Multiply: The Heart Behind the Movement
To be a disciple of Jesus is to make disciples of Jesus.
Many don’t actively make disciples because they don’t know what it means to be a disciple.
What exactly did Jesus intend when he said, “Follow me”? Many people in the first century chose to follow him from a distance. Scores of casual listeners were content to associate themselves with Jesus as long as following him did not intrude upon their lifestyles, preferences, comforts, and even their religion. But whenever these listeners took the time to actually look Jesus in the eyes and see who he was, and really hear what he was saying, they scattered. Like many people today, they were content to have casual association with Jesus, all the while shrinking back from total abandonment to Jesus. In the haunting words of Jesus in Matthew 7, they did all kinds of deeds in his name, yet they never actually knew Jesus. And tragically, the church is likely filled with countless such people today.
Yet there was a small group of men in the first century who refused to retreat from Jesus. They knew that following Jesus meant leaving behind comfort and careers, possessions and position, friends and family, safety and security. It meant fundamental abandonment of sin and self and total adherence to Jesus. It meant thrusting their lives upon his grace, attaching their lives to his person, entrusting their lives to his authority, and devoting their lives to his mission. Jesus’ invitation to follow him was—and is—an invitation into a relationship marked by self-denial, personal intimacy, single-minded ambition, and ultimate joy. When people truly engage the personal invitation of Jesus to follow him, absolutely everything changes, for he is worthy of all our trust, all our dreams, and all our affections.
The natural overflow of being a disciple of Jesus is then to make disciples of Jesus. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This was a promise: Jesus takes every disciple and makes them into disciple-makers. And this was a command: He told each of his disciples to go and make disciples among every nation, baptizing them and teaching them to obey him. His design is for every single disciple to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples until the gospel spreads to all peoples.
Yet we have subtly and tragically taken the costly command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations and mutated it into a comfortable call for Christians to come, be baptized, and listen in one location. If you were to ask individual Christians today what it means to make disciples, you would likely get jumbled thoughts, ambiguous answers, and probably even some blank stares. In all our activity as Christians and with all our resources in the church, we are practically ignoring the commission of Christ and the essence of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Yet biblically, if we are not making disciples, can we really be called disciples?
So what does it mean to make disciples? Practically, it means to look at other people and say exactly what Jesus said to his disciples: “Follow me.” When you progress through the New Testament, these are the exact words that Paul uses before Christians in Corinth when he
says, “Follow me, as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). To make disciples is to intentionally show the life of Christ before others, to share the gospel of Christ with others, to teach the Word of Christ to others, and to do all of this with a view toward reaching every people group in the world with the gospel. Subtly, however, we have practically excused the majority of the church from personally obeying this command and fulfilling this commission of Jesus.
We have farmed this responsibility out to programs and projects, pastors and professionals, ministers and missionaries, and in the process we have missed the joy of sharing and showing the Christ we are following—the Christ that we love and adore, cherish and treasure—to the nations. Evangelism has become a dreaded topic and discipleship has become a canned program in the church, and this must change. This must change for the sake of people all around us who are headed to an eternal hell without Christ, and this must change for our sake, because we were made to spread the gospel, grace, and glory of God as followers of Jesus. We were made to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples until the day when we see the face of the One we follow, and together with people from every nation we enjoy his splendor for all of eternity.