Read: Matthew 28:19-20 –
“Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
These are the last words of Jesus to His disciples in the Gospel of Matthew. This passage is called, “The Great Commission”, and it’s the basis of the United Methodist Church’s mission statement to “Create Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
So, what is a disciple? First, a disciple is a student. We are students of Jesus Christ, and that is a lifelong endeavor. You don’t graduate until you die; until then, you are supposed to keep learning. There is so much to learn. The word of God to begin with; that alone is intended to be an ongoing lifelong study. The church is another. Understanding how, what and why the church does what it does is important. Learning about our missions, education, evangelism, discipleship, worship, ecumenical and interfaith relations, stewardship, work for social justice, to name some of the big areas. The church’s “Great Commission” in the world is yet another. How do we seek to accomplish it? What works best? Who are we reaching? Who are we failing to reach? What methods are most effective for reaching the world for Christ? There is a lot that we can learn. Disciples are always learning.
BUT WAIT! THERE”S MORE! Disciples are also followers of their Teacher. Education is not the end goal for the disciple; discipleship involves continuing the work of the Teacher. Disciples learn from the Teacher, follow the Teacher, and help continue the work of the Teacher.
Being a disciple is more than merely being a “believer”. Jesus’ point was not to “make believers”, but to “make disciples”. Believers often fall into the trap of becoming self-focused: “I believe, so I’m saved”. But believing is only the first stage of discipleship, not the end goal. If we are satisfied to stop with the blessing of what we get from it, we’ll never fulfill our true purpose, and we’ll never know the added blessings of discipleship. We are called to be Jesus’ disciples, here and now.
Pastor Rob Nystrom