The Stewardship of Discipleship
Let’s begin our discussion with a reminder of Jesus’ well-known words spoken just before heading back to heaven.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20, NKJV).
All serious Bible students know that the only command in these words is “make disciples.” Every other promise and phrase are a support to that one mandate.
The Lord promises us His authority and His presence and then says in the original Bible language—in essence—
While you are going
By baptizing them and
By teaching them to obey.
The purpose statement of our church is “Make Disciples Who Make Disciples” because of what Jesus said.
You see, the authority and reality of Christ becomes clearly focused when we count the cost and make a choice.
Our stewardship: To disciple the faithful who will teach others.
A very effective mode of operation is given to Timothy by the Apostle Paul in II Timothy 2:2 (NKJV), “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
By grace, through faith, in worship and in warfare, you should now begin to identify those who are being faithful in attitude and actions. They are to be discipled, trained, and commissioned. This is where we begin to multiply shepherds. When I started in ministry, discipleship was not emphasized, but I had a sense that new converts needed to be followed up, and in a short time there was not enough of me to go around. I started discipling in random manner just to survive. Now it’s my way of life for ministry, and I find it delightful to watch the multiplication process take place. Making disciples is not a cookie-cutter process. Some grow faster than others. Different backgrounds will require varying approaches, etc., but the principle is the same; train the faithful in ministry that is suited for their personality and calling. If your ministry is to stay healthy while you grow in numbers then you must grow in good shepherds amongst the flock.
Any reviving can experience some fall out which can be discouraging to you and disheartening to those who watch. The timid ones as well as the skeptics may try to discredit what God is doing, but you can be strong in grace and commit to the faithful ones your philosophy and approach to ministry. Their growth and passion will be a securing factor for the long haul and lay to rest the fear of others. For the most part, I have found that the net result of revival in a local ministry is a faithful remnant who have had their awareness of the crucified life and the filling of the Spirit raise. They have counted the cost and made the choice to follow Jesus at any cost. With no hidden expectations, no personal agenda, and no double mindedness, they follow. They are rewarded with a growing reality in their relationship with Him which only serves to cause them to hunger for more. These deserve our priority attention. For years I tried to keep the unfaithful in church while neglecting those faithful ones who always stayed by the Lord. Multiply the faithful and you will multiply your ministry.
Don’t forget that older teaching the younger is a very natural and effective way of commissioning the faithful and multiplying shepherds. Older, Spirit-filled believers who have weathered the storm of life make tremendous mentors. With the breakdown of the family, these folks provide surrogate dads and moms for the young who are raising their children. My dad’s advice to me has paid immeasurable dividends in ministry. He told me again and again, “Joe, respect your elders. You will be old someday.” I have heeded his advice, which is Scriptural, and have treated the older men as fathers and the older women as mothers. They have not only encouraged my life and family but have participated in ministry as well. It is my practice to give value to all ages which, in turn, opens their hearts to learning and growing. With this attitude on your part, you will discover the wisdom of the sage who has the freshness of youth. The key is discerning Spirit-filledness.
Jesus defines the cost of discipleship clearly in Luke 14. Here’s a summary of how he describes the attitude of those who are making the choices to let Jesus be the primary focus for their lives.
They have relinquished the right to have any relationship in their lives which they cherish more than their relationship with Jesus (v. 26). They are satisfied with Jesus.
They have relinquished the right to eliminate circumstances from their lives that make them uncomfortable (v. 27). They love not their lives unto death.
They have relinquished the ownership of the things which they possess (v. 33). They replace ownership with stewardship.
They who are carriers of this attitude are both fragrant and refreshing (Psalm 133). These are the effectual ministers of Christ’s reviving life in our congregation. Your stewardship is to equip and resource them so that the life in them will permeate the body.
Teach your congregation to live in a II Timothy 2:2 sandwich like Timothy. He was to be accountable to Paul and responsible for faithful men. If everyone will align themselves under a faithful person to whom they are accountable and pray to find God’s person for whom they are responsible, disciples will multiply exponentially. I love to watch it happen.
Even the Apostle Paul went through a discipleship process. In Acts 9-13 we can identify seven stages of development which ended in a call from the Holy Spirit to a world vision of ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-3).
The reward of disciple-making is the call of God. Some are called to stay with us, and some are called to go elsewhere. Either way, we are multiplying ministry and building His church.