We Must Make Disciples (Part I)

The goal of the Great Commission is not just for someone to pray a prayer, rather the goal is discipleship. The emphasis in the Great Commission is not on “go,” but on “make disciples” by teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded.[1]

 “The participle [“go”] is probably better translated ‘when you go’ or ‘as you go’”[2] and thus it is a command for all of us in all the phases of our lives to make disciples. “The commission is not fundamentally about mission out there somewhere else in another country. It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple.”[3]

We can read the Bible because faithful men did not let the chain of discipleship be broken; even with great distress and peril to their lives. But the question is: are we going to be faithful? Are we going to pass on the gospel and the message of radical discipleship? Or are we going to be the weak link? Will we make disciples as the Great Commission commands?

The fields are white for harvest and God promises that if we ask Him for laborers He will send them; however, we must be faithful to teach them. Gospel work is not meant to be done by one person. We are called to work together and make disciples who in turn, make disciples themselves.

If there was a lot of work to be done in harvesting a field, wouldn’t it make sense to recruit help? Would not more work get done with many hands? Many hands make light work or, at least, more work accomplished. It is not only thoroughly biblical to make disciples, it is also logical.

Imagine a farmer was given the task by the king of the land to sow enough seed and harvest enough crops to feed the entire kingdom. How foolish would it be if he sought out to sow the seed and bring in the harvest all by himself? He would fail miserably. Even if he worked terribly hard he would still not be able to cultivate enough food to feed the entire kingdom. The farmer needs fellow laborers but he must also equip them for the task. He must teach them and give them tools.

What would the king’s response be if the farmer failed to bring in enough food because he failed to recruit or equip the laborers he did recruit? The king would surely be outraged. The farmer would be found unfaithful because he did not train the labors so that he could complete the task. Will we hear this same indictment from the King?

Ezekiel 33:6 warns against the watchman that does not blow the trumpet and warn the people that the sword is coming. If we have the gospel, we are responsible to share it. We are responsible to warn men and women of the sword of God’s wrath which is to come. We are also responsible to share the blessed hope that we have in the cross of Christ by which that wrath of God has been diverted from us to Jesus.

Not long after Ezekiel cautions those who would not warn against the sword to come another warning is issued. A warning against those who would not feed God’s sheep, “Should not shepherds feed the sheep?” (Ezek. 34:2). The implied answer is, yes, they should. That is what shepherds do; they feed and take care of sheep. Later it says,

“You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up… So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for the wild beasts” (Ezek. 34:3-4).

That is the horrible result of a shepherd not taking care of and feeding his sheep. They become food for beasts. It is an eye opening picture for us. Imagine being a shepherd in a field and lapsing for one moment only to awake and find one of your sheep slaughtered, bloodied, ripped from limb to limb. Just a short lapse and a wild beast has destroyed what has been entrusted to your care.

We, the mature in Christ, not just pastor-shepherds, have been entrusted with being Christ’s under shepherds and faithfully caring for and feeding His flock. God wants us to be faithful and present every member of his body (every sheep) fully equipped lacking in nothing built up into Christ which is the head (Eph. 4:12; 15). 

Although, most believers will not hold the office of pastor and may never teach from a pulpit,[4] everyone is responsible to grow up in the faith and thus be able to teach, disciple, and minister to others (Eph. 4:11-13; 15; Col. 3:16; Titus 2:2-4; 1 Peter 4:10-11). Stephen is also an example of this (Acts 6:5; Ch. 7) and Timothy was taught by his grandmother as a child (2 Tim. 1:5). In Titus it says that older women are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children (2:3-4).

It is not just official pastors that these warnings from Ezekiel come to. It is all those that are called to faith in Christ, God’s royal priesthood. The sheep must be fed. Who will feed them? The call for discipleship has been issued to every believer. Each Christian must play their part.

Will you? Will you be faithful to make disciples?


[1] That, however, in no way negates the fact that we must make disciples of all nations: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the utter most parts of the world (Acts 1:8). See for example: Lk. 24:47, Matt. 28:19 (“all nations”), Rom. 1:5 says “for the sake of his name among all the nations,” and Ps. 96:3 says, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”

[2] Colin Marshal and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine (Kingford, Australia: Matthias  Media, 2009), 13.

[3]Ibid., 13.

[4] See qualifications for shepherd/pastor/elder: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11. Everyone is to strive to meet the qualifications even if they are not called to be in the office of pastor. 

Tags: , , , , ,

About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: