Much has been said and written about the task of disciple-making, and we can be sure much more will be said and written in the future. We expect this since making disciple is the foundational, ongoing assignment given by Christ to his Church (Matt 28:18-20). But sometimes when much is said and written, we get lost in it all and fail to actually get busy doing something. So, if you wanted to start being more intentional in your disciple-making tomorrow, what would you do? Read a book or a blog, study your community, consult other believers, make a plan, then maybe get started in six weeks? There might be a place for that, but I think what Jesus calls us to can be much simpler.
In Luke 10, we see Jesus appointing seventy-two disciples whom he sent “two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go” (10:1). These were seventy-two disciples beyond the twelve that would be apostles. This means he’s not sending leaders or some spiritual green-berets. These are everyday disciples of Jesus. This is all of us. And what are they commissioned to do? Two things.
Labor in Preaching
In verse 2, Jesus talks about laborers going into the harvest field. He uses the imagery of a worker in the field to his commissioned disciples. Disciple-making is working, it’s laboring for the harvest of souls. But how do we know it involves preaching? We can make a great, logical argument for it from the whole Bible, but we don’t need to. We can see it right in the text. The seventy-two did many things, but preaching was essential. Notice that if we back up a few verses we see Jesus saying “Follow me” to an individual who wanted to first bury his father. But Jesus said that he ought to leave that behind for others to do, and instead “go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). So, Jesus himself is equating following him with going and proclaiming the kingdom.
So, what do we preach, what do we proclaim? The same thing that Jesus preached, his apostles preached, and these seventy-two preached—peace with God in his kingdom through repentance of sin and faith in Christ. We see that at the beginning of Jesus’ own mission, throughout the gospel, and just a few verses below here in Luke 10.
This is the simplest and most essential way to make disciples: preach the gospel. This doesn’t require standing in a pulpit or being a part of a formal church ministry. This kind of “preaching” can be done meeting someone over coffee, standing in line at the grocery, sitting on a couch with your kids, or by chatting with a neighbor. The point is that we’re opening our mouth to speak of Christ as the only Savior for sin and calling people to repentance and faith. There are many other ways we can serve people which will prepare them to hear the gospel or validate its message. But if you aren’t speaking the word of God to others about Jesus, then you’re simply not making disciples (Rom 10:11-17).
Labor in Prayer
Disciples make disciples by preaching Christ, and then praying for God to raise up more to make disciples. Jesus said to the seventy-two: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (10:2). There is a huge field of people, ready to hear the gospel and to be reaped into the church through faith in Christ. We can’t complete the task of disciple-making alone.
So, what do we do? We ask our heavenly Father for the very thing we need—more workers. Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” This prayer is just as much for the nations as it is for our neighborhoods. This is a prayer for missionaries who go out from among us. But it’s also for church members who live and serve with us.
So following the advice of others, week-by-week, I try to go page-by-page through our membership directory and pray something like, “Oh, Lord of the harvest, send your people as laborers into the harvest field. Help them to love their neighbor as themselves, to be compelled by the love of Christ to be ambassadors for him, appealing for sinners to be reconciled to God. Season their speech with the salt of grace and give them clarity and boldness that they may speak of the gospel as they ought. At home, at work, and around town, send them out and open doors that they may give an answer for the hope that is in them.” That’s how we ought to pray for one another, as well as for missionaries–that we will continue going with the gospel.
Get Busy Today
I love the much-needed studies of missiology and ecclesiology. I love those disciplines of study and those who think hard and write about such things. They shape my thinking and ministry. But don’t get lost in those things to the point of inactivity. I don’t need to digest all of what they say in order to start making disciples today. I simply need to take the opportunities I’ve been given to preach the gospel of Christ and pray for God to continue to raise up others who will do the same.