In this series we’re looking at 3 things to remember when we are serving Jesus and making disciples for Him. (You can read Part 1 here if you missed it)
Part 2 – The work really starts when you baptise your first new disciple of Jesus
In Part 1 we looked at what the work of Jesus is and how to do it. Matthew 28:18-20 makes it very clear that as followers of Jesus we are to “make disciples” and that we make disciples by “baptising people” and “teaching them to obey”
I am a fairly single minded kind of a person. I struggle with small talk and things that appear non-essential. I get frustrated with things that have a Jesus label attached to them but don’t have anything to do with things that Jesus has actually commanded us to do.
When we first started Mission Somerset our vision was to multiply ordinary disciples of Jesus in a way that would lead to Jesus being known amongst all the people of Somerset (Read more about this in our book “Accidental Apostle“) We saw in the scriptures how Jesus started a disciple making movement amongst outcasts, prostitutes and notorious sinners and how he empowered and trained them to become the leaders who would continue to multiply the work in His absence. We set off to do the same.
It was very hard! (And often still is!)
We realised that we had no idea about how to actually do what Jesus has commanded us to do (Make disciples) A lifetime growing up in churches of various sizes and denominations had not equipped us to do the basic thing Jesus has asked us to do. We could sing songs, lead “christian meetings” and gatherings and explain bible verses to people. But as we looked at in Part 1 – we were not “making disciples”!
I cut out of my diary any activities that would take my time or energy away from the essential work of finding people who didn’t know Jesus and baptising them. The whole vision for our region seemed pointless if we couldn’t even find one person who wanted to be a disciple of Jesus! Each day I asked myself – have I baptised anyone today? Have I taught any new disciples to obey Jesus today. As I answered “No” to these questions day after day I became more desperate in prayer and fasting and more open to learning from the scriptures. I was hanging onto the belief that if Jesus has called me to make disciples here in Somerset then there must be people somewhere that want to be His disciples!
From the scriptures we could see that a disciple of Jesus is someone who obeys everything that Jesus has commanded. They are people who God is at work in – and this helped me to realise that God’s work is more dependant on what He is doing in people than on my efforts or cleverness. We had to learn a lot about how to share the gospel and how to reshape our life around being “sent” by Jesus rather than hiding in churches and meetings with people who were already Christians. We had to learn about being “upfront” with people about Jesus rather than just building friendships with them.
As God slowly showed us how we needed to change in the light of the scriptures – we began to find people who were curiously open to finding out more about Jesus. It didn’t happen overnight but the change was noticable.
I became relentless in my prayers – that we would find and gather people who want to become disciples of Jesus. The sign that they wanted to become disciples of Jesus would be that they had a desire to obey Jesus. And the starting point for this (according to scripture) is repentance and baptism. I remember one day I was so desperate in prayer to find the first disciples who wanted to be baptised that I fasted and prayed all night. I took a friend out with me and all night I asked God one question, “What is it going to take to see new disciples baptised in Somerset?” Most of the night was spent repenting of heart attitudes and thought processes that I had. God brought up lots of issues in me like fear and lethargy. I realised that I tended to draw back, slow down and at times give up when things got hard because of the work we were trying to do. I resolved to obey Jesus and make disciples with a renewed commitment and disregard to the cost it might have on me and those closest to me. At the end of the night God answered my question very simply. All night I’d been asking God why no-one was getting baptised in Somerset and after hours of soul searching I felt God showing me a very simple answer. No-one was getting baptised because we were not asking anyone if they wanted to be baptised. I felt a little foolish and realised again that we so often over spiritualise and complicate things when really making disciples is fairly simple.
After that experience we started to read baptism stories with people from the scriptures and asking them what they needed to do about it. I’ll let you guess what happened as a result…
When I think about the focus, patience and persistence we needed to start seeing a disciple making movement take root here in Somerset it makes me realise again how back to front we tend to approach serving Jesus.
When I spoke to my friends on the phone (See part 1) and I listened to all their great ideas and visions it sounded really good. But no amount of envisioning events, commissioning services, prayer meetings and prayer letters can take away the fact that the work really starts when you baptise your first new disciple of Jesus.
From personal experience – the challenges and trials that arise in your life as you seek to baptise households of peace can often lead people to give up and shrink back. In my opinion we tend to gravitate towards the fluffy, superflous aspects of ministry like online promotion and team building (see Part 3) – but neglect the actual work of disciple making. Don’t make the non-essential work the main work and forget the real work of baptising people
The real work begins when you baptise your first new disciples of Jesus because it’s only then that you start making disciples and encounter all the joys and challenges involved with this. Before that it is just an idea!
Has the real work started in your area yet?