Disciple-makers and Trouble-makers…

Disciple making and discipleship are buzzwords in the evangelical church right now. The following is a true story about disciple making and discipleship:
There was this group of men that were serious about making disciples. And they thought they had a pretty good grasp on disciple making. They taught their disciples to devote themselves not only to weekend services, but to small groups during the week.
In these small groups, they taught their disciples to believe that the Word of God was true, to study the Word of God, to memorize the Word of God and to live by the Word of God. They taught them to sing songs that honored and worshiped God.
They taught them about Heaven and Hell. They taught them how to pray. They taught them to be faithful with their tithes and to spend their money wisely. They even taught them to fast.
These disciple-makers went to great lengths to teach their disciples how to practically apply scripture to every aspect of their lives.
Then one day, two troublemakers showed up and interrupted their disciple making process. The first troublemaker was loud, rude, and disrespectful. He dressed inappropriately and had no respect for social norms. He insulted the disciple-makers and told them that they had no idea what they were doing.
The second trouble maker was a little less abrasive, at first. He was more of a know-it-all who not only insulted the disciple-makers and questioned their abilities and motives; but played mind games with them that made them look incompetent in front of the disciples they were trying to make.
Ask yourself, “What would you do in this situation?”
And by the way, the disciple-makers were called the Pharisees.
The troublemakers were John the Baptist and Jesus.
Let that sink in.
We have been constantly telling churches that they should be making disciples, but the Pharisees were already making disciples when Jesus showed up. The people of Jesus’ day didn’t need to be taught how to be and make disciples; they needed to be taught how to be and make disciples of Jesus.
The problem is not that churches aren’t making disciples – because all churches are already making disciples of something. The problem is that they aren’t making disciples of Jesus.
Seriously ask yourself, “Do the disciples we are making in the evangelical church look more like the disciples of the Pharisees or the disciples of Jesus?”
The disciples of the Pharisees believed that Scripture was true and needed to be practically applied to all areas of their lives. They faithfully gathered together every Sabbath to study the scriptures. They believed in Heaven and Hell. They believed in tithing and being wise with their finances.
They prayed for political leaders who would lead their country back under God. They believed that Israel was a particular nation and particular people set apart by God. They loved their families. They believed that one day the Messiah would come with a sword and put all the evildoers to death and reward the righteous.
What was the difference between a disciple of the Pharisees and a disciple of Jesus? The disciples of Jesus accepted the words and message of Jesus. They memorized everything He did and everything He said so that they could imitate Him. They then kept the Great Commission by making more disciples of Jesus who could keep all that He commanded.
Ask yourself again, “Do the disciples we are making in the evangelical church look more like disciples of the Pharisees or disciples of Jesus.”
At this point, some will answer, “Yeah, but the Pharisees had all these extra things they added to scripture!”
“We don’t do that… do we?”
Ever go to a Lifeway store (before they closed down)?
Surely, Evangelicals would never add anything to scripture like various theologies, philosophies of ministry, the notes in our favorite study Bibles, our favorite translation of the Bible, our favorite type of Christian music, the messages and books of our favorite celebrity pastor or theologians, Sunday school curriculum, small group materials, books written by Christian celebrities (who later turn out to be heretics); we wouldn’t do that, would we?
We claim to be making disciples of Jesus because the things we are doing and teaching reference Jesus. We make disciples of music that references Jesus. We make disciples of theologies and philosophies of ministry that reference Jesus. We make disciples of programs that reference Jesus. We make disciples of celebrities and celebrity pastors that reference Jesus. We make disciples of politicians and political parties that reference Jesus.
But all kinds of things reference Jesus without making disciples of Jesus. Cults reference Jesus.
If it was all taken away, what would the modern evangelical church in America be left with?
If you answered, “Jesus,” you are right.
But ask yourself, “How much Jesus would we really have?”
Would we know enough of what Jesus said and did to be able to imitate Him? Would we know enough of what He did and said to be able to teach others to keep all that He commanded; just as He commanded us to do? (Matthew 28:19-20)
Ask yourself one more time, “Do the disciples we are making in the evangelical church look more like the disciples of the Pharisees or the disciples of Jesus?”
Look around your church. What are you making disciples of?
If Jesus walked into your church or small groups, what would happen?
Would He disrupt it?
Would people be willing to listen to Him, or would they get upset because He disrupted the sermon or class to teach His message instead?
What if He disagreed with what was going on and being taught? Would your church change to suit Him?
Luke Wrote:
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”
Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:27-39, NIV)
Would we leave everything behind to follow Jesus?
Would we be upset because He is doing things differently than we have always done them?
Would we try to put His new wine in our old wineskins instead of new wineskins?
Or would we wish for the old wine of how we used to do things?
Photo by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash