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In the Great Commission, Jesus said “Go and make disciples.” Making disciples for Christ is not a suggestion but a command. And it's not only for Jesus' first disciples but for all his disciples. A helpful question to ask is: “How do we make disciples?” What are the methods we should follow to make disciples? Now we have several books that are available on this topic, And books by 9marks have been very helpful for me. But what if a person does not have access to such books? Will he still be able to make disciples in ministry? My answer would be yes. Because the person who commanded us to go and make disciples has not left us without a clue about how to make disciples. And he certainly did not say we can make disciples in ways that he himself did not do. The person who told us to make disciples also gave us the method and model we are all to follow to make disciples in ministry. His methods do not only apply to any one region or one nation; they apply to wherever people are in ministry. We must come and see and pay closer attention to the gospels, to see what Jesus really did in his ministry.
Writing this subject would be better suited for a person who has made several disciples for Christ or is successful in making disciples over several years. I am writing on this subject even though I am a new church planter because I have been preaching through the gospel of Mark and have been learning key lessons about discipleship along the way. Here are some of the lessons I have learned in Mark’s gospel.
1. Jesus Taught His disciples to be Servants, not Lords
Jesus clearly taught his disciples that they are servants, not Lords. He said, “I have not come to be served but to serve.” Even though Jesus set a clear example before his disciples, on many occasions we find them trying to be lords. That is why, in response to their quarrel about who was the greatest, Jesus said in Mark 9, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” The word for servant in the original language is “diakonos,” and was used for servants who waited on tables. The disciples wanted others to serve them, but Jesus was teaching them that they needed to serve others. And to help them understand how to be a servant, Jesus took a little child in his arms and said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” Often this verse is interpreted as teaching that little children are praised for their innocence, spontaneity, and humility. Instead, Jesus uses the child as an example of “little” and insignificant ones, people are not respected and often neglected. Now Jesus asked them to serve these little ones. This explains why Jesus sharply opposed his disciples when they did not respect the children who wanted to come to him in Mark 10. Their attitude did not show that they were willing to serve the “little” ones.
As we train disciples in our pastoral ministry we must remind ourselves that we are servants, not lords. In 1 Peter 5:1-5 Peter gives some important instructions to elders in the church, “Be shepherds of God not under compulsion but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” Peter was passing on what he had observed in Jesus during his ministry. And we should take this important instruction to heart.
2. Jesus Intentionally Sought Disciples
Jesus knew that he would soon go to the cross and that others must carry out the mission which God had given him. And Jesus decided to choose disciples in the early life of ministry (Mark 1:16-20). When you read through the gospel of Mark and other gospels you will notice when Jesus called His disciples he met people in different places. The first disciples he met beside the Sea of Galilee (1:16) were the fishermen, and he met a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth (2:14). I am not saying here that no one came to Jesus. Indeed many people, like Nicodemus, came to him. My point is that Jesus, the Son of God, was not expecting people to come and meet Him. Instead, he visited and sought after people to make disciples.
We must also seek people to make them disciples. People do not often come to us asking to be trained. Instead, we must be humble and seek people whom we can help in their discipleship. And the reason we do this is that truth must be carried not only through us but through many. This is what Paul tells his disciple Timothy in 2 Timothy “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.'' We must entrust Jesus’ teachings to reliable people who can teach others. This is what Jesus did with his disciples and this is what we must do in our pastoral ministry.
3. Jesus was Patient with his Disciples' Shortcomings
When Jesus planned to call disciples, He called fishermen, tax collectors, and other common people. He overlooked the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees and called ordinary people. In Mark’s gospel, we often notice the disciples’ inability to comprehend Jesus’ words. When Jesus told the parable of the sower in Mark 4:13 they did not understand and came to Jesus asking for its meaning. And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” When Jesus spoke about “the leaven of Pharisees and leaven of Herod” they began to discuss literal bread. After the transfiguration, when Jesus told Peter, James, and John not to tell anyone what they had seen until “the Son of the Man rose from the dead” they wondered what this meant even though Jesus had spoken of his death earlier in chapter 8.
After he foretold his death and resurrection again, this is what Mark tells in Mark 9:32: “But they did not understand what He was saying and they were afraid to ask him.” moreover they were fighting themselves who is the greatest among them. In spite of these and many more shortcomings, Jesus persisted with them. He was patient with their dullness, weakness, and their character flaws, and taught them and forgave them and helped them change.
If Jesus had such men as his disciples, then we will also definitely have disciples filled with many different problems. When people come, we cannot demand that they magically change in one day. It's a process. We must give time to them to change and we must trust God to disciple people patiently.
As I reflect on my own life, I am grateful that God used faithful men to disciple me, and I pray that God would help me (and you) to make disciples for Jesus. As we do this, let us be servants, let us be intentional, and let us be patient.