“…and all except the apostles were scattered…” and “…preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:1 & 4
It wasn’t the apostles that were scattered to preach the gospel message at this time but the other believers going out to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples. Scripture doesn’t tell us why the apostles stayed behind. Maybe the other disciples would have relied too heavily on them for sharing the gospel and teaching believers how to follow Jesus, and the pace of disciple making would have been hindered. The harvest would have been plentiful, but the workers few. The apostle Paul said that his brothers in Christ were encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly while he was in prison (Philippians 1:14). Are we less courageous because we depend too much on church leadership to carry out the Great Commission? How often do we invite others to church or Bible studies hoping that someone else will do that work? Jeff Vanderstelt the lead teaching pastor at Doxa Church in Washington wrote in his book, Saturate, that making disciples is “not a separate program of the church! It’s the mission of the whole church!” Do we see ourselves as disciple makers?
What does it mean to be or make disciples? There is only one word in the Greek in the New Testament for “disciple” and it means to be a student or learner. Jesus said that to be His disciple, we have to hold to His teaching (John 8:31). We have to take up our cross of obedience and follow what He said and did (Matthew 16:24). He said making disciples requires teaching others to obey everything He commanded (Matthew 28:20). And He said others will know we are His disciples by our love (John 13:35) which is displayed through our obedience to His Word (2 John 6). If according to Jesus, learning and obeying His teaching is the foundation of being, making and being seen as His disciples, then the study of His Word and learning to apply it, is critical in that effort. So it’s interesting that in a 2015 Barna Group study on the State of Discipleship, senior pastors and discipleship leaders rank the study and education of the Bible at the bottom of the list of essential elements of discipleship? Where does it fall on our lists? What are we doing to align our priorities for discipleship with Jesus’ priorities?
The same Barna study said 38% of Christians who equate discipleship with spiritual growth prefer to do it alone. But being a disciple and making disciples is not a solo, intellectual activity. His Word tells us that people have to hear the gospel from someone (Romans 10:14), and have others teach them the meaning of Scripture (Acts 8:31). We are also taught to imitate those who imitate Jesus and model that to others (1Thessalonians 1:6&7). Why is this sharing and modeling important? Because just as Jesus became the Word in flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14) in relationship with us, so we become His Word in flesh as we live it out in the power of His Spirit and teach others to do the same. Our obedience brings life to His Word and is evidence that He still dwells among us. So who needs to see and hear evidence of Jesus from us this week? There are disciples to be made in our homes, schools, sports teams, work places, community organizations and even in our churches. Will we allow ourselves to be scattered?
Prayer: Dear Lord of the Harvest, Thank you that you have given us clear instructions in your Word for how to be and make disciples. Forgive us for ignoring your commands, for expecting our spiritual leaders to carry the load for disciple making, for not trusting that if you call us to something, you will equip us for it, and for not practicing your priorities as our own. Father make your will known throughout your church. Help us to be obedient to your commands so we can display your presence and great love. Give us a heart for discipleship and wisdom to know where and to whom you are calling us. In the name of Jesus, the Word that became flesh to live among us. Amen!