Jesus has commanded us to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). As leaders who regularly speak into the lives of young people in their most formidable years, our attention to this command must be even greater! Here’s a few things I’ve challenged our team to keep in mind when discipling:
1. Our authority to disciple comes from Christ
Your authority to disciple doesn’t just come from the senior pastor. Christ, who has received all authority from the Father, gives the authority we exercise in discipleship to us. When we exercise this authority, we are tapping into the very same authority that God the Father has given to Jesus. Even Jesus himself didn’t grab authority from the Father. The Father delighted to give it to him. We must both accept and exercise authority with the same servant heart.
2. Discipleship doesn’t just happen in the church
To make disciples, we must go and we must make. To go requires movement and to make requires creativity. Jesus went from heaven to to fully immerse himself in the sin filled, God rejecting world we brought on ourselves. He made and grew his disciples by preaching from boats, raising people from the dead and putting a runaway ear back on the head of a soldier. Jesus was creative in discipleship and we should be too!
3. Baptism should be our first aim of discipleship
The temptation might be for us to see ‘salvation’ as our first aim in youth ministry, but salvation by itself is not what Christ has commanded us to work toward. Our first aim in discipleship should be to see young people baptized. Here comes a John Piper quote, but he’s better at this than you and me. Piper says, ‘The meaning of baptism develops out of this meaning of discipleship. If becoming a disciple of Jesus means dying to your old life and walking in newness of life with Christ as Jesus taught, then it’s almost inevitable that the symbolic act of that conversion should come to signify a death and resurrection.” Baptism is about more than the occasion itself, it’s also about the death of our old selves and our resurrection with Christ. Sounds like a good first aim to me!
4. Discipling youth is about making them more like Christ
It’s been said that discipleship is about being first, and then doing. If we are not observing all Christ has commanded us, how can we expect those we are discipling to do anything different? This shouldn’t just lead our young people toward our own special interest areas. We want them to become more like Christ! Let’s resist the temptation to turn them into mini-me’s.
5. You’re not alone
Jesus didn’t offer his final instructions and then just left us to it. We have a promise from Christ that he is with us always! That means when you’re facing a discipleship challenge that seems insurmountable, Christ is with you by his Holy Spirit. When a parent seems completely uninterested in the life of their young person, Christ is with you. When you bring the new church van back with a dent shaped like an frightened cow, Christ is with you. Always.