As a campus minister, one of the greatest joys of my heart is watching as students give their lives to Jesus. For all the prayers, setbacks, and hard conversations, it’s the moment where everything feels worth it. Luke 15 says there’s rejoicing in heaven and I believe it. It’s exciting. Yet if there’s one thing Cayman has taught me, it’s the importance of seeing past the initial victory to equip new believers for the greater war.
As some of you have undoubtedly heard someone say, our call in the great commission is not to go and make converts but rather disciples. After almost a year-and-a-half in Cayman I can see why. Discipleship is everything. Alan Hirsch in his book, The Forgotten Ways, examines the DNA of well-known Jesus movements throughout history and one commonality between them all is their commitment to discipleship. From an organizational standpoint it’s the most strategic thing we can do. If you’re in ministry and find yourself often wondering why you’re doing everything, there’s a possibility it’s because you haven’t discipled anyone. But more than that, from a kingdom perspective, it’s the most important thing we can do. Some would say it’s why the church exists.
In the same way we were born to parents who taught us how to walk, talk, and eat, when we are born again we need someone to show us how to live in light of this newfound freedom. So, why don’t we disciple? Off the top of my head I can think of four reasons.
1) It’s daunting. I mean, where do you even start? Is it just a matter of teaching theological truths? Is it instilling practical things like prayer and bible study? What about the values distinct to your ministry and/or heart? Discipleship is all those things, which leads me to my second point.
2) It’s a long and messy process with no shortcuts. The temptation is try to mass-produce disciples through a class or a series of bible studies but while discipleship is no less than a class, it is so much more than that. It’s sharing life and working out its kinks together. That requires getting personally involved in the lives of folks, which means focusing on a few rather than the crowds.
3) Our own discipleship was accidental. It’d be easy to replicate your discipleship if it was intentional but more often than not we ourselves were unconsciously discipled, making it difficult to duplicate.
4) We’ve bought into the lie that empowering people means losing our own authority. We’re afraid our disciples will be better followers of Jesus than ourselves when in reality that’s exactly what we should want. If this is you, it sounds like you’ve got some wrestling with God to do.
If we want our movements and ministries to outlast us, if we want to see people walk in the fullness of what God has called them to, then we must disciple people and disciple them to make disciples. Some materials I, as well as others, have found helpful include: the Bible (of course) John White’s The Fight, Greg Ogden’s Discipleship Essentials, Mike Breen’s Building a Discipling Culture, and InterVarsity’s LAUNCH (though this is catered towards students).
Cayman is a very religious country but for all its religiosity, a relationship with God is often an alien concept. Our prayer is that through discipleship we would see love for God spread as well as deepen and this initial victory lead to an even greater triumph.