Maybe They Don’t Make Disciples Because They’ve Never Been Discipled

I once talked with a pastor who was extremely discouraged.

“Our people refuse to disciple anyone. They expect the pastors to do all the work! No matter how many times I say it, they won’t take responsibility and do it. It’s so frustrating!”

I knew this pastor well. I knew this church well.

I decided to ask something and braced for a reaction.

“So have you ever discipled them on how to disciple someone else?”

In disbelief, he replied, “I’ve preached about so many times from the pulpit. We’ve held classes. I’ve provided resources, but they just won’t do it!”

“Yeah, I don’t think you heard my question. I asked if you had ever discipled them personally so that they could go and disciple someone else? Because if you haven’t, you are expecting them to do something that you haven’t done. Maybe they don’t make disciples because they’ve never been discipled.”

That was pretty much the end of the conversation.

The pastor was upset that people weren’t doing personal discipleship, yet he hadn’t done it himself with one single person in the congregation.

The truth hurts, but it is necessary.

I realize that as a pastor, I can’t expect anyone to do something that I’m not leading by example. It’s remarkable that we expect members in our churches to do something that we aren’t committed to personally.

Do you want your church to make disciples? Well, in addition to preaching about it, talking about it, teaching about it, have you ever thought about getting busy with it?

Have you ever wondered what Billy Graham would have done if he served as a local pastor instead of an evangelist? He was asked that question years ago and his response was recorded in Robert Coleman’s masterpiece, The Master Plan of Evangelism.  

In response to the question “If you were a pastor of a large church in a principal city, what would be your plan of action?” Mr. Graham replied: “I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve people around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laypeople who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. I know one or two church that are doing that, and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn’t spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me that there weren’t too many results. The great results, it seems to me, came to this personal interview and in the time he spent with his twelve.” Here Mr. Graham is merely echoing the wisdom of Jesus’ method (103).

Do you want to see your church make disciples? How about starting to make a few yourself?