“I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa; sharply distinct from the work of secular NGO’s, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.” -Mission Drift, Greer & Horst, p.36). -Matthew Parsi, Atheist
I just returned from my first trip to three West African Countries: Ivory Coast, Togo, and Benin. I was there because the mission organization I lead called ServeNow, was launching for the first time our core discipleship program, called The Basic Things You Need to Know. This is a series of 30 books, just 32 pages each, in 30 languages, through which anyone at any level can grasp the foundation truths of the Christian life as pertains to being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
These simple tools have been undeniably effective and fruitful every week around the world. For example, in the past five years, we have found for every 3,000 books printed, and in the hands of indigenous churches around the world, 688 people have come to faith in Christ! Churches we are partnering with have grown on average by 43%. Most believers (85%) in the churches being partnered with testifying to significant spiritual growth in their lives as a result of this series. Entire churches are being revived with a renewed commitment to Jesus Christ. Our National Leaders and pastors I meet with recognize this is the greatest need in their countries and among their churches. We are even working on getting them in audio format eventually for use in more oral or illiterate cultures.
But here is my concern and reason for writing this blog article. A survey was done recently by the Barna group, where it was shockingly discovered that over 80% of believers in the United States have no idea what the Great Commission is or really means, let alone engaged in making disciples. This begs the question: what then are we doing if we are not carrying out the very core mission of Jesus Christ? Who, or what, are we really following? If we are not making disciples, is it because we are not true disciples ourselves? If all our programs, church activities, and services are not producing those who look like Christ, then something is terribly wrong. And clearly, something is.
Before Jesus sent his disciples out in His name, He first called people to commit themselves to follow him and learning to live a new way of life. He didn’t call us to join a church first, or denomination, or follow a pastor on Twitter or Instagram. He called us to follow him, leaving behind our old life and all that is familiar to us for an intimate walk and faith-filled journey with him.
It is still a radical way. It is a way that requires putting Christ first in our lives above every other priority, preference, and political persuasion. It is a call to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, not protect our own empires, seek our own agendas, secure our own safety or love even our own countries, families or anything else more than Jesus. It is a call to resist going along with the ways of the world or culture around us and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds as we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as our most authentic act of worship (Romans 12:1-3). He has promised that as we surrender and submit ourselves out of a deep trust in him, he will transform us, empower us, and equip us to reproduce other disciples who look like him too (Acts 1:8)
This blog article is a call for all believers to recommit themselves to being disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples of Jesus Christ. If we are not doing this, we need to question whether we are truly living as disciples of Jesus. Even providing aid, combating issues like human trafficking, seeking justice for the oppressed, poor, widow, orphan, refugee, serving the most vulnerable, giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name are all worthy and noble causes that we are called to as disciples of Jesus. I, too, have a great passion for these things. But our primary calling is not a cause itself; but Christ himself. He alone truly transforms lives. Spiritual transformation is even noted by the atheist I quoted at the beginning of this article, as what is bringing real change to Africa.
And the good news is that Jesus calls ordinary men and women. So often we think we are too insignificant or un-special to really be used by God. But this is not the testimony of Scripture. The secret is not in our abilities, but our obedience to Jesus and the promises of God. Jesus promised that as we do what he has called us to do (make disciples), he would be with us, even to the end of the ages (Matthew 28:18-20). But it’s as we go and begin to make disciples that we experience the reality of his presence with us. Brothers and sisters, this must be more than words and theory and promises on the pages of Scripture. The time to serve is now. The time to go is now. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few!
***If you are struggling with how to engage in being a disciple who makes disciples meaningfully, let me encourage you to start with four simple things:
- Commit to spending time daily with Jesus in prayer and in his word. Begin to get in the habit of consistently being in his word and putting it into practice. Start a bible reading plan that takes you through the bible in a year. Read a chapter of Proverbs every day with a friend and text each other one verse a day that is meaningful to you and how you need to apply it to your life or situation you are facing.
- Begin to give intentionally to evangelism, missions, and discipleship. Jesus said, where your treasure is, there your heart will also be (Matthew 6:21). This means where you invest your money, your affections, passions, and interests will develop in those areas. To develop a heart for discipleship or missions, you must begin to give towards these things. Don’t start with where your heart currently may be. Start with what we are called to do, and your emotions will develop. Of course, I am biased towards ServeNow, but there are many other ways too!
- Look for an opportunity every day to engage with someone in some way in conversation about Jesus. Forget about the words “evangelism” and “discipleship” but look to converse in relationship with others about Jesus. Look to encourage another believer. Pray for a co-worker. Invite someone to a study at your home. Ask someone to read tools like the Basic Series with you and meet to talk about once a week. Start small but be consistent, as this will lead to big things over time. Resist the temptation to seek a perfect life before walking in obedience. Discipleship is a life-long process and journey. None of us will fully arrive to all we are called to be until we see Jesus face to face.
- Go on a mission trip or get involved in outreach in your community. Be proactively involved in seeking out opportunities and stepping outside what you have become familiar and comfortable with. Mentor someone younger than you. Share with them what you have learned, both by way of success and failure. Share joys and regrets, all revolving around walking with Jesus. Everyone should have a “Paul” in their life (someone older investing in you), a Barnabas (a peer with whom you mutually encourage one another), and “Timothy” (someone younger you are investing your life into). Seek out someone to disciple you and seek out someone you can disciple.
More than anything else, this world needs true disciples through whom people see more of Jesus and also become disciples.