November 2018 Blog Theme: Finishing the Race of Disciple Making
Making disciples is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a life-long commitment, not a spontaneous fad that withers over time. Over the years, I have seen people begin with a fiery passion to walk with God, reach their world and invest in a few, only to become distracted or disillusioned. However, there have been a few I have watched that continue to make disciples, year in and year out over their lifetimes. Herman Reece is a man like this. Herman was a member of the church I pastored in Oklahoma in my early years of ministry. By training, Herman was a successful and respected Maxillofacial surgeon, but at heart, he was a passionate disciple maker. As a young pastor, I watched Herman meet with businessmen for lunch and actively share his faith. I saw him carve out time from his already over-packed schedule to disciple businessmen and train them to walk with God.
Many of the renowned business leaders in Oklahoma City have been personally led to the Lord and discipled by Herman. Somehow in all of this, he still made time to visit with me and hold me accountable to walk with God and invest my life in others. Today, Herman is well into his eighties, and he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Recently, I received a text message from him, encouraging me to stay the course and make disciples. Herman is a lifer! That’s what I want to be. I want to be a man who goes about quietly, faithfully and consistently sharing the Gospel with those in my sphere of influence and training men to follow Jesus and to make disciples for a lifetime.
So how do you live out this call of Jesus over the long haul? Let me give you a few practices that will help you go the distance. First, keep your personal walk with Jesus healthy. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher,” (Luke 6.40 ESV). You can only reproduce what you, yourself are. And you will never produce healthy disciples of Jesus if you are not a healthy disciple of Jesus. Those who have failed to make disciples over time were those who stopped doing the basics themselves, and slowly began to lose the power from God that only comes from walking in His Spirit. This is why one of Jesus’ last words to His disciples were: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15.4-5 NIV).
Just as a branch must stay vitally connected to the trunk of the vine in order to bear fruit, you must stay vitally connected to Jesus so that His Spirit and power can flow through you to make a difference in people’s lives. This happens as you read and savor God’s Word every day, allowing His Word to “dwell among you richly,” (Colossians 3.16 NIV). This also happens as you saturate your life with prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit, yielding every day to His control in your life (Galatians 5.25 ESV). People who cultivate a healthy walk with God over time surround themselves with like-minded believers who hold them accountable and help them to stay focused on Jesus and His mission. They also take advantage of resources: books, recordings, seminars and conferences that keep their focus clear and their disciple-making skills sharp. Many set personal goals, asking God to give them a certain number of people to disciple every year. As I watched Herman over my time with him, he did all the above. He was constantly memorizing Scriptures, saturating his heart with God’s Word, spending time in prayer and cultivating his inner man so that God could use him in a powerful way.
This is an excerpt from the book Invest in a Few by Craig Etheredge, which you can purchase here.
Second, people who make disciples for a lifetime keep their heart focused on reaching their world with the Gospel. Herman was always connecting with men who were outside of God’s family. I remember how he intentionally built a relationship with the Chief Executive of a prominent horse racetrack in town. Over time, the two forged a lasting friendship. Eventually Herman led this man to Christ and trained him to walk with God. That man went on to boldly share with the business community, how Jesus had fundamentally and powerfully changed his life! If you want to make disciples for a lifetime, you must prioritize being with and befriending people far from God where you live, learn, work and play.
Third, people who make disciples for a lifetime, are committed to continually investing their lives in others and making disciples well into the third and fourth generations. Long after I left the church in Oklahoma to pastor in Texas, Herman would regularly call to check up on me. He would say, “Craig, who are your disciples?” He expected me to be able to give him the names of the men I was currently investing in spiritually. If I hesitated, he would quickly and firmly encourage me to gather a few men around me to disciple. Another man who has made disciples for a lifetime, once said to me, “Craig, never be content to tell people to make disciples. You must always have someone you are personally discipling.” He would go on to say that “We can’t afford to take a break because the Devil doesn’t take a break!”
People like Herman don’t make disciples for a lifetime by accident. They make intentional decisions that allow their lives to make an eternal impact. And if you want to be a lifer, you must do the same. You must intentionally cultivate a healthy walk with God yourself. You must intentionally identify and reach out to people far from God in your sphere of influence, and you must intentionally invest your life in a few – day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. If you do that, one day you will look over your shoulder and see that God used you to ignite a movement of multiplication that can never be stopped!
Written by Craig Etheredge
This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book Invest in a Few, which you can purchase here.