It is often said that success breeds success. There is an element of truth to this in that we like to be part of something that is flourishing. Just think of your social life or sporting activity. At face value it looks lie this is the case in the Church of England. It has a small proportion (just over 1%) of its churches which are ‘larger’ than others (350+ attendance) and are growing more than other churches. The trend since 1989 if it continues, leads to the forecast that in 10 years’ time that one-sixth of everyone going to an Anglican church will attend this small group of churches! Yet in many cases they grow by transfer from other churches, rather than through conversion of new people. The churches we may consider ‘successful’ face exactly the same challenge: to make disciples. Jesus said to his followers: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). Yet the great commission so often becomes the great omission! It is not a suggestion, or one option among many possible lifestyles, but a command. The person who follows Jesus is to be involved in making disciples of Jesus.
Discipleship isn’t easy. It is true that forgiveness is a wonderful gift through faith in Jesus. But discipleship will cost us our lives: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25). To be a disciple of Jesus means that our lives are no longer our own—they are His.
Discipleship isn’t a solitary pursuit, but relational. Jesus’ followers are to grow in a relationship with him, be an active part of his work to make disciples and be part of a community of believers. As lives are shared we learn how to love the Lord and each other, allowing others to disciple us by letting them challenge us and encourage us in our walk with God: ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another’ (Prov 27v17). We need one another as we grow to become wholehearted disciples of Jesus.
Discipleship isn’t self-driven, but comes from knowing Jesus. As we develop our understanding of the Bible, so we come to know the depths of his wisdom; as we develop a pattern of prayer, so we will enjoy his presence. The Apostle Paul wrote to his younger colleague: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The Bible reveals God’s character and will, so it provides all that we need to grow.
As we focus on the priority that Jesus gives, so we will become the people he wants us to be and the church will become what he wills it to be. Disciple making is to be our priority, just as Jesus commands, and we hope you will be a part of it.