“Miles Wide and Inches Deep”: When We Fail to Make Disciples (2)

So if the church of Jesus Christ is called to make disciples (and I don’t think we can argue that is not the case – see the previous post for more discussion of that), then the question is no longer whether we should make disciples but how do we make them.

Such a subject is vast and a lot of ink has been spilled on how to do this – some profitable and some just leaving you wondering why the person even sat in front of a computer to write, I’m sorry to say. A helpful outline for disciple-making comes from a man who has influenced me highly in this area – Dr. David Platt, former senior pastor at The Church at Brook Hills and president of the International Mission Board. In his series on discipleship, Dr. Platt gives  three steps to the disciple-making:

(1) HEAR THE WORD: It’s very basic on the surface, but you cannot give what you yourself do not possess. The commodity we are attempting to pass on is truth – not just a list of things to do and not do, but the living and active truth of God’s Word. That can take so many forms especially in our information age – first and foremost through the reading of the Scriptures, then through the hearing of the Word preached, fellowship with other believers and good Christian resources rooted in the Word. This provides a body of truth with which discipleship can occur.

(2) SHARE THE WORD: Once the Word has gone in, it is now able to go out. Now at this point, the question becomes, “How?” The answer I have come to is that discipling can take one of two forms: one-on-one and groups. Time doesn’t permit to break that down into components and “how-to’s”, however I would gladly recommend picking up a copy of The Trellis and The Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall for practical pointers in this regard.

(3) SHOW THE WORD: At this point, I appreciate some may retort that this sounds entirely like a glorified Bible study exercise – which, in all honesty, it would…were it to simply end in some newly discovered information each day or week you were to meet. But there is a third step to this process – that Word which has been worked in can now be worked out in the life of the disciple. Whether in Christian service (a vastly neglected area in church life today – see Dr Peter Masters’ fine booklet Your Reasonable Service – or on the job (or in the classroom for that matter), the real purpose of discipleship is the same: to set forth Christ as He has been formed in the life of the disciple (cf. Gal 4:19) and to equip the Christian to do the work of the ministry (cf. Eph 4:12)

Dr Platt presents some great insights in hitting the ground running with this in day-to-day life:

The long and short of the matter is: the church is called to make disciples who makes disciples through the preaching of the Gospel to the lost and through grounding believers in the truth. The failure to do so has created the “Miles Wide, Inch-Deep Church” and will continue to do until we reverse the disciple decline.

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