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We Make Disciples, Not Just Converts

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
September 13, 2020 6:00 am

We Make Disciples, Not Just Converts

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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September 13, 2020 6:00 am

In this message on Matthew 28, Pastor J.D. teaches on The Summit Church’s third core value: “We make disciples, not just converts.” Most churches celebrate how many people attend services or “make decisions” or get baptized. But our central commission, as a church, is much simpler—and much harder: We are called to make disciples.

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Well, my family heritage is from, let's just say, the country.

I was born in West Virginia and lived for a while in Yackenville, North Carolina. And when I hear the song, Country Roads Take Me Home, I still get kind of teary. I remember when I was living out there hearing a story about a 911 call that was received, the operator, when he picks up the phone, he hears this just distressed wail on the other end of the line, where this, you know, kind of just mountain guy's like, Oh, it's Bubba. Bubba is dead. He is dead. He just we're walking in the woods and he grabs his chest and he falls to the ground and now he's unconscious and he's not breathing. He's dead. He's dead. And the operator says, OK, OK, sir, I just need you to remain as calm as possible. First, he said, we need to confirm that he's dead. Well, then the line goes totally silent and the operator hears some scuffling and then a loud shotgun blast. And then this guy gets back on the phone is like, OK, now what?

Well, I'm pretty sure it's not true. But the point is, is clarity, especially when you're talking about something really, really important, an important assignment. Clarity is crucial. And that's what this series that we are in the last few weeks.

And this one and the next one. That's what it's about is clarity about who we are as a church, where we are going and what we are called to. We get each of these four values that we've been unpacking. We get them from the life of Jesus and from the example of the apostles. We are on number three.

Of four. The first week we explained, if you remember, that we prioritize the gospel above all. And we explored what that means. The second week that we do whatever it takes to reach all people here at the Summit Church, reaching the one is always going to take priority over the comforts of the ninety nine.

Today, we're going to explore our third value. And that is we make disciples, not just converts. We prioritize the gospel above all.

We do whatever it takes to reach all people. We make disciples, not just converts. There are two very clear action steps that I'm going to give you today. One is a very tangible step that I'm going to give you in becoming a disciple making disciple, like the story that we just saw on that video. And the other is is the other action step is going to be for you to get baptized if you never if you never have been to Matthew twenty eight. If you got your Bible, you open it to Matthew twenty eight. If you're at home or you're by yourself or you're in a room gathered on one of our home gatherings, much like the people that are here in front of me, if you get a Bible and turn it on or open it up to Matthew twenty eight. Matthew twenty eight is the last chapter in the first book of the New Testament. Verse 19 records for us Jesus's last words to his disciples before he ascended. His last words were go into all the world and make disciples. The underlying stuff in your Bible. The only thing I would underline there is make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I've commanded you.

And behold, I'm with you always to the end of the age. Now, in English, there are several verbs in that sentence. Go make disciples, baptize, teach. But in Greek, if you were reading in Greek, there's only one verb. And that only verb is make disciples. All the other words that we translate as verbs are actually participles, which means they might modify the verb. The verb is the central thing.

The other things are extensions of the verb or applications of the verb. Make disciples is the central verb of the Great Commission. Everything else that we do, going, teaching, baptizing, everything else is an extension of that. For everything else the church does, make disciples is the center.

It is the core. I think I first learned this from a book that I read in college. It was written in 1960. It's a classic book. And you know the definition of a classic book is a book that everybody's heard about and nobody's read. This is a classic book I would actually highly encourage you to read. It's called The Master Plan of Evangelism. It was written by a guy named Robert Coleman.

In that book, what Coleman says is this. Listen, the Great Commission is not merely to go to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel, nor to baptize a lot of converts, nor to teach them the precepts of Christ, but to make disciples, to build men and women like themselves who were so constrained by the commission of Christ that they not only followed Jesus themselves, but Mrs. Key, look at this, led others to follow him also. The criteria upon which any church should measure its success is not how many new names are added to the role, nor how much the budget is increased, but rather how many Christians are actively winning souls and training them to win the multitudes. Most churches judge their success by how many attend or by how many decisions or baptisms that they count. But heaven does not celebrate any of those numbers. It only celebrates disciples.

