We have come to see that “make disciples” is not just for missionaries; it is also about ministry in the congregations.
What did His disciples hear in the Greek word matheeteusate, make disciples?(Matthew 28:19)
According to Arndt and Gingrich, it means, “to be or become a pupil or disciple, become a disciple, make a disciple of.” No problem. But did His disciples hear more than that?
The disciples had been called by Him and trained by Him for some three years. He was training them to be His church and to build His church. He trained them that as they had received from Him, they would pass on to others. He was saying: “You, my disciples, are to make disciples of others.” That is, as I have trained you to pass it on, you are to train others so that they too pass it on. In the disciples’ experience, making disciples meant making disciples who would go on to make disciples. And so on...
We read Matthew 28:19 as applying to them and as applying to us. But I have to admit that my 45 year congregational ministry was strong on sermons (2 every week, and 2 or 3 services every Sunday), but little care that what was taught and preached was received and processed so it could be passed on to others. Yes, clear applications in the sermon, but little else. I had to get to work on next Sunday’s sermons. So with some embarrassment I have to admit that many of my hearers had little or no recall on Wednesday of what they heard preached on Sunday.
SUM: Jesus said to them, “Make disciples.” That is, Jesus was saying, I have made you into disciples; now you do the same. And that includes making disciples who make disciples. This takes time and effort.
Many of us, including me, have keen regret when we look back on ministry with little accountability for disciples being trained to make more disciples. And seldom did my disciples make disciples.
How shall we obey the one who calls us to make disciples who make disciples, with Him as our model?