In Part 1, I listed these four current, critical disciple-making issues: biblical illiteracy, disciple-maker shortage, caring relationships with lost people, and care for each other. Other issues exist but these dramatically impact our disciple-making efforts today. In Part 1, I focused on a definition and pervasiveness of biblical illiteracy and shared a solution.
In this post, I want to focus on the second critical issue, shortage of disciple-makers. When I mention that there is a “shortage,” what comes to your mind?
What I Don’t Mean
When I say shortage of disciple-makers, I am not referring to the leadership shortage which is occurring in our churches at an alarming rate. Also, I am not talking about the attendance decline in Sunday School, small groups, or worship. I am not talking about the decline of people who participate in discipleship classes or church training events. And I am not even talking about the number of people who are willing to allow someone to disciple them. These are all issues, but they are not what I mean when I mention shortage of disciple-makers.
Shortage of Disciple-makers
When I use this phrase, I think of Jesus statement in Matthew 9:38:
When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”Matthew 9:36-98, CSB
There Jesus is using a farming analogy about a spiritual need for workers who will compassionately care and make disciples baptizing and teaching them to observe everything He commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). The shortage of workers (disciple-makers) is not unique to now, and the need is great.
The shortage of disciple-makers can be seen in not having enough teachers and deacons. It shows up in the lack of workers with preschoolers and children. Some will object and say that leaders are different than disciple-makers. And I will agree, but I will note that disciple-makers always serve. If we did not have a shortage of disciple-makers, there would be plenty of leaders.
What created the shortage? In my conversations with pastors, staff, and discipleship leaders, the majority of disciplers create disciples rather than disciple-makers. These disciples don’t reproduce. In other words, they are seedless oranges. The fruit of an orange tree is another orange tree, but a tree producing seedless oranges cannot multiply. Disciplers who create disciples rather than disciple-makers create satisfaction with not reproducing. The result is a shortage.
Solutions to this Critical Disciple-making Issue
Our job is to pray and then open our eyes to the workers (disciple-makers) that our Lord has sent or will send. Without prayer, the shortage will continue. When we pray and begin to observe, the Lord will lead us to those we are to disciple (or lead them to us). After prayer and observation, we enlist those He has placed on our hearts.
There are three critical steps we have missed after enlistment. First, we have not helped our disciples understand the expectation of multiplication from the beginning. Second, we have not given our disciples full responsibilities in our sessions together so they develop competence and confidence that they can do so when it comes time to disciple others. Third, we have not asked them to begin discipling someone while we are still investing in our disciples.
When we make these three adjustments in our disciple-making, I believe the great majority of our oranges will no longer be seedless. Expectations, competence/confidence, and practicing disciple-making with us will produce orange trees rather than seedless oranges.
What other actions have you taken that have helped disciples become disciple-makers? Share your experiences in Leave a Reply below the post. Do you have questions? Share them below. Be a disciple-maker. Make disciple-makers!