So let's ask two questions today. Question number one is, what is a disciple? And then second, what is my role? What is your role in the disciple making process we see there in Matthew 28, 19 and 20? Okay, first question, what is a disciple? What is a disciple? Sure, you probably recognize the word disciple, but otherwise it's not super common in our culture unless you have spent time in a Christian circle like this one. It's one of those words that Christians use, but very few other people actually do. In fact, here's how I know that. Every single time I try to type discipling into a document, a word document or something on my computer, it always autocorrects it to discipline. So clearly Steve Jobs didn't get it.

It's just not super common. You're thinking of it like making disciples. What does that mean? The word we translate as disciple comes from the Hebrew word talmid, which was quite a common word in the first century. A talmid was kind of like a student. You might think of it like that, but much more than a student. Aspiring Jewish religious and community leaders would find a rabbi.

They find a teacher and somebody that they wanted to be like and whose cause they believed in. And then you would go and sit at that rabbi's feet. Sitting at their feet was like your application to learn from them. They would exactly examine you. They would ply you with questions. They would watch your life. And if they thought that you could make a worthy talmid, a worthy disciple, then somebody who could carry on their cause, they would allow you to follow them. And you would follow them for the next several years, imitating their every move.

In fact, write this down if you're taking notes. A disciple did not merely want to know what his master knew. A disciple wanted to do what his master did. That's from Ray von der a New Testament scholar. Supposedly, he says, the highest compliment that you could give to a talmid or a disciple was to say to them in the first century, the dust of your rabbi is all over you.

And that wasn't saying like, Hey, man, you need to go take a bath or a shower. It's saying that you were following his footsteps so closely that whatever your rabbi stepped in was was splashing up on you. So again, a disciple did not merely want to know what his master knew. A disciple wanted to do what his master did. A disciple of Jesus is not somebody who simply wants to know what Jesus taught. As important as that is, a disciple of Jesus also wants to do what Jesus did, and to live as Jesus lived. And the book of Acts, the verb make disciples is used to describe both the initial act of helping somebody come to know Jesus, which happens in a moment. And it's also used to describe the act of helping someone in the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus, a process that takes a life. Now, in a moment, I'm going to break down that lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus into five components.

But first, let's actually look at our second question. So what is a disciples number one, here's number two. Number two is, what is my role in the disciple making process? This commission to make disciples called the Great Commission was given to every Christian.

It was not a special assignment for a few. It was the central calling for every follower of Jesus. In Titus two, Paul commands the older one, to train younger women. In second Timothy two, Paul tells Timothy to train faithful men in his congregation so that they can train others also. In Ephesians six, Paul tells fathers to train their children in the ways of God. In Matthew 28, the key he commands missionaries to make disciples of all the nations. In Hebrews three, the writer commands all Christians to exhort each other and to build each other up every single day. Peter and Paul in their letters command every Christian to use their gifts to build up and serve others in the body of Jesus.

The great commission applies to everyone. There is no such thing as a non-reproducing Christian. In fact, Jesus said, Matthew 4 19, follow me and I will make you a fisher of men, which means if you're really following Jesus, then he's making you into that. John 15 eight, Jesus said, by this is my father glorified that you bear much fruit. And so what's this proved to be my disciples.

I mean, look at that. How do you prove that you're a disciple? By bearing fruit in this area as well. As well as others in the Christian life. And the implication is if you're not bearing fruit, then you have reason to question whether or not you're a disciple at all because living organisms reproduce. Again, Robert Coleman, a barren Christian is a contradiction.

A tree is known by its fruit. Fruitlessness was the thing lacking in the lives of the Sadducees and Pharisees. That's a group of people, by the way, in the first century that had this very fervent outward form of religion, but but no internal reality.

