Missionaries Make Disciples as Commanded – part 29

Jesus discipled people, and they went and discipled other people. (Luke 10:1) Peter stood up one day, and thousands of people came to Christ. Soon after that, the disciples were so busy waiting tables that everything was out of control. Mass evangelism is not the goal of Jesus, nor is being a missionary who makes no disciples at all. Many missionaries are on the field but are not making disciples. If you are going halfway around the world to be a missionary, you need to have at least this one tool in your belt: how to make disciples. Actually, Jesus had his disciples making other disciples early on in their ministry.

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

(NIV John 15:8)

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples.

(NIV John 4:1-2)

When you begin to make disciples, make them in your country of origin before you go all the way to China. If you can make them at home, you can make them in China. Making disciples is like raising children. You have to put the spoon in the baby’s mouth. You have to clean up the food around the lips and feed it back to the child. Read the word of God with them. Follow the Bible Reading Plan with them. Let them see the words on the page. Open the Bible and have them read it. Remember babies will not feed themselves and your disciple or disciples will not read the Bible alone. You need to be with them to make sure they are getting fed. I cannot stress enough that they will not read it on their own, just as a baby will not feed itself for the first year.

The problem you will have when you go to China to a remote unreached people is that they will not have a Bible. You will have to translate the word of God into their language. You will not be able to disciple them in Mandarin either, since they will not understand enough Mandarin to grow into a healthy adult Christian. In your country of origin, however, where they speak the national language and have a Bible translated, read the Bible with them. If you can, do this in their house and in their room. They need to learn to feed themself in the place where they are under the most spiritual warfare.

You have to feed your baby in his spiritual atmosphere so that the spiritual battle is broken there in their room of their home. One day when your child is able to feed himself by himself in his own spiritual atmosphere, he will the be able to feed himself when you are not there. This is the first stage of getting to in any discipleship: when your baby can feed himself when you are NOT there. If you invite them to a place of peace to read the scriptures, they feel peace. But when they return home, to their own room, the spiritual war wages against them, and they have no strength to feed themselves. They are babies. You must put the spoon in their mouth.

Make your disciple in the place where he needs to grow, not in a church building

The spiritual battle must be broken over your baby in his room. This is why you cannot do discipleship in church buildings. If you disciple him in the church building, your baby will be ten years old and not know how to feed himself, dress himself, or walk. If you think you can make disciples in your church building, ask yourself this question: “Are your disciples are making other disciples?” If not, they cannot walk. If they do not read their Bibles on their own, they cannot feed themselves. Once your babies are feeding themselves, they then need to quickly learn how to walk. Once they have broken the spiritual warfare and can feed themselves, they can begin to feed others, just like the learned from you!

You need to feed your new baby every day, or he will starve. He needs food every day, not just on Sundays. Discipleship is hard work and requires much time and energy. If you only have time for one disciple, do your job right and spend time every day, or as much as you can with them in their rooms of their houses reading and teaching the Bible to them. Prayer is important, and your baby should know the basic prayers, but your child needs to learn to feed himself with the Gospels.

Once they have the foundation of reading the Gospels on their own and for a year or two, now they will be effective when they pray. We need to pray prayers that are aligned to the word of God. If we do not know the word of God our prayers will not be very effective. We need to pray what and how the word of God teaches. Once your baby can feed himself, then he can learn to dress himself. Once he feeds and dresses himself consistently, then he can walk — make other disciples! The dressing part will come naturally as they feed themselves and feed others. Prayer will flow naturally out of their knowledge of the word of God.

Solid prayer comes from knowing Jesus through the scriptures. If you are a missionary where the Gospel has not been taken before, it is likely that there are no scriptures in the language of your disciples, so you will have to translate the word of God first. Once you have a few chapters done, you can begin making your first disciples as you will have begun to learn their language. You can teach them by your own voice as they may never learn to read their own language. In a hard to learn language this will be about the fourth or fifth year of language learning. You won’t start translating before you learn the language fairly well.

Some missionaries may want to get the translation of the Gospels and other books in the New Testament done before making disciples. They possibly are taking precautions in case the authorities want to kick them out of the area or the country. Secretly, they are getting as much of the scripture translated, before they expose themselves by making disciples. This is done in many situations. It varies. There is no formula. You can do your own research on where Christian persecution is happening (where persecution is happening there are Christians). But an extreme situation would be where any kind of discipleship is punished by expulsion from the country, jail time, torture, beatings, or death.

If you work in an area that has any level of those things, you might want to get a good portion of the New Testament translated and recorded and have a plan for distribution before you start exposing yourself. This is up to you and there is no formula. Every situation is different. You cannot follow hard rules set by traditional Bible translator sending agencies. You must become a non-traditional Bible translating disciple making missionary.

Once you have a disciple, he is your child. He is your responsibility, not the pastor’s responsibility. If you win people to Christ and do not make disciples of them, you are doing spiritual abortions. Disciples that cannot feed and dress themselves will soon die, even if they continue to go to church meetings. Most people pass their spiritual newborn babies on to baby sitters inside church buildings. They hope that their newborns will get what they need on Wednesdays and Sundays.

On the mission field, they commonly pass their newborns off to toddlers who can barely walk. This will not do. You will have rapid exponential weak church-planting movements, if you pass your newborn babies off to other children that are one or two years old in Christ. That newborn child is yours, and you must help them eat and walk finally learning to reproduce themselves in others. They need to bare fruit, as Jesus commanded us all to do. (John 15:8) Had every Christian made one solid disciple and emphatically taught them to make one more, there would be no remote unreached people groups today.

Missionaries Disciple Remote Peoples to Reach Other Remote Peoples

There are places in the world where missionaries coming from the modern cities have not been very successful. Remote people groups are in need of missionaries that are more accustomed to their situations. For example, the remote islands of Indonesia could be reached by people from the Amazon jungle. The indigenous peoples from the mountains of Latin America could more easily reach the people of Western China and Tibet. The remote peoples in Africa could possibly be much more effective reaching neighboring peoples.

In most cases, the remote peoples are more suited to reach their neighboring peoples but this doesn’t seem to be the way that God always works. Firstly, remote people groups don’t have Christians. If there are some, they usually do not have a solid foundation coming from the word of God because it has not been translated into their language yet. Secondly, neighboring peoples are not always as accepting to their neighbors because of conflict or ethno-religious or ethno-political views. They are distinct people groups for a reason and sometime that reason is because of a difference that is a barrier to the flow of the Gospel. One tribe is different from another because of a reason (a barrier) and thus is less accepting of their neighbors. There could be trust issues as well because of whatever. A foreigner, or at least someone from farther away would not carry that history, that baggage into the people group. When I say foreigner I am referring to an outsider, not necessarily a white Western or European missionary. They could be an outsider that blends in. An entire book could be written on this subject and it would be very important for the missionary movement.

The point I am trying to make is this. You, the missionary to remote unreached peoples must begin to see your unreached people group as future missionaries to other remote unreached people groups. They may be neighboring groups and then again they may not. However, your people group is part of the plan. They too will become missionaries or carriers of the Gospel if they are discipled correctly.  Your people group are missionaries, too. If you don’t disciple them with this in mind, they will not grow into mature adult Christians. They will eat, dress themselves and maybe walk but never run.

Any Christian who does not understand the Father’s plans and who does not participate in those plans is not an adult Christian. An adult helps his father out with the family business. I live on a mission field where the original missionaries did not understand this. One hundred years later, the church is twice as divided, and it is twice as hard to persuade the local church body about the great commission.

If you are being a missionary to a people group in your country of origin, and if you are from a neighboring people group, you can probably fit in better than any outside missionary. The important thing to understand here is that your people group who is being discipled by you needs to understand from the beginning that they should be reaching neighboring or other unreached people groups and even remote groups in other countries. Your remote unreached people group is part of God’s plan to reach other unreached people groups. The great commission is for them too.

It is hard to envision that one day the remote unreached people group in which you are ministering will be sending missionaries, but you need to have faith and vision for this. Jesus has a plan, and it works. Our problem is that we are always trying to hurry up the process. Discipleship takes a long time. It takes a long time to raise good children. Our disciples will not need many of the things other missionaries need. It will be a whole lot easier for them to accept the models Jesus gave us in the Gospels.

They are the new wave of missionaries and will accept the explicit New Testament Gospels model as the way to do the missionary task. The people from these remote areas are more conditioned to the physical rigor of life among similar remote unreached people groups (neighboring or possibly not neighboring people groups). They can also understand the worldview and possibly learn language more easily than those of us from the modern world. Even though the local people would be much better missionaries and have less hurdles going to their own people groups, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Below are situations where an outside foreign or similar culture missionary is needed. For lack of better words we will use the term cross-cultural missionary.

Situations where a cross cultural missionary is needed:

1 The people group has no Christians who can disciple their neighboring peoples.
2 The church that speaks the national language has not caught the vision to reach the people groups in their own country.
3 The church that speaks the national language does not see their own country as a mission field.
4 The people group in the remote areas do not trust nationals or neighboring groups (like themselves) coming into their area for whatever reason.
5 The country is so closed to any opposing religious activity that the few Christians that exist are not considering being missionaries to their neighboring people groups. Or, they are not mature enough to take the persecution that will come if they take the Gospel to them.
6 They have not been taught the Fathers plan, because the foreign missionaries do not have the foresight or the belief that they can do it. Or think they cannot take the persecution of preaching to the remote people groups in their own country.

On occasion, I have taught discipleship and missions to remote people groups. I’ve always been amazed at the physical stamina and resistance of the indigenous people. I believe they will make the perfect missionaries to the remote peoples around the world. We just need to envision this and keep teaching until they grow to the point of going as missionaries.

God is sending Africans, Asians, Latin’s, and others into remote unreached peoples. God is also sending the indigenous peoples from the remote areas that have received the Gospel. This is a key piece of the puzzle toward finishing the great commission, and we need to be praying for this and discipling them for it. We must intentionally disciple them toward missions.

One morning, I was in the kitchen of the mission training center in the Tarahumara area which are several remote people groups and languages with a very young body of believers. I was showing pictures of the Amdo people of Tibet to a twelve-year-old who had accompanied her mother that morning. They need to know that they play their part in God’s plan to disciple the world. They need to know that they will make excellent missionaries. In many ways, they will be more adept than city people. They were amazed that they could be involved in the great commission. I wonder if anyone had ever told them that part of Christianity.

A young man came to our house recently; he is from the Zapotec people. He and another young man from the Otomi people are going to India as missionaries. We have had several indigenous people in our mission training program and some are now missionaries to other people groups. They are indigenous people in the same country of the people groups they are missionaries to. The cultures are similar but separated by a thousand miles and a complete branch of language. It was interesting to me that they thought that it would be easier for them to go to remote peoples. It was much easier for them physically and they have more resistance to the remote life and yet the effort is completely cross-cultural. They are in a very different culture and language. There are no similarities in their languages. Culturally they are also very different. They have the same lifestyle living in a remote village and they are more accepted in their people groups because neighboring groups are enemies literally. They are more adept to live among them and understand them but the culture is very different and they did not speak the language at all.

Disciple Making Movements

I was recently talking to someone who is in the strategic planning group of a ministry that is making disciples among ethnic peoples. They told me that there are about one hundred, “church planting movements, or CPMs,” around the world today. Some people in Africa are now calling them “disciple making movements – DMMs.” Basically, local leaders from their own countries are starting thousands of churches in their area. This number, “thousands,” is what raises a red flag in my mind. One of these DMMs is in a country in Northern Africa, and apparently some leaders are saying that, even though they are starting thousands of churches, this is not enough.

Why it is not enough? The first reason is because they say that they are discipling a leader in about three months. That was told to me personally. Do you remember being discipled in three months? It takes twelve to eighteen months to disciple someone to feed themself and walk on their own. This is only the beginning of discipleship. The other thing that raises a red flag in my mind is that any solid discipleship requires you have the New Testament in your language.  The beginnings of discipleship require you to teach your disciples emphatically to make another disciple. AND if everything goes well your disciple will grow.

I should take about three years to disciple someone who is going to endure and make many other disciple-making disciples. That is a minimum and Jesus did this. We are not Jesus but know who long it took him. How many months does it take a real baby to start feeding himself, dressing himself and walking well? After about four years, children will be able to completely dress themselves. That is the minimum of how long it takes to make a solid disciple. Some people will take longer depending on the gap between your culture and theirs and your understanding of their language.

Even so, were you a mature Christian when you were four years old in Christ? No. You knew the basics: you could eat, dress yourself, walk, and interact with others. Jesus walked in all the fullness and power of God and was the Messiah, and it took him three years to make solid disciples, so how is it that we can do it in three months? I don’t think we can. The other reason their movement of a thousand churches is not enough is because they are not instilling vision for the people to reach other people groups from the beginning. The great commission is simply left out. They are probably not emphatically teaching their disciples to make other disciples and verifying the process. They might be doing all this with a hand full of Bible stories in the local language. This is why they need so many churches to be able to consider it an enduring movement. It is a mile wide and an inch deep. When will we ever learn? Read this following statement and then think about it for about five minutes: Jesus Christ took three long, hard years to make his disciples, and he is God. How long would it take you to make solid disciples of the same quality?

Discipleship takes time

Discipleship is time-consuming; it takes three years to make a disciple. There is one phrase you need to get out of this section about discipleship: it is time-consuming. If you want to start a disciple-making movement like Jesus did, you need to spend one and a half years spoon-feeding the New Testament to your disciple in their own home and in the room in which they will be feeding themselves. I cannot over emphasize this point — It may take 100 of those 500 days over that eighteen-month period, and in the beginning, you will be there with them those first 50 or 75 days. The spiritual battle is broken in the room of the disciple so that they can then read the word of God in their home with no hindrances.

You must enter the home to break the warfare over it. Then you must disciple your baby so that he is able to read alone without your help. Then you emphatically teach him or her to make another disciple, just like you did, within the next one and a half years, watching over them and nurturing them all throughout the three-year process. Once your disciple is eighteen months old, they should be in the room of their own disciple and be spoon-feeding them the New Testament. Then, you might have the time to look for another. Here is one important key: if your disciple’s disciple does not have a disciple in eighteen months, you have done something wrong, or you have not spent enough time with them. The other important key is if your movement stops at the people group or language in which you started, you have not correctly taught Jesus’s model to take the Gospel to every nation/ethnos – ta ethne. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The sign that a true discipleship-making movement exists is only when the discipleship goes beyond our geographic and linguistic boundaries. You will not be able to track thousands of disciples making other disciples. You should not track the numbers. A better use of your time would be making another disciple. Your discipleship movement will have spread so wide that it will be impossible to know the numbers. This will require a major portion of the New Testament translated and recorded in audio is you can if your people group doesn’t read. Your disciple will have to use audio to make his disciple. That audio may be the sound waves coming from his or her mouths.

I will be adding to this blog the discipleship principles I share in this article on a section called “How to do missionary discipleship”. Look for it. May God bless you as you look for a disciple.