Matthew 28:19 offers the Great Commandment for followers of Christ. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (NLT)
It is the mission statement for followers of Christ. Our work is to make disciples. In response to our faith in God, followers of Christ are sent out into the world to make disciples. By its very nature, a disciple seeks to learn from a teacher. As followers of Christ, our teacher is Christ. Jesus guides us in being obedient to God. Disciples are life-long students who seek to imitate what they learn in their relationships in the world.
That’s what defines a disciple of Christ. The making of a disciple is another story. What are we making in the church? Are we making disciples?
A disciple should be, in essence, a multiplication of who we strive to be in Christ. Discipleship making requires a formation process driven by who we are in Christ, our relationship with God, and a desire for others to experience that same relationship. We make disciples of Jesus Christ by offering to others who we are in Christ. What kind of disciples are we making, then, in the church today?
We are making disciples who are consumers of religious goods and services. Consumeristic disciples focus on their personal needs more than the church’s mission in the larger world. Conversations among this type of disciple fixate on the style of music, the length of worship, the temperature in the sanctuary, and making sure no one is offended by the Gospel. Consumer-based disciples rarely deal with conflict in the church and let disputes go unresolved to keep the peace. They are also willing to leave a church if it challenges them.
We are making disciples, as well, of political parties and ideologies. These disciples see no separation between their political views and faith in God. By this, they affirm that Christ and faith in Christ only agree with their particular partisan persuasion. Statements and actions from a partisan disciple speak more of a partisan ideology shoehorned into their faith. They do not allow their faith to challenge their political views. A partisan disciple will dismiss other followers of Christ who might have a different political opinion than their own.
We are also making disciples of celebrity and personality. These disciples are more apt to follow a leader’s beliefs and personality. They are more aligned with that person or leader than they are Christ. The personality-drive disciple’s faith shatters when their preferred leader leaves a community. The disciple of celebrity and personality are not always attracted to the big names in the church but often follow the pastor or some other leader in their local community.