And that made them so wretched in his sight, Coleman said. Jesus said to the Sadducees and Pharisees, you're so fervent in your religion, you pass every orthodox test. You know all the doctrines, but you don't reproduce faith in God and love for him and other people. A movement of disciple making disciples was God's plan for reaching the world.

You get that, right? His plan, his plan for reaching the world is not big ministries with uber talented preachers, but ordinary Christians filled with the Spirit, making disciples one by one, everywhere they went. You, you, each of you are God's method.

Robert Coleman, when will the church learn this lesson? Preaching to the masses, although necessary, will never suffice in the work of preparing leaders for evangelism, nor can occasional prayer meetings and training classes for Christian workers do the job. Individual men and women are God's method.

God's plan for discipleship is not something, but someone. I want to point to one other person around you. Just point to them and say, you, you are God's method. I point at yourself. I, I am God's method.

Now I know what you're saying. You're like me. I mean, what can I do?

I don't know that much about the Bible. I'm not super talented. I'm not even really an extrovert.

I get sometimes awkward talking to people. It doesn't matter. Jesus said it was not about your natural ability. He said it's really about your availability to be used by the Holy Spirit that's in the Great Commission.

I'm going to go with you and I'm going to do this through you. In fact, one of my favorite promises that Matthew makes earlier, Jesus makes in the book of Matthew earlier is Matthew 11. And Jesus said, he said, Hey, of all those born among women, which is pretty much everybody, there's never been anybody that has been quite as talented in ministry as, by the way, do you know this Bible trivia question? Who was Jesus's favorite all time preacher?

Right? Who was it? Starts with J rhymes with on the Baptist. Anybody guess it?

That's right. John the Baptist. Excellent guess. John the Baptist was Jesus's favorite preacher. He podcasted John the Baptist. He loved John the Baptist. Maybe JTBD. What would John the Baptist be?

He had it all. Okay. He says, he says, none ever born among women has been greater than John the Baptist. But I tell you surely that the one who is least in my kingdom is greater than John the Baptist. Now, what is, first of all, what is least in my kingdom mean?

That would mean you have the least offer, right? You're the least talented. You have the least contagious personality. You know, the least about the Bible.

You're the least charismatic. I mean, whatever you put in that blank, you're least in the kingdom of heaven, right? I mean, somebody sitting here in front of me is the least of the kingdom of heaven in this room.

I'm not saying let's be mean. I'm not trying to get you identified as somebody, but mathematically, that has to be true. Somebody, you know, somebody's at the bottom and you're, you're sitting there thinking, well, maybe it's me, right? Maybe God in heaven is like, yep, you're right.

It's you. You're at the bottom of the pile. Even if that were true, right? Even if that were true, you have more potential in ministry than John the Baptist. Because see, you got something that John never had. And that is you've got the fullness of the Spirit of God. And you, and you've got the promise of Jesus and the news of the resurrection. And what Jesus said is, is in my kingdom, the one who is least is still the greatest because of the power of the Spirit and what the Spirit can do through them.

It's no longer about your ability, no longer about how you preach or your personality or how smart or talented you are. It's simply you saying, yes, Lord. Yes, Lord, I'm ready to be used. I'm ready for the Spirit to use me to make a disciple.

And I think that's what we need at the hour. Kevin Ezell, who is the president of the North American Mission Board, which is the largest church planting organization in the world. It's the organization through whom we plant almost all of our domestic churches. He says that their greatest need right now, get this, their greatest need is not money. The greatest thing is not money. It's qualified planters. He said, of course, you know, of course we need money. I mean, mission boards always need more money. He said, but right now we have more money than we do qualified planters and church leaders. And the reason that we are short of planters and church leaders, he says, is that we have neglected discipleship. We've acted like our main scorecard is getting people in the door, getting them baptized.

And that's important. But Jesus has called us to disciple them, to turn them into spiritual leaders that are able to reproduce themselves in the lives of others. Y'all, listen, if the church got good at discipleship, then church growth and church planting would take care of themselves.

