and continues until those friendships become family ties. After all, how can we hate our own body (Eph.5:29; 1 Cor.12:12-27)? Too often we regard discipleship as some bearable, long-distance sprint we have to endure for a season and then dismiss. We swipe a backhand across our brow and relent a sigh with a “Whew! Glad that one’s done! Next…”

Do you approach evangelism or discipleship that way? I have. That is, until I read and reread and reread the book of 1 John and I came to the realization what I was doing was far from actually making disciples. If you’ve never read it, or have not read it recently, I urge you to do so, specifically 1 John 3:16-23. You see, what I found was I was approaching evangelism and discipleship as a duty, an obligation. Now, make no mistake, I loved doing it. I had a great joy in meeting with my small group of men on a weekly basis; texting throughout the week, and even gathering together on Monday nights to review our booklets together. But something was missing.

As I sat reflecting on the question the other day, I reconsidered those past lessons and focused on the young men I have poured into over the years. Young men and women in Arizona, Indy, Bangladesh, and now all around the world (some even missionaries themselves, Praise God!). Here I was, again, years later, planning to embark on this great quest of evangelism and discipleship; asking God where He would have me begin the process of leading people to Him, and I was lacking one very important piece, something integral no disciple-maker should ever make the mistake of doing any work for the Lord without bringing this to the table first. Love.

As I realized the answer to the question, I began to weep. Crack! God opened my heart, once more. So today, the question I pose to you is: as you stand and speak with those coworkers today, or family members, or friends at church, do you love them? Truly? Do you 1 John 3:14 love them? Is your motivation to see them glorify God in every aspect of their lives? If not, don’t berate yourself. Pray. Weep. Then, brush the tears aside and continue to pray and perform small God-led deeds for these people until God rends your heart to serve them. Then, you’re ready to disciple them.

Lead with love.

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