It’s ironic: The witness of the modern church often looks more like an Old Testament Jewish model than New Testament Christianity. Other than a few shining moments, the Old Testament was characterized by a professional priesthood and a faithless people, both of whom had very little influence on other people, or other nations.
When we look at the witness of post-Pentecost believers in the New Testament, we see a remarkably different picture. The whole community is marked by a vibrant spirituality, radical obedience, deep fellowship, captivating generosity and a viral witness that spread throughout Jerusalem and then into Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
The people of God were empowered by the Spirit of God and equipped by the Word of God to fulfill the mission of God. We read of a few problem members in Scripture, but a vast majority of the believers seemed to have a vibrant faith and were true ambassadors for Christ.
It should go without saying that our churches (and each individual church member) should look more like the New Testament Church and less like Old Testament Judaism. Yet, many local churches function much like a temple or a synagogue. Professional pastors do the work of ministry but aren’t equipping the members for ministry. Church members dutifully show up half the time to the Sunday service, make a “sacrifice” of a few dollars in the offering plate, and leave after one godly hour only to live a godless life for the remaining 167.
Our mission is to witness and to make disciples of Jesus. To accomplish that mission, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us and He has blessed us with spiritual fruit and spiritual gifts. We have been given spiritual armor to fight temptation, and we have the spiritual community of believers for support and encouragement.
So, why are the vast majority of Christians NOT making disciples?
We’ve already looked at seven reasons you’ve never made a disciple. But there are three more that must be added to the list. You might not be making disciples because you aren’t connecting, you aren’t available and you aren’t trusting.
We Aren’t Connecting
When I was in college, I worked as the interim youth minister for a church that had it all. They had a gym, fitness classes, a dance studio and a cafe. If you wanted to, you could completely shut yourself off from the rest of the world.
Some of us don’t make disciples because we don’t know anyone who isn’t a disciple. We never open our homes to our neighbors. We never spend time with co-workers outside of work. We avoid conversations about our faith (because we don’t want to offend).
We think that it must be a mistake that God left us “in the world” and we will do everything we can to not be “of the world.” Instead, we need to consider placing the emphasis on not being “of the world” (unspotted, blameless, good reputation) so that we can serve and live faithfully “in the world.”
How can you be in the world (but not of it)? Consider taking a smoke break with your co-worker even though you don’t smoke. Just explain that you want to spend some time with him. How about grabbing drinks with your friends? Let your drink be soda or iced tea and get to know them in a non-threatening environment (unless you need to avoid those settings for your own personal holiness). Invite your neighbor over to your house, or, even better, accept invitations to go over to theirs.
If you aren’t connecting with the world then you aren’t “in the world,” and that’s precisely where Jesus wants you to be.
We Aren’t Available
Everyone is busy. In many Christian homes, both parents work overtime to pay off college debt and mortgages and save up for retirement and for our children’s college education. We work an exorbitant number of hours, and when we finally get home we are exhausted and have little time to disciple our wives and our children. In short, our focus is more on storing up treasures on earth than on storing up treasures in heaven.
If you don’t have time to participate in God’s mission in this world then you need to loosen up your schedule. In fact, you might need to take radical steps like getting a different job or selling your entertainment devices if those things are keeping you from knowing Jesus and making Him known.
There are probably several things we could prune out of our lives that are not essential to life or to mission. We could consider creating a “stop doing list” and review it every day before getting to our “to do lists.”
Even more importantly, we need to understand that the call to make disciples isn’t a separate category from all the other normal things we do in life. We don’t work Monday through Friday from 9-5 and then make disciples every Tuesday from 7-9 p.m. We need to remember that Jesus said, “As you are going, therefore, make disciples of all nations.” (There is a continuous sense to the word “go.”) As you go to work, as you go to the store, as you go to the gym, make disciples.
Maybe you need to take a hard look at what you are spending your time doing. If it is not essential to life and mission then it needs to be abandoned. You also might need to analyze how you are living, is there a way to incorporate mission into your everyday life?
We Aren’t Trusting
There are two aspects to this last reason for a lack of disciples being made in your life.
One aspect of not trusting is that you have placed your trust in yourself rather than in God for salvation. Maybe you share the gospel every day. Maybe you study all the time. You feel prepared for any question an unbeliever might ask you. But you trust in your skill and your passion rather than in the God who saves.
We are called to be ambassadors for Christ, we are His hands and feet, but never underestimate the role of the Holy Spirit in disciple making. He is the one who regenerates and saves. We are simply the “jars of clay” that He uses to pour out His extraordinary power and grace into the life of another.
Another way you aren’t trusting might have to do with timing. You may be a devoted follower of Jesus and a passionate witness but still see very little fruit. Maybe there is someone in your life that you have been praying for and witnessing to for decades. Or maybe you are laboring among an unreached people group for years with little to show for it. You long for your parents to turn to Jesus. You feel pressure from your mission agency to deliver results. But with everything that you are doing, nothing is happening.
Trust that the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing. Trust in the sovereignty of God. Trust that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (and in His timing alone). You are called to be faithful to know Jesus and make Him known. You be faithful to lift Jesus up and then let Him draw people to Himself.
Of course, there are many other possible reasons for our inability or unwillingness to make disciples. By God’s grace, however, we can be a part of His disciple-making mission for His glory among all nations.
What’s keeping you from making disciples? What steps will you take today to become a disciple-making disciple?