[notice]In a message to Christ followers in South Africa, PE pastor Afrika Mhlophe asks whether we are producing faithful church members or disciples of Jesus. [/notice]
It is often said that the continent of Africa is over evangelized but under discipled. The focal point of the Great Commission is discipleship and not evangelism, although evangelism is the starting point towards discipleship. This means that evangelism should be viewed as a means to an end and the end being to produce disciples.
There are indeed many Christians but there are not as many disciples of Jesus Christ. When we look at the Bible we see that the concept of discipleship was not begun by Jesus but was an already existing concept wherein a person who was capacitated in a variety of areas would have people following him/her for learning and mentoring. In the absence of formal teaching discipleship was the best way of imparting knowledge to your protégés. I want us to look deeper into this subject under the themes of discipline, development, determination, decisions, and desires.
Discipline: A disciple is a learner and is someone who fashions his life after his mentor. There is no greater honour for a disciple than to be like his mentor (Matt 10:24). To achieve that, a disciple follows a specific discipline that is dictated to him by his mentor. He does not do what he likes but does whatever is necessary to achieve the stature of his mentor. It is like an athlete who has to follow a drill set up by his coach. He knows that in order to succeed he must be teachable.
Development: Disciples are developed. They are a product of choice and not of chance. Our Lord spent over three years intentionally and consciously developing His disciples to a level where they could take over the ministry after His was gone. He had a succession plan which was unlike that of most of our churches today which are happy to keep people as members and never get them to be ministers. Disciples are not produced through preaching but through teaching, training and equipping. Good preaching draws the crowd and increases the quantity but it does not produce quality.
Determination: A disciple is determined not to fail his mentor. He works hard to make his mentor proud. To hear the words, “well done you good and faithful servant” is what a disciple lives for. He may face many obstacles but he presses through all of them to achieve the goal set for him. This is what set the disciples of Jesus apart from the rest of the crowd that thronged around Him. Many in that crowd were fans and not followers and this is similar with many today. We live a dichotomous life wherein being a Christian is part of whatever else we are and not necessary all we are.
Decisions: Our lives are defined by strategic decisions we have taken at strategic points in our lives. For many of us, and I hope for all of us, accepting Jesus as our Lord and Saviour was the most important strategic decision we have ever taken. Who to marry and the career path to choose are also strategic decisions we are forced to take. Jesus always challenged people around Him to make a choice. He did not allow people to take the middle ground. It was either you were for Him or you were against Him. If you prize anything above Him then He says you are not worthy to be His disciple (Matt 10:34-39). Decisions have consequences and it is foolish to hate the consequences while continuing to make bad decisions. Disciples are not afraid to take calculated but costly decisions that count for eternity.
Desires: A disciple is someone who has died to his interests and desires. He lives for the interests of his mentor. His prayer is not about what he wants God to do for Him but that God’s will be done through him. His pleasure is derived from God’s pleasure. His attitude is, “If God is happy, then I am happy.” In other words his attitude is different from this neurotic, self-serving Christian we encounter today. The one whose prayer is about me, myself and I. A true disciple is one who considers himself to be a “sent one”. This after all is what the word “apostle” means and Jesus called His disciples apostles or sent ones. If God’s kingdom were a company then a disciple would not be like the employee whose only interest is his salary but her would be like a shareholder who lives for the success of the company.
In my opinion, today’s models of life coaching and mentoring are based on the concept of discipleship. God is about continuity, and so if you are gifted in any area He expects you to pass those gifts and talents to others as well, by teaching and training them. True discipleship is not about teaching your denomination’s doctrine but about producing the character of Christ in each person. A disciple will always have a kingdom view because he is a disciple of Jesus Christ and not of a local church. So, in your church, are you producing faithful members or disciples for our Lord?