Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV 1984)
Among the many things that Jesus did throughout his ministry, teaching seems to be the most widely recognized. Even among those who do not believe Jesus to be the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, most people recognize Jesus as being a great teacher. Jesus taught crowds of people, but perhaps more importantly, Jesus taught a few disciples whom he commanded to teach others in order to make disciples, who in turn were to teach others to make disciples, and so on.
It’s very simple: disciples of Jesus are learners who teach others. With “all authority in heaven and on earth,” Jesus tells his followers to make disciples who make disciples. There is no question that this is an important task for the church, if not the most important task. How should we, the church, accomplish our task? Again, Jesus told his followers: “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
The plan is pretty simple. If we are to teach everything Jesus commanded, we must learn what Jesus commanded. It fits perfectly with the process of making disciples that I outlined in my last article and in the first several sermons of the new year: know God; follow Jesus; change the world. How do we get to know God? Listen and learn. How do we follow Jesus? Listen, learn, and practice. How do we change the world? Listen, learn, practice, and teach.
What are we listening to? What are we learning? What are we practicing? What are we teaching? The answer to each begins in the Bible. The starting point of our faith is hearing God’s Word: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, NIV 1984). The rest of our growth and fulfillment of our task as learners, practicers, and teachers is found in the Bible: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NIV 1984).
Having discussed this with many preachers, church leaders, and church members, I can say with confidence that the primary reason why many Christians don’t make disciples is because they don’t believe they know enough. And yet, the number of Christians who participate in any kind of Bible study (personal reading, meditation, Sunday school, small group studies, etc.) is staggeringly low. A 2012 study found only 19 percent of “churchgoers” read the Bible daily (14 percent, weekly; 26 percent, a few times per week; 18 percent, rarely). It’s no wonder so many Christians struggle with discipleship; few are active learners, fewer still teachers.
Let me offer a challenge: commit yourself to learning more Bible for two months. If you commit to reading the Bible daily for two months and/or participating in a weekly group Bible study for two months, you will find that not only do you know more but have more desire to share what you have learned with others. To help you develop the habit of being a learner so that you can also be a teacher, we have made available a daily Bible reading plan.
We also have several Bible study groups that meet each week (Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday; ask for details). We also have one home-based Bible study that meets monthly. If none of those options meet your needs, let me know and we will figure it out together. As we learn together, we will know God better, follow Jesus more closely, and change the world!