When do we start making disciples?

March 24, 2011

Just wanted to leave a quick note up here on something I’ve been thinking about the last couple days…

Jesus has commissioned his church to make disciples of the nations right? Its pretty clear: “Go make disciples of the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Implicit in this–and also very clear–is the fact that Jesus is calling us to make disciples of people who are not yet his followers. In other words, Jesus is telling us that we begin discipling people before conversion.

Now, this is not always an easy pill for us to swallow, as more than a few of us have learned and live the understanding that discipleship starts after conversion. We’ve come to practice our confession that belief PREcedes discipleship.

Jesus’ Great Commission on the other hand makes just the opposite point: that belief, baptism and obedience all PROcedes from discipleship.

The Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)

“Make disciples!” Jesus says, “and then baptize them and teach them to obey me!” ” Wait, so they weren’t already committed to obeying you when they signed on as disciples Jesus?”  “Of course not!  Just look at my disciples!”

Hmmm…so what do we see in Jesus’ disciples?  Look at the two verses preceding the Commission quoted above:

So the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had designated.  When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. (Matthew 28:16-17)

Unbelievable.  Not only is Jesus batting eleven of twelve–given that Judas betrayed him–he even has some who doubt him after his resurrection!  Yet Jesus and the Gospel writers have no problem calling these guys Jesus’ disciples!  Never mind their heresies, their stupid sayings, questions or persistent unbelief!  These are Jesus’ disciples who he is committed to seeing raised up as his hands and feet in the world through his restorative work.

When Jesus says “Make disciples” he isn’t talking about making those who have already arrived somehow arrive even more.  He is talking about seeing the most anti-Jesus person being made into his disciples–maybe even before they stop being anti-Jesus.  In fact, maybe Jesus spent tons of time around society’s outcasts because he was discipling them, showing them what God’s family is like and inviting them in to it.  That’s the kind of discipleship I want to participate in.

Discipleship is not a twelve week program for the initiated aimed at further separating holy people from unholy people.  It is a lifestyle wherein we invite others to join us as citizen of Jesus’ kingdom who are getting to know and live out of our relationship with the King.


3 Responses to “When do we start making disciples?”

  1. karen wulf Says:

    A good word there, son, and very encouraging. Thanks!

    • joewulf Says:

      For me I think it is just one more step toward revaluing the rest of life, imbuing it with meaning again. I would think that taking the view that discipleship starts before conversion should go a long way in addressing our tendency the pit evangelism and social action (i.e. anything that doesn’t directly/immediately result in conversions) against each other.

  2. karen wulf Says:

    growing in grace involves a lot of re-valuing, I am thinking.

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