Summary: MAKE DISCIPLES GOD’S WAY – Discipleship is Life Transformation. What is a disciple of Jesus Christ supposed to be like? The word DISCIPLE is used as an acrostic to describe eight characteristics of trasformed disciples.
• Matthew 28:19-20 NIV
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
A mother who was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake... Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”
Jesus has called us to make disciples. The process of discipleship is for believers to be transformed into the image of Jesus.
I. The crisis of discipleship in the American church.
1. We may have brought in the harvest, but the fruit has spoiled!
ILLUSTRATION: Imagine a farmer who works hard to prepare the fields for the seed. He nurtures the plant as it grows. Finally the harvest is ready and he starts up the big combines and works hard to bring in the harvest. But instead of storing the grain in silos or taking it to market he leaves the sitting unprotected outside the barn. Before long the autumn rains fall soaking the harvest. Then when the sun comes out the harvest rots and is lost. Such is the case of discipleship in many churches across America. We’re encouraging people to build relational bridges with non-believers. We invite them to our special services and revivals. Many of them make a profession of faith, but the church does little to protect the harvest of souls from being lost.
• Matthew 7:16-22 NIV
16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 "Not everyone who says to me, ’Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
a) Jesus made it clear; we can recognize if someone is really a believer—a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ—by examining the fruit of their lives. Just because someone claims to be a Christian does not make them one.
b) Many American Christians are weak in their commitment to Christ. They falter in basic spiritual disciplines like bible study and prayer. They lack boldness in being an effective witness of Christ’s love outside the four walls of the church. Many so called Christians live lifestyles almost indistinguishable from people who make no such profession of faith. As a result the spiritual health and effectiveness of churches across America is average at best and in most cases is weak and diseased because of the condition of disciples who make up the local church.
2. Has the harvest really been lost? Has the church just let the fruit rot? Let the numbers speak for themselves.
a) From 1995 to 2005 the Assemblies of God in the United States reported 5,339,144 decisions for Christ, but attendance in our worship services throughout the same period grew by only 221,790 (14% increase). Of the over five million decisions for Christ only 4 percent or about 1 in 25 people attended worship regularly. When adjusted for other factors at the very best the A/G can say that we have retained 10% or 1 out of 10 people who made a profession of faith in our churches. What has happened to the other 90%? The harvest is being lost—the fruit is being spoiled! (Transformational Discipleship, Charles Crabtree; from chapter 1, The Crisis of Discipleship in the American Church.)
b) Fortunately our numbers as a local church are better than the national average. From 1997 to 2006 we have reported 72 decisions for Christ. Over these 10 years our Sunday morning attendance grew from 50 to 83—an increase of 33 people or 66%! By the numbers we retained 45.8% of those making a confession of faith. Now that sounds pretty good until you actually take a look at the names of people attending our church today. The fact of the matter is that most of our growth has happened because people have come to our church from other churches. Of the 72 reported decisions made only about 11 or 12 of those people are actually still a part of our church family today which is about 15%. That’s might be better than the national averages, but nevertheless what are we going to say about the other 85% that have been lost to our church family? Can we afford to let more than 8 out of 10 people who make a profession of faith in Christ not be discipled and made a part of our church family?