And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV
If you have been around church for any length of time, you have heard this text read, preached, and taught many times. That was the case for me as I was pretty much raised in church. I do not remember a time growing up where my family was not at a minimum of Sunday morning worship attenders. I have heard countless sermons and Sunday School lessons about these verses in my lifetime and even memorized them early on. Each church I have been part of throughout my entire life seemed to focus on the importance of going and sharing the gospel with others everywhere.
As I grew older, God began calling me into the pastoral ministry. God surrounded me with great men to learn from; my pastor, other preachers, seminary professors and so on. And these same scriptures were a focal point and the message was still the same; go and share the gospel everywhere.
I began pastoring at River View Baptist Church in Cox’s Creek, KY in 2006 and the church was around 150 in attendance. I knew quickly this was a very established church with many traditions much like every church I had been in since my youth. The church was founded in 1891 and there is a picture of a man hitching his horse to a post in front of the church. Now that is pretty established! I also quickly learned that the people of River View were an extremely loving people. However, I did notice that there were some of the same people serving in many different positions and there were no “Paul-Timothy” relationships. None of the people in leadership seemed to be training and investing in others or even interested in raising up new leaders. There were only a few men that would even allow me to call on them for prayer in the worship services. Again, this was not much different than what I noticed in other churches. God helped me see that this was one area that needed to change not only in River View, but also in my own life. I was not personally investing in one person through a disciple making ministry like Jesus did. I was not following His example. So I asked God to open my eyes and answer the questions: how, who, and when to start a disciple making ministry.
I began reading the Bible purposely looking for discipleship relationships and obviously started with Jesus. I also picked up some books on discipleship and the next step in the disciple making journey became very clear. In this study, a few eye opening moments occurred. One, the Great Commission, does not say go and evangelize. The actual four commands from Jesus are go (as you are going), make disciples, baptize, and teach. The two words in bold are what God highlighted in my heart. My immediate prayer, “Lord, how did I miss this all these years?” One cannot make disciples without evangelism, but one can lead someone to Christ without taking the time to help make them a disciple.
Second, in John 17:4 Jesus says “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” When reading this in context, all of John 17 is Jesus praying to His Father regarding Himself, His disciples, and those who will believe in the gospel through His disciples’ words. These words were prayed by Jesus before He went to the cross, so how could He have already finished the work that God gave Him to do? It became clear that some of the work which God gave Jesus to do involved making disciples.
Third, in Second Timothy 2:2 Paul writes to Timothy, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” That’s it! People discipled Paul and he shared with others what God had shown him, and they were to share with others. By examining Jesus with His disciples, Paul with Timothy and others, along with various other examples, God made it clear to me in regards to how to make disciples.
Through God’s word, the answer of who needs to be in this first discipleship group at River View and when to start were revealed to me. In the Gospel of Mark, it states that Jesus prayed all night long before choosing His disciples, so I began praying about who God was raising up. God lead me to some men and women in the church to approach about being discipled. As pastor, I knew women needed to be involved in this initial training if other women were going to be discipled. I knew that the discipleship groups at church must be gender specific, but in order to get started we needed women in this first group. When should we start? The obvious answer was NOW!
Watch next week for Part 2 of this two-part series.
Chad Morrow has served as pastor of River View Baptist Church, Cox’s Creek, Kentucky, since 2006.