By Stefan Bomberger
“And Jesus came and said to them, “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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
In the Great Commission above, Jesus commands us to make disciples. Most of us are familiar with this commission. Even so, something I hadn’t reflected upon much before has recently struck me about this passage. As we make these disciples, we’re called to teach them “to observe all” that Christ has commanded us, which includes the Great Commission. Said more shortly, to make disciples that observe the Great Commission. This means we’re called to make disciples that make disciples of Jesus Christ (read that twice).
Now this may not sound like a huge epiphany to some of you, but for me its really expanding my view of disciple-making. For example, it’s not enough to teach people the truths of the Christian faith. Rather, we must teach people to teach people the Christian faith. The immaturity of the Hebrew Christians lay at this very point. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (Hebrews 5:12-13, emphasis mine).
These were “baby” Christians precisely because they were unable to teach others. This means one of the defining characteristics of Christian maturity is our ability, not simple to receive sound doctrine, but also to transmit it. Keep in mind, this isn’t a pastoral epistle, like 1 Timothy or Titus, written to church leaders. Hebrews was a letter written to every person, man and woman, young and old, in the church. In the early church “teaching” wasn’t something reserved for those with unique speaking or teaching gifts, though some will certainly have these. Rather, it’s something every believer should aspire to and a clear sign of normal maturity or stunted growth. As pastors we want to model the “ministry of the Word” but never limit it to our pastoral office.
How refreshingly high the bar is set in God’s Word! Don’t underestimate what God can do through you – because he expects that you will become a key-player in the expanse of the gospel. You should become a teacher. Granted, this teaching will take on many different forms. Some of us will teach large crowds, while others will teach one-on-one. Some will teach adults and some children. Some will teach in nursing homes, some in prisons, some in homes, some at church. And as we teach, we want to encourage those we teach to teach others. To make sure the truth they are receiving doesn’t end with them like a dam or swampy marsh. Rather, like a river, it passes through them and keeps on moving!
Lastly, certainly this can and should happen in many informal ways in our lives – in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, Home Groups, and so forth. But if you’d like some more formal training in this area, then I would encourage you to reach out to Navin Gupta and get involved in our One-On-One Discipleship ministry team. Here we give extra training in this area, provide resources, and even pair you with those who want and need discipling. Friends, we want to see our entire church body, every single member, grow to maturity. To become skilled in the work of righteousness and teach others. To make disciples who make disciples of Jesus Christ!