Summary: Every believer is called to be a disciple of Christ. It is up to us individually to heed the call to follow the Lord as His disciples.
The Call to Discipleship
As much as it hurts to admit, I truly believe the church has failed miserably in one vital area of ministry. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s there was a concerted effort to reach unbelievers with the Gospel, and the church rose to the call to evangelize. Numbers across the board rose: people made professions of faith, were baptized, and added to church roles. From all outward appearances, the church was strong and vibrant.
Now we have entered the new millennium and the church is in decline. In fact, some denominations are in free-fall and are desperately trying to formulate a plan for their survival. What happened? How did we go from what appeared to be a time of prosperity to what we have today? The answer for the problems we face is found within the church itself. Now, I know we face a determined adversary who seeks to hinder the growth of the church, but until we are willing to admit our need and take necessary steps to change it, the church will continue to decline.
Let’s take a moment to consider the approach during the boom in church growth, just a few decades ago. Churches were doing a great job reaching those who needed Christ. They were being faithful to share the Gospel, but, for the most part, there was no plan to disciple those who had come to faith in Christ. Many of those who were added to church roles never grew in their faith. They were never grounded spiritually, and many of them have fallen by the wayside. Of those who remain, many of them were never discipled themselves, and thus they are not engaged in discipleship efforts. The great harvest of the late 20th century has failed to reproduce itself and we are reaping a meager harvest as a result. If we are to reach those who need Christ, stabilize the exodus from the church, and ensure spiritual health for the future, we must prepare our people to disciple others. When discipleship is weak or lacking, the church will face decline.
Over the next several weeks, I hope to examine the biblical approach to discipleship in an effort to equip Fellowship to effectively disciple others. Today I want to consider the facets of Jesus’ invitation as we discuss: The Call to Discipleship. This statement is not difficult to understand. In fact, it is very simple and yet very profound.
I. The Presentation of the Call – And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Consider:
A. The Invitation – Follow me. Jesus offered a simple invitation to Simon Peter and Andrew, his brother. There was nothing special about these men. They were simple fishermen, and yet Jesus invited them to follow Him. He came to them and extended the call.
This invitation is separate from salvation, and yet the Lord extends the invitation to all who have received Him in salvation. He comes to ordinary people, where they are, and invites them to follow Him. Many are saved and yet they have not surrendered themselves to follow Christ in obedience. If you are saved, you are invited to follow Jesus.
B. The Expectation – Follow me. As Jesus invited Peter and Andrew to follow Him, he fully expected them to do so. He did not expect them to debate the call or hesitate in following. They were not idle men; they were busy engaged in work of their own, but the Lord invited them to follow Him in pursuit of His divine plan.
I fear that many today view the invitation of Jesus as something to consider or pursue at a later time. The call to discipleship is being extended today, and the Lord expects us to heed the call. He does not invite us to consider joining in His work, or delaying such pursuit to a more convenient time. He mentions nothing about taking the time to pray about the matter. He is calling today for us to follow Him, and He fully expects us to respond in obedience to His call. I am not advocating we shouldn’t pray, but we don’t have to pray about following the Lord.
C. The Obligation – Follow me. Again this call was not extended for their consideration. Jesus had spoken and they were obligated to follow. He would not have forced them if they were unwilling, but they were obligated to respond favorably to the call.
Many likely feel the call is reserved for the pastor, deacons, Sunday school teachers, or others in leadership positions. Jesus is calling every believer to follow Him, and if we desire to live within the will of God, we must follow Him. This is the basis for our service to Christ. As believers, we have an obligation to follow the Lord wherever He leads!