My recent thoughts on discipling got me to thinking, “do we really allow ourselves the necessary time to disciple others?” When you think about discipling, and especially the way Jesus did it, it was very labor intensive. That’s not to say that Jesus was overworked or even overwhelmed by it. To be clear, how Jesus discipled was well thought out and well worked over the course of three and a half years.
Although he taught thousands of people over that time, those who could without question be counted as disciples were far fewer. This in itself should go to denote that when you are talking about discipleship, it can’t be something that you accomplish through large numbers. While I love mega-ministry, I also am well aware that a person can become lost in them, if they allow themselves.
At most, you might consider that on the day the followers of Jesus went into the Upper Room when the day of Pentecost had fully come totaled 120 people. You might even consider that when Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs, that number amounted to 70. However, the safest number that you can consider are the 12 that we know for certain were called, and walked with him closely. These twelve followed Jesus closely and intently for those years of his earthly ministry.
Each of these disciples actually laid aside their careers and income, their reputations, sacrificed their family time and much more to follow him. For them to be discipled, they gave up much. Jesus likewise, committed everything to discipling them. Leaving his home, both in heaven and earth, he devoted those three plus years to teaching, modeling, and growing these twelve disciples. He put aside the carpentry work he’d learned from Joseph and took up the time show each of his chosen few, the difference between the greater ways of the Kingdom of Heaven and the lesser Mosaic traditions they had known and followed all their lives.
If we really looked at how much time Jesus spent with these few good men, you’d probably would be intimidated by the fact that the life we live now doesn’t really afford us the ability to disciple as Jesus did, or does it? Are we really too busy to disciple?
A study performed by the Fuller Institute revealed:
- 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis.
- 81%) of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church.
These statistics are just that of the pastors who were surveyed. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the vast larger numbers of ministers and laity who either work in full-time paid or non paid ministry. While it is true that we face career paths and numerous obligations that can seemingly engulf us to the point of feeling drowned by the level of responsibilities, it doesn’t have to mean that we can’t disciple as even we are to be discipled. I mentioned before that while Jesus did in fact spend a considerable amount of time with his disciples, the real take-away in this is that he was strategic and labor intensive in how he did it. He concentrated his efforts in the 12 that he chose to disciple.
Too often, we get the feeling that what we do doesn’t count unless we are casting a wide net, or drawing the most people. Regardless of whether you’re in full-time ministry, working your way upt the corporate ladder, or a stay-at-home soccer mom or dad, you can still fulfill the great commission in making disciples. Jesus, did cast a big net, but even in casting that wide net he was laser focused on the twelve. It was in these twelve that he saw something unique, and determined to deposit in them everything he had.
If you are determined to make discipling your goal, you have to first assert that you are going to be focused on a given number of people over a given period. Doing this will help in ensuring that (1) you aren’t stretching yourself too thin, (2) you give yourself time for refreshing your own energies, and (3) that those you are focused on really feel connected to you as a disciple maker.
QUESTION: Do you find yourself too busy for disciple making? What are some other things you think can help in giving you time to commit to the great commission?