Listen, summit family and friends. I think I've told you this before that this is very personal to me because, because my, um, uh, my dad had just gotten a new job in a, in a new city and they transferred there and they heard about this exciting church that everybody was starting to go to. And my mom and dad went and, and basically God made their faith come alive.

They were, you know, they were saved and baptized and, and it was exciting, but thankfully this pastor didn't just, you know, count their decision and baptize them and report their number somewhere. He made a spiritual interest in my dad and he made my dad part of his life. Um, he, he turned my dad into a spiritual giant who became the godliest man that I knew who in turn poured into me. And now I'm pouring into you. You know, we're now a church of what?

12,000 plus in the triangle because a man poured into my dad because he wasn't satisfied to let my mom and dad merely come in, make a decision to get turned in as a number. But he knew that he needed to train him up as a leader so that, that that leader could train others. And then suddenly that pastor went home to be with Jesus and, and my dad and I drove down to Georgia for his funeral and my dad just on the way down there, it was just me and him. He said, you know, I cannot remember how he says it was the most, it was the, the most life changing season of my life. And I can't remember hardly any of the sermons that that man preached, but I remember hearing him pray. I remember watching him share Christ with the lady in the grocery store. I remember hearing him counsel somebody in pain. I remember watching him as he went through pain, claiming the promises of God, and observing his life impacted me far more than anything I ever heard him speak or teach, right?

This is your role. You may not all be able to teach like me, but you can invite somebody into your life to observe your walk with Jesus, to show them how to follow Jesus like you follow him. Bottom line, Summit, Summit Church, if we're going to be a movement, we can't just reach new people. We've got to turn them into disciples and not just disciples into disciple making disciples. Summit, reaching new people has always come really naturally to us, but this honestly not as natural.

And that's partially my fault. We focused a lot on reaching here, a lot on growing wide, but not as much on growing deep. I often say that we're like the middle school, middle school boy who grew five inches over the course of one summer, which is awesome.

But none of his clothes fit and he's all gangly and he needs to put some meat on those scrawny little bones. And that's kind of where we are as a church now. It's one of the reasons that while I hate lockdown, and I hate not being able to gather as one large family, I am grateful that it's given us some new opportunities to raise up disciple making leaders and home gatherings and in smaller intentional relationships. Listen, we're so thankful for those of you who are our current leaders, and especially our new leaders who jumped in and tried to figure out in a new context without a lot of answers.

By the way, some of you have been feeling for a while this call to lead in some capacity, and you've just been putting it off. Don't jump in right now is the time this is a time to become a part of a movement. A movement of disciple making disciples. Today, this weekend, we're going to introduce a tool through our small groups that will help all of us not only be a disciple, but make a disciple.

It's a study called Groundworks, and we've been working on it for a long time. It uses the Bible to walk through the five core identities of what it means to be a disciple. This is what Jesus was referring to when he said, teach them to observe all things that I've commanded.

In fact, maybe you've seen one of these magnets here because it has these five identities on there. The first one is worshiper. He says, worship is not part of the Christian life. Worship is the Christian life, because everything starts with worship and flows out of worship. The great commandment is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind.

A true disciple is first and foremost a worshiper. At the Summit Church, we see two important disciplines that go along with that. One is a commitment to regular corporate worship with others. Well, we see two important disciplines that go along with that. One is what we do when we gather on the weekend, and the other is personal worship, like in what we call a daily quiet time, a time where you meet with God in his word and prayer.

This study, Groundworks, will help you in developing both of those. Here's a second identity. It's family member. A disciple is a family member who is actively committed to our aspiring multi-ethnic family. A disciple is not just a believer. A disciple is also a family that you're supposed to belong to, a family whose connection should be even closer to us than our biological families.

A true disciple is a family member, and you can't be a family member if you only moonlight on the weekend or you dial into a few podcasts. A disciple not only believes, a disciple belongs. Our third identity, a disciple is a servant. A disciple gladly gives of themselves for the good of others. This is a posture of service to the world, a posture exemplified in his washing the disciples' feet. Jesus, on that occasion, when he washed the disciples' feet, told them that if he, who had all power, if Jesus, who had all power, used that power to serve, then they should use whatever power, position, or privilege they add also to serve. For a true disciple, their whole life is going to be characterized by service.

