Christ spoke the Great Commission to the disciples in Matthew 28:19, instructing His disciples to make more disciples. Surpassing books He could have written, powerful sermons He could have preached, or institutions of learning He could have founded, Christ invested in individuals. As such, the primary instruments of discipleship are not books, sermons, or classes; they are people.
Among the many objectives that Christ’s humanity had to accomplish, the incarnation manifested the phenomenon of a human being making a disciple of another human being. As Christ is about to depart and ascend in the last chapter of Matthew, He then gives the mandate for His disciples to make disciples.
Though this seems like a simplistic point, it is quite crucial. The implications are that every human being who claims to be a follower of Christ must also be in the business of making disciples. This was not a special task relegated to Christ and His immediate circle of leaders. Discipleship was to involve every follower of Christ.
Before getting into the actual elements of discipleship in the coming weeks, we must establish a couple of presuppositions of discipleship. First, discipleship is premised upon human relationships. Rather than sermons or church attendance, it is interaction between two people, which was Christ’s personal method. Though vital information is transmitted through preaching, there is something about the personal relationship that transcends the mere transference of information. “There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen” (The Ministry of Healing, 143). “The Lord desires that His word of grace shall be brought home to every soul. To a great degree this must be accomplished by personal labor. This was Christ's method” (Christ’s Object Lessons, 229).
The second premise is that discipleship does not happen by chance. It requires time, effort, and an excellent level of intentionality. Often spiritual matters and spiritual work are ambiguous and considered not worthy of our effort and energy, yet discipleship presupposes diligence and responsibility. If Christ exerted His all for souls, shouldn’t we, as His disciples, do that as well?
“Too often the work is left in an unfinished state, and in many such cases it amounts to nothing. Sometimes, after a company of people has accepted the truth, the minister thinks that he must immediately go to a new field; and sometimes, without proper investigation, he is authorized to go. This is wrong; he should finish the work begun; for in leaving it incomplete, more harm than good is done. No field is so unpromising as one that has been cultivated just enough to give the weeds a more luxuriant growth…
“Unless those who receive the truth are thoroughly converted, unless there is a radical change in the life and character, unless the soul is riveted to the eternal Rock, they will not endure the test of trial… God’s work is not to be done in a bungling, slipshod manner. When a minister enters a field, he should work that field thoroughly.” (Evangelism, p. 322)