Disciples Making Disciples – Multiplication
Is it really possible?
By GLENN TOWNENDThis is the sixth, and last, article in the series “Disciples Making Disciples,” about growing and nurturing disciples for God’s kingdom.
No one wanted to serve on the Nominating Committee. Few were willing to serve as leaders in the Regional Church. The new pastor was completely frustrated. The Nominating Committee had to meet at least five times, for up to three hours at a time, over a period of three months to fill all the positions required by the church, even with only a membership of 250. It seemed that many of the people who finally accepted roles did so because no one else was willing to do the job. They took up their roles with very little enthusiasm or purpose. Clearly, the church was challenged.
There is multiplying potential in every disciple of Jesus.
The church year did not go well for the church or its pastor. The church functioned, but with little spiritual life. Everyone noticed the lack of enthusiasm. Before the next Nominating Committee, the pastor suggested to the church board that rather than fill positions, the Nominating Committee would engage in a process with all the members to discover their passions (Ps. 20:4, 37:4) and gifts (1 Cor. 12), and see where God might be asking them to serve.
Sermons about spiritual gifts preceded the Nominating Committee process. A survey was given, and the Nominating Committee paid attention to each person by going through the church and Sabbath school rolls, and suggested roles for each person. While not a perfect process, within two years Regional Church had renewed life. Not all roles were filled, because no one had the passion or giftedness for all the roles. However, the church not only managed, it began to grow. Most people were involved in ministries and departments they liked or wanted to try. A “people” rather than a “position” approach to Nominating Committee made a difference.
Focus on People
If we are serious about multiplying disciples who make new disciples, the church at every level has to become more people-focused. The Nominating Committee can review how people are going in their roles, and intentionally focus on a path of development, much like Human Resource departments are supposed to do in businesses.
All newly-baptized people will be prayed for, asking God to give them spiritual gifts and reveal to them their hearts’ passion. Then the church can suggest pathways for discipleship development and train new disciples to become disciple-makers. After all, God has all the human resources He needs in the church (1 Cor. 1:4-7), and it is “God who arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (1 Cor. 12:18, ESV[i]).
See the Potential
My grandfather believed in me. Even though I was a typical teenager at times, and did my own thing (not telling what I got up to either), he often sat me down and listened by asking how I was going, and asked for my thoughts on various issues in the church or the world. He listened as if my opinion mattered.
He let me drive his car (even after I crashed it twice in one day; no significant damage either time). I painted and repaired his house instead of using a tradesman. He took me to hear him preach and teach, and listened to me preach. He was always extremely encouraging. He told lots of stories of past experiences that made me think and grow. He even arranged one time for me to teach his classes at Avondale College when he was away taking workshops.
This was more than belief in me; it was mentoring and developing me as a disciple of Jesus. As a teenager and young adult, I was blessed to have a number of people, like grandpa, mentor me. I value each one of them. They significantly shaped me as a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus Chose 12
Jesus valued everyone, and wanted them to find fulfilment in following Him. That’s why He healed them, taught them, fed them, and asked them to repent and follow Him.
However, Jesus knew that He would only be in ministry for three and a half years. He would then leave this earth and His work with humans. He had to be strategic and chose the right leaders to continue what He started. He spent all night praying before He chose 12 apostles (Luke 6:12-16). The list included trades people, zealots who despised Romans, tax collectors who worked with Romans, Pharisee types, fishermen, angry young men, opinionated loud-mouths, those who were, at the same time, courageous and emotionally unstable, because Jesus can use anybody who is willing (Mark 3:15-19).
This privileged group was “to be with him” and accompany Him in His ministry (Mark 3:13, 14). Jesus called the disciples to follow him, to be with Him, and to learn from Him. They would see Jesus, eat with Him, sleep where He slept, be overwhelmed by the needs of people for healing and direction, experience the antagonism from religious leaders, mix with the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40), eat at the same dinners, see the healings, and hear His teaching.
Following Jesus meant following Jesus around and observing how He lived. This is what it means to be a disciple today. Once these disciples knew the Jesus way, Jesus sent them out to do the same things that He was doing (Matt. 10; Luke 10:1-12). When they came back from their own ministry He debriefed them (Luke 10:17-24). As they grew in their understanding they knew Jesus was the Messiah (Matt. 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30).
Only after this was Jesus able to tell them about His death and resurrection (Matt. 16:21; 17:1, 2; Mark 8:31; 9:1-3). Jesus led them step by step in their understanding and development, and gave them opportunities to participate and grow in disciple-making ministry.
When He left the earth, Jesus knew that with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) His 12 disciples were ready to make a multiplying movement of disciple-making disciples (John 14:16).
Every seed bearing plant has the opportunity to reproduce itself thousands of times within a few generations. An orange can be an orange grove, a tomato has the potential to be a whole greenhouse of tomatoes, a coconut can be a copra plantation. There is multiplying potential in every disciple of Jesus. We can be disciple-making disciples who make more and better disciples; making disciples until Jesus returns.
Glenn Townend is president of the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists.
[i] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.