How People Are Discipled

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)
 
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:42-47)
Before Jesus ascended back to heaven, he commissioned his followers to “Go and make disciples”. It’s therefore very interesting to note how those first believers responded to a sudden influx of new converts from the Day of Pentecost onwards. Three thousand or more new converts must have felt overwhelming to Peter and the hundred and twenty. Each of them had twenty-five baby Christians to look after!

The book of Acts tells the story of how the church grew so fast without sinking. Luke told us in his first book, in Luke 5, that Jesus once gave Peter such a miraculous catch of fish that his nets “began to tear” and his boat “began to sink”, but that he didn’t give him any more than he could handle. On the Day of Pentecost, he gave Peter such great insight into how to disciple his converts quickly and effectively that he could cope with three thousand at a time.

Peter and the hundred and twenty did not attempt to disciple their new converts one-on-one. It’s not just that they didn’t have time to do so – they didn’t want to. They were following Jesus’ model, and Jesus had left them in no doubt as to what it meant to be his disciple. The Greek word mathetes, or disciple, was the Greek word for a student, a learner, a follower or an apprentice. It was not for the teacher to pursue his passive pupils, but for the pupils to pursue their teacher and to follow him as their new master. Jesus had recruited the Twelve not with promises and incentives, but with a simple command to “Follow me!”, even though it meant leaving behind family, friends, fields and fortune. When Jesus commissioned them to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he was not so much telling them to disciple the world as to call the world to become disciples.

Therefore Luke tells us that the apostles set up the structures and meetings which still form part of most local churches today. They organised large-scale meetings in the Temple courts, and an informal network of smaller meetings from house to house. Although it’s fashionable today to despise such structured church-life, it was actually the thing which saved the Church from sinking under the weight of its success. Luke doesn’t bother mentioning the ‘converts’ who agreed with the Christian message but refused to repent of their arrogant spiritual individualism. He focuses solely on those who were “added” to the Church (v41&47). They were the true converts to Christ, and the only ones that he could use for the rest of his great story.
  1. How are you responding to the commission that Jesus has given you to “Go and make disciples”?
  2. Do you find that commission a bit overwhelming? Might it be because you are attempting to make disciples in a manner other than the one that the book of Acts gives us?
  3. Who else is part of your Life Group? How does it change your view of the Great Commission when you see it as a command to devote yourself to shaping and growing those individuals as followers of Jesus?
  4. Who are you trying to bring to faith in Christ right now? How does it change your view of evangelism when you see it as a command to include those nonbelievers in your little Life Group community of believers?
Father God, I confess that I can find the Great Commission overwhelming. Even when I don’t think much about it, it’s generally because I don’t quite know how to go about it. I therefore thank you for this teaching in Acts 2. Help me to devote myself to the people in my Life Group and to help them to grow more and more as disciples of Jesus. Help me to bring nonbelievers into that context too, confident that if they gather with us as we follow Jesus then they will become mature followers of Jesus too. Help me to go about the Great Commission with the wisdom of Acts 2. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.
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