Why do you want to make disciples? Have you ever asked yourself that question?
As followers of Christ, we should be focused on making disciples. But if we don’t do it with the right motives, we are simply wasting our time. Worse yet, we could be doing more harm than good. If God cared only about outward appearances and our participation in religious activities, then any effort toward ministry would please Him. The Pharisees would have been heroes of the faith.
After all, they were continuously engaged in ministry: They vigorously pursued outward demonstrations of godliness; they made sure the people around them kept themselves holy; and they diligently taught the law of God. And yet Jesus’ harshest words in Scripture were always reserved for these religious overachievers.
Clearly, God wants us to pursue certain actions, but as we put His commands into action, our motivation makes all the difference.
Teaching Is Dangerous
Maybe you’ve always seen yourself as a leader. You have a message the church needs to hear, and you’re ready to teach anyone who will listen. Remember that God wants us to be cautious as we lead. Remember that you will be teaching people about the Bible and guiding them into godly living. The Bible takes the role of a teacher very seriously, and so should we. As a disciple maker, you could make a huge impact for the kingdom of God. Or you could lead people horribly astray.
Love Comes First
Paul added a challenge from a different angle. In the most beautiful terms, he said that gaining knowledge and power—even sacrificing our own bodies—is completely worthless apart from love (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Are you the type of person who would teach someone without loving them? Many good pastors have confessed that they got so caught up in the busyness of ministry that they went through the motions without loving their people. Most of us have to work hard to keep love at the forefront.
Fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples is about more than having the right theology or well-developed teaching points. Remember that if you “understand all mysteries and all knowledge” yet don’t have love, you are nothing. If you’re not willing to make loving God and loving people your highest priority, then stop. Honestly assessing your heart and asking God to purify your motives need to become habits in your life.
Teaching by Example
One of the worst things we can do as leaders is teach truths we’re not applying in our own lives. It may be better not to teach at all than to teach truth without modeling it. Hypocrisy has damaged many, so let’s run far from it.
Maybe the clearest explanation of teaching by example can be found in Hebrews: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7, ESV). The author of Hebrews actually called us to consider—literally, “to examine carefully”—the outcome of a teacher’s lifestyle. If we are going to make disciples, we need to be putting our faith into practice so that the people around us can imitate our faith.
Because of this, being a disciple maker demands your entire life. The job description of a disciple maker is the same as that of a disciple of Jesus. It means following Jesus in every aspect of your life, pursuing Him with a wholehearted devotion. If you’re not ready to lay down your life for Christ’s sake, then you’re not ready to make disciples. It’s that simple.
Francis Chan is the best-selling author of Multiply, Crazy Love, Forgotten God and Erasing Hell, and the host of the BASIC. series (“Who Is God” and “We Are Church”). He is the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., and currently is working to start a church-planting movement in the inner city of San Francisco and to launch a discipleship movement across America. Adapted with permission. Copyright © 2012 Francis Chan and Mark Beuving. Multiply, published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.