“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”– Matthew 28:19–20
“But, everything we do is discipleship.” I’ll never forget these words of a dear elderly brother when I tried explaining to him the need for intentional, reproducible discipleship at my first church in Athens, GA. His sentiments echoed what I would find is a typical Southern Baptist attitude — if we are doing something as a church; it falls under the category of discipleship. Fellowship meals, block parties, small group Bible studies, movie nights, Super Bowl parties, prayer meetings, golf outings, lock-ins, trips to the apple orchard, and Sunday morning worship services all fall equally into the category of discipleship in the minds of many Southern Baptists. While each of these activities can aid very much in discipleship, none of them automatically contribute to the task, and they certainly don’t contribute equally. So, how should we do discipleship?
Jesus explained discipleship in His last words to the His followers (Matthew 28:19–20). The task involves first bringing people to faith (baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit) and then showing them how to live as a disciple (teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you). It is the last part of the process that we often get wrong. When Jesus told the disciples to teach new believers to observe all His commands, He was including the command He just gave, to teach new believers to observe all His commands. This wording puts the task of discipleship on the shoulders of every believer. Stated simply, every Christian is to be a disciple-maker. Every Christian should be growing other Christians to be able to grow other Christians. Of all the things Southern Baptists have gotten right over the past handful of decades, this is one area that we have generally gotten wrong. We may have been good at getting rear-ends in the seats, but how good are we at making disciples who make disciples?
What we need is discipleship that is both intentional and reproducible. I believe this kind of discipleship happens on three horizons, each is important, but one is neglected. The three horizons are large group (Sunday morning service), small group (Sunday school and other Bible studies), and one-on-one (a mentor/mentee relationship). Can you tell which of the three is neglected? I believe the only way we are going to truly make disciples who will in-turn make disciple-makers is by one-on-one (or one-on-two, three, or four) gospel-focused relationships. I want to see this type of discipleship become part of the culture of Eastern Hills Baptist Church. This isn’t going to happen through a particular program. It will happen as mature believers start to give their time to others, teaching them to pour in to others for the sake of Christ. It will take time for this process to take hold, but I foresee a day when a person can come to Eastern Hills with the expectation of not just being told to make disciples but actually being shown how. I believe this step is crucial to our continuing to follow Matthew 28:19–20. Lord willing, as the days go by Eastern Hills will be more and more faithful in intentional, and reproducible discipleship.