Lies are pernicious little things. They run like moles under the surface of our lives, subtly but significantly changing the landscape of our thought-life and our choices. No one is immune. Lies invade quietly. They capture our attention only after they’ve wreaked havoc in our lives or ministries.
As I make disciple making cultures in Dayton area churches, I encounter the same lies time and time again. Little by little, I’m shining light on them in this series, “Lies We Believe”. Last time we unearthed the lie “I can’t make a disciple, that’s God’s job”. Today we’ll dig up, “I’m not called to make disciples, I’m called to ______________ (lead worship, care for kids, counsel the hurting, etc.)”. Another variation of this lie includes, “My gift is to _______ (encourage, give, administrate, etc.), so that’s what my focus needs to be.”
Like most lies, this lie is difficult to separate from the truth it’s cozied up with. It sounds true, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t people follow their passions and employ their unique gifts? Didn’t Jesus and the disciples have a team of people who tended to their needs? Didn’t Paul teach that very thing when he taught about the “body of believers”?
To get to the bottom of it all we need to answer just two questions. First, why did Jesus call the Twelve to follow Him? Second, what’s the purpose of our diversity in design and gifting?
The bookends of Jesus’ ministry make His intentions with the Twelve clear. Making disciples was Jesus’ goal from the moment He invited His first disciples by saying, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The offer is to be made into something (disciples). Jesus is the maker. The disciples were the ones to be made. This appeal is made to a few fishermen, so He personalizes the concept of disciple making by saying “fishers of men”. While there are different types of fishermen, all fishermen are broadly focused the same thing. This is significant for our purposes because Jesus is making them into the same thing. If Jesus were making widgets, He’d only be making one type, not lots of different widgets.
The final bookend of Jesus’ ministry, Matthew 28:19-20, offers more detail on their purpose of disciple making. In just two verses, Jesus clarifies the what (“Go and make disciples”), the who and the where (“of all nations”) and the how (“Baptizing…And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”). The when is communicated by “Go” which in the Greek is in the present continuous tense. In other words, as you’re going, make disciples.
The apostles’ response to the Great Commission displays a personal embrace of that call. They didn’t organize behind Peter, James, and John to support their work of disciple making. Though they had unique personalities, passions, and proficiencies, they were given the same call; to make disciples. Their capability to do the job was a fulfillment of His initial call to make them fishers of men. In between those bookends, Jesus had been training them to become disciple makers. They were so ready for the job that Jesus had to tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit to come before starting!
Jesus’ method of making disciples is the perfect way. He combined intense relationship with intentional training. His lessons were designed toward transformation, not theological education. As His disciples made other disciples, that DNA was passed on. They taught like Jesus taught, loved like He loved, and made disciples like He did.
So, if we all share the call to make disciples, what’s the purpose of spiritual gifts? Doesn’t the diversity of gifts prove we’re called to different tasks?
First, let’s clear up a rumor: there is no gift of disciple making! Not once in Scripture’s passages on spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and possibly Ephesians 4) is a gift of disciple making mentioned. Even if it were a gift, not having it wouldn’t excuse us from doing it. Consider that not everyone has the gift of teaching, but Scripture says that each of us should be able to teach. Not everyone is gifted in mercy, but we’re all called to be merciful.
The spiritual gifts are given “to build up the body of Christ”. They help us as individuals and as a church attain “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, to become mature; like Jesus in every way. The gifts are given to help us accomplish the call Jesus gave us (Eph. 2:8-10, Matthew 28:19-20).
The diversity of our design and gifting is to help us make disciples of all nations. Our gifting greatly influences our passions and our ability to connect with different types of people. Someone gifted in encouragement may be drawn to be near people who are struggling, while someone gifted in teaching or administration may be drawn to be near people who are hungry for wisdom or knowledge. The first will normally connect through the heart, the second will normally connect through the mind.
Just as some fishermen fish for tuna, others for trout, others for salmon, etc, a passion for worship, children, married couples, etc. should direct the where of our disciple making, not be viewed as a competing call. God uses our gifting, our personality, our passions, and even our location in time and geography to strategically position us for disciple making ministry (Acts 17:26-27)!
So why do many believe this lie? I believe it goes back to the church’s orphan problem. Kids learn early on that they aren’t capable of doing what adults do. So, they learn to contribute by helping in small ways. The idea of contribution without responsibility is alluring.
A call to make disciples is costly. It demands genuine growth toward maturity, a perseverance to overcome obstacles, and a belief that God wants to use you. If you are a disciple, not only are you called to make disciples, you have been given everything you need to succeed.