Multiplying Discipleship: Jesus’ Heart & Church’s Lifeblood

Our vision to see a gospel movement on the North Shore will only become a reality if we saturate the North Shore with transformed disciples who multiply by investing in other disciples. In this short blog series, we’ll explore the necessity, the mindset, and story of multiplying discipleship at NSCBC.

Jesus’ Example & Command

Mike Breen, a church leader from England, once said: “If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples…effective discipleship builds the church, not the other way around.” This quote has stuck with me because it captures a reality that our church is growing to embody: that discipleship—intentionally investing in people—is Jesus’ heart, and is the lifeblood of the church.

You can often learn what a leader cares about by observing the first and last things they say to their followers. When Jesus called his disciples, the first thing he told them was, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). In this single verse, Jesus not only called Peter and Andrew to himself, (“Follow me”), but already hinted at what their great aim of their life would be (becoming “fishers of men”). At the end of Matthew, Jesus further clarifies this aim. Jesus’ final command to his disciples, often called the “Great Commission,” is both simple and comprehensive at the same time:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)

Jesus’ final command was simple: make disciples. At NSCBC, we say that a disciple is someone who is “created by the gospel to learn Christ, and lead others to do the same, by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Fundamentally, then, a disciple is a “learner”, and disciples of Jesus are people who are learning him—people who are learning to live with all of who they are (their intellect, their emotions, their actions) in vital relationship with all of who Jesus is. This includes learning how to rest in his finished work as their Savior, live in his kingdom as their King, share his heart as their friend, and obey his commands as their Lord.

Jesus himself had just spent three years intentionally investing in these kinds of disciples, before dying and rising again to demonstrate his identity as the Savior and Lord he’d been progressively revealing himself to be. Now, in Matthew 28:18-20, his command to us is to continue that same work of forming disciples who “learn him.”

The Apostles and the early Christian community took up Jesus’ commission with gusto, and invested in others, who in turn invested in others. Even as the early church grew and took on increased structure, multiplying discipleship remained its lifeblood. It was constantly on the “front-burner”—and if it wasn’t none of us would be Christians today!

It Only Makes Sense

When you understand the storyline of Scripture, and God’s great goal for the world, the Great Commission only makes sense. You can almost intuit it, even if Jesus hadn’t spelled it out as explicitly.

God’s goal for the world is that it would one day “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). The book of Revelation points beautifully towards what this will look like: a kingdom made up of an uncountable multitude of disciples, drawn from every nation, overwhelmed with the knowledge of God’s glory and presence, and flourishing as they worship Jesus in joyful obedience in a renewed heavens and earth. If that doesn’t capture your imagination, I don’t know what will!

How then, do we get from nobody, anywhere, obeying anything Jesus commands to a multitude, from everywhere, obeying everything he commands? How does Jesus go about populating (“peopling”) the new heavens and the new earth? He does it through his Holy Spirit empowering disciples who multiply.

Not a Fad

Multiplying discipleship, then, is not a passing fad (or at least it shouldn’t be)—something a church gets excited about for a season, only to fade under waning enthusiasm, and be replaced by a newer program or initiative. It’s as ancient as it is urgent, and our mission depends on it. What might discipleship look like in your life?

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