ROSEVILLE, MI – You desire to follow the Great Commission and be a disciplemaker, but wonder if your efforts are bearing any fruit. Cross Waves Church’s goal is to make disciples so we designed the church to be more of a ministry that guides people to be better disciplemakers. We model our process to make disciples after Jesus since He is our perfect example (Hebrews 11:2 NLT).
Jesus started his earthly ministry by saying, “Follow me” to the men who were to become his disciples. Jesus’ discipleship ministry contained four elements:
Jesus invited men to follow Him (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17)
Jesus allowed these men to watch Him minister publicly (John 18:19-20)
Jesus taught them privately (Matthew 17:19; 24:3; Mark 4:10; 6:31; 9:28; Luke 10:23)
Jesus sent them out to minister themselves (Luke 10:1-20; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6) He ended his earthly ministry by telling these same men who now were His disciples to go and reproduce and make more disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).
This four step process of Jesus sounds simple enough, so why are there not more Christians making disciples? Why is the percentage of people who are Christians not keeping up with the percentage of population growth in North America? Let’s make this even more personal. if you were asked the question, “who are you discipling?” Could you provide names? Who are you asking to accompany you as you minister publicly? Who are you meeting with in private sessions to teach the Word of God? Who are you encouraging to go out and minister to others?
Many people aren’t able to give any specific names, but can supply you names of people who they have invited to their church. We identify these people as “pastor pointers.” Their idea of discipleship is to invite people to come visit the church they attend to listen to the master teacher teach the Bible, and hopefully receive Christ and follow Him. People pointing others to their favorite master teachers has been a problem for nearly 2,000 years. The writer of Hebrews said, You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food (Hebrews 5:12 NLT).
However, Christ did not tell his disciples to be “pastor pointers” or “apostle pointers,” He told them to make disciples. Telling someone to come and hear your pastor is not enough for mass discipleship to occur because discipleship is a personal endeavor. Discipleship happens face to face, happens over time, happens through life events, and due to time and location, your pastor does not have the same access to your friends and family like you do. God uniquely placed you in a position to connect others to Christ. Therefore, we need to do more than be “pastor pointers,” we need to take personal responsibility in discipling others.
Remember the game you played as a child called “Follow the Leader” where one child leads and all the other children mimic what he or she does? Those who do not follow correctly are out of the game. Last one following wins. At Cross Waves, we teach that our HotSpot Hosts allow others to mimic/imitate them in following Christ. We use a phrase at Cross Waves Church to encourage our people to have the right mindset as disciple-makers, we say, “Follow me until you see Jesus.”
I believe the main reason disciple-making is not happening at the growth rate of the early church is that we are afraid to accept the mindset of “Follow me.” I understand why this statement trips people up. Many respond with statements like, “I don’t want people following me, I want them following Jesus.” We too want people to follow Jesus and not us, however we understand that before people see Christ, they must see Christ in us as their model.
Our culture is becoming more and more pagan, and more like the culture that the Apostle Paul faced when he was teaching the gospel. Paul understood that new believers learn better through example then explanation. Therefore, Paul said to the church in Corinth, “So I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16 NLT). He fleshes this concept out even more later in his letter to the Corinthians by explaining, “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT). Paul accepted the responsibility of having others follow his lead in how he followed Christ. Paul told the Thessalonians that they should imitate his missionary team (2 Thessalonians 3:7) and he told the Philippians that they should pattern their lives after him (Philippians 3:17).
Some respond, “well that’s Paul saying, follow me; he was an apostle and someone worth following.” However, Paul claimed that he was the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and Paul explained he had a sinful DNA flaw that you and I can relate to; even when he tried to do good, he would mess up and commit sin (Romans 7:15-21). Some of you may try to sidestep your disciple-making responsibility by claiming that people will not listen to you because you should have more years under your belt as a follower of Christ. Paul warned Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT).
Even the Apostle Peter shared this same challenge as he told leaders to lead others by their own good example (1 Peter 5:4). So what does it mean to lead by your own good example? What did Paul mean when he wrote for people to imitate him as he followed Christ? Obviously, Peter and Paul did not want disciples imitating character flaws or clothing attire, but to imitate how their discipler followed Christ. Here are three principles to understand when accepting Peter and Paul’s admonition to be a disciple-maker and accept the mantle of “follow me until you see Jesus.”
1. You need to be likable. People listen to people they like. We need to be kind, ready to teach, patient, and be gentle even when we need to criticize (2 Timothy 2:24–25a). No one will accept your invitation if you are not approachable and accessible.
2. You need to understand that God is the one who changes people from the inside-out (2 Timothy 2:25b); your role is to set up the opportunity. God uses your pain and experiences as a platform to introduce others to Christ. People in pain typically only listen to others that have dealt with pain. Only God can transform us into people that bear fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).
3. You need to live a life of intentionality in following Christ so others can follow you. Live a life that intentionally follows the three great statements that Christ gave in the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-38) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The Great Commandment tells us to love God and to love others and the Great Commission tells us to make disciples.
How do you live a life of intentionality in following the Great Commandment and Great Commission? At Cross Waves, we keep it simple. We love God by having a relationship with Him, but to have a relationship with God, we must know Him. So we study the Bible and obey its instructions. Therefore, together we study the Bible weekly.
Paul told the Galatians that you show your love for others by serving them (Galatians 5:13-14). We love our neighbors as ourselves by serving others together through community projects throughout the year.
The Great Commission says that all Christians must share their faith and help others follow Christ. So together we design fun events throughout the year to share relationships with people so we may introduce them to Christ (Matthew 9:10).
You will notice one other word that keeps getting repeated, “together.” God never intended for us to follow and serve Him in isolation. We are to follow Christ and become more like Him together in the company of others who are on the same path. Cross Waves Church is a place where we become more like Christ—together.
Therefore, we sum up our strategy to become more like Christ by; studying the Bible, serving others, and sharing our faith, together. This is a simple discipleship plan that is easily taught and caught by others.
Do you see yourself as a “pastor pointer,” but want to do more? Seize the disciple-maker mindset and look at your pain and experiences as opportunities to reach hurting people. Understand your life is a platform where God speaks and transforms people’s hearts. A perspective where obeying the Great Commandment and Great Commission becomes a living example of intentionality in following God. Through your kindness and love to others, you gain opportunities to speak to them about God and faith. With this mindset, you can join Paul and Peter’s idea of discipleship, “Follow me until you see Jesus.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Steele is Lead Bible Teacher at Cross Waves Church in Roseville, MI.