April 18, 2022

Making Disciples is Not My Spiritual Gift

Ryan Hale

A few weeks ago, we had a couple in our home that were training us to help us learn to help others find healing in Jesus for their trauma and difficulty in their lives. During one of our downtime discussions, my friend said something important. He said:

You know, making disciples of Jesus isn’t a spiritual gift.

Jeff sundell

As we have conversations with people, we often hear something like what was said here. They might say something like, “I have a pastoral gift” or “I just want to worship God” or “Well, I have a prophetic gifting”. Without being said directly, the message comes through loud and clear: I haven’t received “the gift” of making disciples, so thank you for your encouragement, but I’m going to pass.

Then this last week, someone finally actually said it directly to me:

“You know, you always talk about making disciples, but I don’t have that gift.”

Of course, I just had to repeat Jeff’s quote back to my friend to confirm that, indeed, there is no spiritual gift called “disciple maker”.

A command that we are not obeying

Just before Jesus left the earth, he sent his disciples to go and make more disciples. He said:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 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

So Jesus gives a simple command: Make disciples and teach them to obey everything that he commanded. He even promises that he will be with us as we do!

And yet, there are so few that are actually doing this. We generally seem to believe that if we can invite someone to church, we have done well. If they stay, even better! But coming to church really has little to do with making a disciple. Should disciples come together in a church community? Yes, absolutely. But coming together in church community does not necessarily mean that we have made a disciple.

Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves some challenging questions? Here are a few that I ask myself and would like to propose that we ask one another:

Am I intentionally living a life based on a desire to obey and be faithful to Jesus?

How many people have heard the Gospel from me this week? This month? This year?

How many people am I actively discipling, teaching and demonstrating how to obey everything that Jesus commanded? How many people have I ever discipled?

If we are leading a church or another Christian organization, how often are these things happening in our church? Are the people in our church equipped to do these things? If not, why not?

Legalism, Faithfulness, and Maturity

Some people would tell me that this perspective is legalism:

How many people have I shared the Gospel with?

How many people am I discipling?

You’re counting numbers? That is just trying to follow a rule and creating quotas!

No, that is not true. I haven’t given anyone a number that anyone must reach. The numbers are simply illustrative of the state of our faithfulness to the command of Jesus. In fact, Jesus himself used numbers to help us understand whether or not we have been faithful. Consider the parable of the bags of gold, also known as the parable of the talents:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

MATTHEW 25:14-30

Somewhere along the way, we have made the mistake in thinking that knowing the Word of God is better than being faithful to doing what the Word of God says to do. We seem to believe that those that are the most “mature” in their faith are those that understand the Bible and can respond with the correct answers when asked about it.

However, this is not what it means to be mature in Christ. To be mature means that we are being faithful to what Jesus has told us to do. In the parable above, the servants were considered to be faithful if they had used and worked with what the master had entrusted to them. The servant that didn’t do this was considered to be a wicked and lazy servant and was thrown outside of the master’s house.

This mistake has become the norm in many parts of our Christian life, but probably one of the most pronounced ways is in Jesus’s command to make disciples. He has given us everything we need, but we are refusing to do what he asks us to do, so we are being unfaithful, very much like the last servant in the parable above.

Loving Jesus

Jesus said something very simple to his disciples:

If you love me, keep my commands.

john 14:15

Jesus asks us to show our love to him by doing what he has said. This is the way that we show that we love him, that we do what he says!

Jeff was correct. Making disciples is not a spiritual gift. Instead, it depends on each of us to take the attitude of Christ and see the majority of the people in the world in the state that they truly are: lost and without a savior. We must be like the servants in the parable and realize that we have been given and entrusted with a great responsibility. We are to share the Gospel with others and make disciples of Jesus Christ, and in doing so, we labor with God to bring people across the earth back to the original plan of God: His people, made in his image, filling the earth, giving glory back to God, our Creator and Savior.

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