Misunderstanding Mission – Part 4
Over recent weeks we've been looking at some of the common mistakes we make regarding mission. The first we suggested was giving people what they don't need; the second was answering questions no one is asking; the third was taking it upon ourselves to convert everyone. This is the fourth and final post in that series.
Discipleship is only for believers.
I hope not! Where in history did we make discipleship in our churches exclusively for the already convinced? Why have we cooked the word “discipleship” down to mean simply the spiritual education of believers? Doesn’t Jesus paint a different picture for us?
As we read through the gospel accounts, we see Jesus repeatedly model a holistic pattern for discipleship. Jesus’ invitation at the beginning of His earthly ministry was to “follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1.17). After Jesus’ resurrection, He gives His disciples the Great Commission to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28.19-20). So we see a full picture of “come and follow” to “go and make.” This is a process that begins with a person who is not a Christian and ends with a follower of Christ who then makes disciples. It's not simply a method for filling believers with more biblical knowledge.
In the gospels, we see people who are far away from Jesus begin to explore the claims of Christ as they spent time with Jesus and those who followed Him. They moved from a place of disbelief to belief as they were confronted with the truth that He was the Son of God. Only then, after belief in Jesus, did they began to understand what this meant and how they needed to respond to who Jesus was and what He accomplished for them. Discipleship was a cycle of moving a person from disbelief to belief in being a commissional Christian.
Many times we view and live out discipleship in our churches in the reverse of how Jesus did it. We wrongly think that in order to disciple someone, he first needs to clean up his life, behave and conform, become a Christian, and then join the church. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t take that approach with His disciples?