Number four, fourth identity here is steward. God's purposes. A disciple realizes that anything he or she has ultimately is given by God not for our own purposes. They're given to us for God's purposes. Your money's not your own.

Your time and your talents and your treasures are not your own. He gave them to you for a reason, and that reason was to serve his kingdom. If you're a disciple, there will have been a point in your life where you said, God, all these things I have are yours.

How do you want them to be used for your purposes? Just like Jesus' life was characterized by generosity, just like he was characterized by pouring his life out for others, that's the way your life will be characterized, too. All right, last one, witness. A disciple proclaims Christ in word and deed. Each disciple recognizes that it is his or her responsibility to make disciples for Jesus. Matthew 4 19. Again, Jesus said, follow me, I'll make you a fisher of men. That means when you accepted the call to follow Jesus, you accepted the call to bring people to Jesus. There's no such thing as somebody who is following Jesus sincerely and not out of mind.

He's actively attempting to bring others to him. We've tried to make this really, really practical by asking all of you to have a one. That's the way we say it. Who's your one? Who's your one? At least one person that you're praying for, trying to build a relationship with, reaching out to, and trying to point them to Jesus. Do you know who your one is? When I say who's your one? Does a person come into your mind? If not, why not ask God to reveal to you who he wants that to be?

Go to slash one today. You can get some resources for how to start that relationship or how to take it to the next level, right? That's the essence. Those five identities are the essence of what it means to be a disciple and to make a disciple means you train somebody in those five identities.

The tool that I mentioned earlier is called Groundworks. It's designed to help you go deep in these identities and maybe even, I could say more importantly, to take two or three other people along with you. Now, preferably those would happen right within your small group, but the point is you're just not doing it by yourself.

We would love to see all of our members go through this with fall, through this this fall with somebody else. You go to slash Groundworks. If there is a free place that you can download it, it's very, very simple, easy to get started. It'll also have instructions there about how you can get connected to a group if you're not in one or how to pick somebody from your work, your neighborhood, even a family member. The point is you just don't want to go through it by yourself.

You'll also find some videos on there that have some stories of people who've used this and how it's been helpful, okay? So again, our third value is that we are committed to making disciples, not just converts, because this is the essence of the Great Commission. So I have three really quick practical questions for you today. Number one, number one, are you actually a disciple, an actual disciple? Let me tell you what I'm worried about as your pastor. Honestly, I'm not worried that most of you are going to become raging atheists. I'm worried that many of you will never really become an actual disciple of Jesus. If I were to ask you, are you a Christian? You might say, well, yeah, meaning I'm not an atheist.

I'm not a Jew or a Muslim. But if I were to then ask you, are you a disciple? Are you a fully committed disciple? You might hesitate because you know disciple means more than just what you believe.

A disciple is somebody not merely seeking to believe what Jesus teaches, but somebody committed to living like Jesus lived. Did you know? Did you know the first Christians did not call themselves Christians? You know what they call themselves? Christians was a name that was attached to them. Actually, it was a pejorative. It was a name that was like an attack. Acts 11 26 tells you that in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.

Were called means it was passive. They didn't call themselves that. The first Christians didn't call themselves Christians. It was a derogatory, derogatory name that meant little Christ. Well, what do they call themselves?

Well, you can see it right there in Acts, can't you? They called themselves disciples. In fact, the word Christian is only used three times in the entire New Testament. The word disciple is used 281 times. You say, well, so what?

Here's what. In changing the word that we use to describe ourselves, I would suggest that we lost the clarity that the word disciple conveyed about what a follower of Jesus actually is. When we use the word Christian, it obscures the fact that a lot of people who call themselves Christians today are not actual disciples.

A lot of people say, well, I'm a Christian because I believe in God. I'm not a Buddhist or a Muslim. There is no such thing to be like Jesus, to live like Jesus.

