Here is my challenge: disciple someone. I have a good friend whose primary advice to me is “suck it up.” I actually appreciate it because there are not many people who are willing to tell others to do the hard thing anymore. We will listen, encourage, and understand, but rarely do we want to tell someone to suck it up and do what hurts. Making a disciple is a hard thing. You are called to it. Would you like to know the purpose of your life? Disciple people. That is it.
I just read a report in Christianity Today that detailed an alarming drop among Southern Baptist churches in baptisms which is a primary and measurable indicator of discipleship. I have no hard data, but I am confident the decline would be consistent among all churches. You can read the report here. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) detailed five specific problems behind the baptism decline. I can summarize all five in one statement.
It is easier to do other things that make us feel good about ourselves than making a disciple.
We can administrate the heck out of the church. We can be busy with all sorts of “ministry.” We get a lot of people to show up for one hour on Sunday morning. We can grow the number of children attending our programs. We can find other good things to celebrate. All those things are easier than making a disciple. None of those things matter without discipleship.
Jesus gave the mission in Matthew 28:18-20. We are to do three simple things that together make a disciple.
1. Go and tell someone about Jesus.
2. Baptize them once they believe in Jesus.
3. Teach them how to follow Jesus.
Those are simple things, but they demand something of us.
- They demand that we put ourselves at risk by sharing the gospel. They might think we are a freak. They might disagree with us. They might raise questions that we can’t answer. They might not like us anymore. True. They nailed Jesus to a cross.
- They demand that we invest our time. The further I go down life’s road, the more I realize that nothing is more precious than time. It hurts to give it away. I want to keep it for myself. Jesus says to deny myself and do what he did.
- They demand that we get involved in the lives of others. People’s lives are messy. They just are. To help someone grow and bring their life into line with Jesus is serious work. Love people anyway.
- They demand that we grow. Nothing grows you up faster than serving and teaching others. It forces you out of your comfort zone. It raises your sense of accountability. It pushes you to learn and be a better disciple yourself. It is work. Do the work.
These things are hard and this is only a partial list. There are lots of other things that we can do to make us feel like we are accomplishing something for the kingdom. The problem is that we are lying to ourselves. Full worship services, exploding youth ministries or endless service projects are meaningless unless they are part of making disciples. Disciples are made face to face, life on life. That is why Jesus worked 24/7 for three years and only made twelve. It is the hard work that matters. Making a disciple is that hard work. We have to suck it up and do it.
There is one more crucial thing. When the SBC identified their five problems for declining baptisms among their churches, they connected all five problems to the Pastor. While I agree that the Pastor must chart the course and set the example, it highlighted the biggest problem. Discipleship isn’t the exclusive domain of the Pastor. It is yours. It is mine. We are all called to this grand mission. You are needed in this operation behind enemy lines. People are trapped in darkness. We cannot bask in the light like a day at the beach and do nothing.
Suck it up and disciple someone. It will cost you, but a life changed for eternity is worth the investment.