The work of studying Scripture and really looking at what God’s word has to say about discipleship has been the journey of my life. It’s what I care most about – it also leads into everything that Real Life Ministries is as a church, from our programs and leaders to our staff and our personal lives. The reason for that is because we think discipleship is fundamental to what we are called on to be and who He is. And that should shape our lives.
What comes to mind when you think about the word revolutionary? When you look at the definition – a revolution or a revolutionary – it’s a sudden radical or complete change – a fundamental change. In a political organization especially – to overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed. So in that sense they are thinking about it politically. An activity or movement designed to affect fundamental change in the socio-economic situation. So again political. But revolutionary has a different kind of idea or connotation as well. It means a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something – it’s a change of paradigm. And so when we think about revolutionary – especially with all the things going on in our country – this is a word that catches people’s minds – especially as a Christian – revolutionary – we want to be revolutionary. But revolutionary what? Well that leads to the second word here – Revolutionary Disciple. Adding the word disciple moves it away from a political mindset – or socioeconomic mindset – and it moves it towards a spiritual mindset.
I believe that the overall mindset of discipleship in the church today needs to have a “revolutionary’ paradigm shift. When you look at the church in America the statistics are not good. And, unfortunately, it’s impact is also not good. Over the past several years, there have been people to whom living as a Christian means to go to church and pray a prayer – or they might go to an event once or twice a year. However, this traditional form of Christianity is not working and has lost its influence. There needs to be a Revolutionary shift in Discipleship in the Church today.
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Now let’s talk about discipleship – where does that word come from? As believers we want to have a shared language and be in alignment with the word of God – not only do we want to understand words the way the Bible says that but we want to understand them together so we can work in unity. In a sport, if you don’t have the same language and call the play in the huddle in a language that everybody understands the players can’t follow it. You can have the greatest talent in the world, but if they don’t really have a shared plan then no matter how much talent they have if they don’t work together they will not win. We as a church we are God’s team.
Matthew 28:19-20 is called the great commission, and ultimately this is where we get the concept of discipleship. In this passage, Jesus is talking to his disciples after his death on the cross and before his return to the Father.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus told the disciples, Now I want you to go into the world and make disciples. How? By baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. He said make disciples, not converts – don’t just baptize people – baptize them and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. So, the job of the disciples would eventually lead to the church. A church filled with disciples not just converts. The disciples were to go into the world, preach the message that Jesus the son of God – came from the Father to save us from our sins.
So – Jesus told them to go into the world. And when you look at the Matthew passage, disciples were called on to be and make disciples. Now because Jesus is saying now go do with others what I did with you – what did he do with then? Well, they’re called to be a disciple back in Matthew 4:19. In this passage Jesus said to the disciples come and follow me – and I will make you fishers of men – this was his invitation. At our church we say that the definition of a disciple is in the invitation of Jesus. Jesus said, to be my disciple means you’re going to follow me. He leads – He is the boss He is the King – he is the King of Kings and Lord of lords. He isn’t saying I am going to follow you – and fulfill your plan. He said give up your plans and come and follow me – and the disciples followed. Then Jesus said – and I will make you. This speaks of a process – if you come I will take you as you are, but I am going to make you into something else.
So someone who is a disciple of Jesus is following Jesus, and as we follow Jesus he is changing who we are. So what are we being changed into? People who know his commands and obey him, yes – but it is beyond that. Every law he ever gave hangs on the commands to love God and love others. And as we follow him we begin to understand the reasons behind every command. As you spend time with him you start to see people the way he sees them. You begin to love what he loves. You begin to give up your own agenda and put others first. What comes of that is you begin to be concerned about his mission and how you can join it.
That brings in the last part of Jesus’s invitation – he will make us fishers of men. That means we will be disciples who make disciples – and a disciple is someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and on mission with Jesus. And the example we have in the Bible of how Jesus did this is relationship. He called his disciples to be in relationship with him, and that was the vehicle he used to shape them and change them into his disciples. The saw him, knew him, walked with him, and eventually became committed to his mission. And after Jesus left, his disciples went out and did what he had modeled for them – and it changed the world.
This is the example we should be following today – this is a picture of a Revolutionary Disciple. It doesn’t take a Bible Degree to make a disciple as Jesus defined one. It takes someone who is willing to lay down their pride and their own ideas of what their life should look like, and follow Jesus. It takes someone who is willing to be vulnerable with others in relationship – who is willing to come close enough to others that they are really known. We have to be willing to stand beside others as they go through their struggles, and let them stand by us while we face our own.
Now is the time to step beyond the traditional version of Christianity and get reconnected to the Biblical design. Jesus gave us a model for discipleship that is simple but far from easy. However, if we follow it – the results will be Revolutionary.
This post by Jim Putman first appeared here. Used with permission.