There is no such thing. Biblically, as a Christian who is not a devoted disciple, so you can understand why my question is not, are you a Christian? But my question is, are you a disciple?

Be honest, right now. Would you say yeah, I'm a Christian, but not really a full disciple yet. Jesus talks about a large group of people y'all who on the last day are going to say He doesn't say, depart from me, I never knew you. I never knew you.

You knew who I was and you hung out at my house on the weekends, but I never knew you. He is talking there to Christians who aren't disciples. Are you a disciple? If not, you don't belong to Jesus. But the good news is that you can become one today through a simple act of surrender. Jesus doesn't say, prove yourself to me and I'll let you be my disciple.

He just says, receive me. Turn over your life to me and I'll make you my disciple. Right now, where you are, you could bow your head and surrender your heart to Jesus and surrender to him as Lord and receive him as Savior.

Here's my second question. Have you been baptized? You know, it's the first part of following Jesus.

You can see it right there in the Great Commission. Make disciples and baptize them. Sometimes people say, they're like, well, I mean, what's this got to do? I can still obey Jesus and, you know, keep most of the commandments. And I always want to say like, why would you start your walk with Jesus telling him which of his commands you think are important and which ones aren't? He said, be baptized as a way of telling other people. And that's a command if you're serious and walking with him, then you should obey it. Sometimes people say, well, I got baptized when I was a kid.

And I always want to say, listen, that's great. I'm so glad your parents did that, you know, for you and really expressing that they wanted you to grow up and follow Jesus. But in the New Testament, baptism is always your own decision. It's always a decision that you make to show your faith. If you got baptized as a baby, whose faith were you showing? You were showing your parents' faith and praise God for their faith.

Right, but now you need to show your own. You need to make a choice to be baptized. You say, well, it's weird because of COVID and all this kind of stuff. I understand there's things, but water that we use will be very chlorinated and you'll be very safe, I promise. We actually have got it at our campuses, an outdoor baptism service coming up. And so if you would like to have that conversation about whether you should get baptized, you've never been baptized, or you got questions, I want you to text, take out your phone right now. And I want you to text baptism, B-A-P-T-I-S-M to 33933. Text baptism to 33933. When you do that, you'll get an auto response with a form that will put you right in touch with our campus teams to help you take your next steps in getting baptized. By the way, even if you're not in the Raleigh-Durham area, we got a next step for you, right, is there's a team that'll help get you connected with a local church in your area. That's my second question is, are you baptized? If not, text baptism to 33933. Number three, are you a disciple maker? Are you intentionally bringing somebody else along as a disciple? It doesn't matter if you're a new Christian or if you're still growing yourself, every disciple of Jesus can be a disciple maker.

Every Christian is born to reproduce. Maybe you're just realizing this for the first time and maybe you're ready now to take a first step. Don't feel beat up about this. Just start today. You understand something now you didn't understand earlier and you're ready to start obeying Jesus here. We've tried to make it really easy for you to get started by giving you this groundwork study to take somebody else through. Again, slash groundworks. This can be the beginning of a whole new disciple making lifestyle, a life that impacts others for eternity, a life that makes an eternal contribution, something you will never forget. So I want you to go to slash groundworks today and pray about one, two or three people that you can begin to go through this with as you grow in your identities of obeying Jesus and all that he commanded. Summit family, we make disciples, not just converts. Let's recommit ourselves to this task of discipleship. Let's pray together. Father, I pray for those, I pray for those who surrendered their heart to Jesus just a few moments ago for the first time. But they've never actually been a real disciple and in this moment, they're becoming one. God, I pray that if they've never been baptized, God, that they would take that step of texting baptism to 33933 and I ask you, God, to raise up all kinds of people from out of our congregation who would be disciple making disciples, who would take on this responsibility and this commission as their own because this is your plan for growing the church. God, raise up a generation of leaders here from our congregation who will own this part of the ministry and will transform the triangle and the world and their families. I got it in Jesus' name, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-06 15:01:06 / 2023-09-06 15:14:00 / 13

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