Preaching Articles

Preaching is neither education nor entertainment. We're called to fulfill the Great Commission, which means making disciples. Here are three foundational passages for anyone who longs to preach about something more than a fire-insurance relationship with Jesus:

His Final Instructions: Make Disciples

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "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 of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:16-20)

1. If heaven is the ultimate goal of the gospel, then discipleship is merely an option, like a choice in the cafeteria. But discipleship is not a choice; it's the mission. There is something lacking in each one of us until we become disciples and until we make disciples of others.

2. Discipleship is open to anyone willing to worship Jesus. Intellectual curiosity is not the ticket in, nor are good works. And here is the really good news: Doubt does not disqualify you from worship.

3. At the place of worship, we discover that Jesus considers us partners in his mission. He never intended the original twelve disciples to be the only ones: he intended they would reproduce themselves. Amazingly, he intends the same for us as well.

Our Destiny: Conformed to His Image

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

1. The good news is better than we think: The Father intends that each of us become conformed to the image of his Son. This is staggering: If we are disciples of Jesus, the Father has set a destination for each of us—Christlikeness!

2. Jesus is unique: the only begotten of the Father. Yet that same Father is determined to have a large family. He sends a spirit of adoption into our hearts. We see him as our true Father, and we discover our older brother is none other than the Lord of glory.

3. When we first heard the gospel presented as Jesus‘ sacrificial death on our behalf—how many of us imagined the Father had a destination in mind better than Heaven itself?

Come to Me, Take My Yoke, Learn from Me

At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

1. If the destination of Christlikeness seems too far-fetched, Jesus comes to our rescue. He himself offers to be our guide and instruct us in the kind of life that flows from being with our Creator moment by moment.

2. We can simultaneously learn from him and find rest in him. For example, anyone who has tried to learn a new language, skill or life-habit understands the hard work involved. Yet Jesus tells us that when we are in a right relationship with him, we will experience new life and refreshing at the same time. No university in the world can offer that combination.

3. Human models of training and leadership depend on intelligence and worldly wisdom for their effectiveness. In this passage the King himself looks heavenward and gives thanks that the kids at the head of the class have no advantage over the rest of us. In fact, they are in the dark—God rejoices that human intelligence is inadequate while offering the benefits of relationship to all who will simply come to him. Who wouldn’t take a deal like that?

Ray Hollenbach helps pastors and churches navigate change. He's the founder of DEEPER Seminars, weekend leadership retreats focused on discipleship in the local church. His newest book is Deeper Grace, a guide to the connection between grace and spiritual maturity. Ray currently lives in central Kentucky, coaching and consulting church leaders. You can visit his blog at Students of Jesus.

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Jonathan Larsson

commented on Sep 24, 2014

While Mr. Hollenbach offers some good suggestions about messages about discipleship, I believe the premise of the article is flawed. True followers of Christ ARE disciples. There is no salvation apart from discipleship.

Jimmie Mcgraw

commented on Sep 24, 2014

I think the thief on the cross was Born Again but never had a chance to disciple anyone.

Colin Jackson

commented on Sep 24, 2014

I think both the main article and J Larsson's comment are right. But I have met believers who are not " true " believers after a few years.Maybe because they didn't activate their faith by " works ", thru bad role models.!!

Suresh Manoharan

commented on Sep 25, 2014

An insightful article...if we go by Acts 11:26, ALL disciples are Christians but ALL those who are Christians by name without the born-again experience are NOT disciples.BYW, last minute transformations' like that of the repentant thief on the Cross...are they not more of an exception than the rule?

Barnabus Kibisu

commented on Sep 26, 2014

For you to become a follower of Christ Jesus you have to become a disciple first by applying 2 Tim 2:15. You have to be approved by your testimony.

Hank Bailey

commented on Feb 22, 2015

In response to Jonathan Larson's initial comment, You are right that the initial act of Salvation includes an attitude and willingness to be a disciple, but my Daughter showed that same type of love, willingness, and eagerness to be my Daughter when she was less than one year old. I enjoyed her surprise visit last night, even though she is 24 years old now. She has truly grown into a person who now reflects what I was willing (but unable) to convey to her at the precious age of one. Discipleship is a learned and practiced role, not an accepted one as salvation. Jonathan, while I agree with your premise in part, that true followers of Christ are disciples, would you agree with me, that all men who wear a green US Army uniform are in the Army, however a Private first class does not share the same training or exposure to the mission that a Master Chief does? Nor do they share the same effectiveness in the field or on the base? They both believe in the same message, but one is better discipled than the other. In your own life, do you feel you are no better oriented in your Christian walk than the first day you willingly heard the gospel story? Even though I appreciated your point and agreed, I believe this perspective is the angle the author is presenting in offering natural healthy growth through discipleship.

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