A SMALL SHIFT TO TURN DISCIPLES INTO DISCIPLE MAKERS

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Sometimes, small shifts change everything.

I was neck deep in student ministry. On Monday nights, I discipled a small group of guys in the Word. Tuesdays, I mentored young leaders. Wednesday nights brought basketball, then youth group. Thursdays and Fridays, I prepped for summer camps or a short-term mission trip. Sunday usually meant I was teaching the high school group, plus an afternoon mission team meeting. Summers were full of camps, interns, and student leadership teams.

Most of this routine seemed to be going well. New students were coming to Christ. Young people were maturing in their love for Jesus and his Word. Adults from the church were deeply invested in the lives of the youth. We had much to celebrate.

But one thing puzzled me. Students were becoming disciples, but they weren’t becoming disciple makers. They weren’t turning around and investing in others with the same intentionality and focus that we were investing in them. What was the problem?

We glimpse a shift in Mark 1 when Jesus encounters Simon, Andrew, James, and John beside the Sea of Galilee. You probably remember his famous invitation: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Their response is amazing! They drop their nets, leave their dad in the boat, and turn the family business over to hired hands to follow Jesus. We wonder, What could prompt this type of radical, dramatic, faith-filled response? How can I get my students to respond like this?

The truth is, this scene was less dramatic than we realize—but far more significant. Jesus probably knew these guys for over a year-and-a-half. (Mark hints at this when he reveals that this happened after John the Baptist was imprisoned.) John 1 through 5 had already happened. These disciples knew who Jesus was. They’d responded to his invitations to “come and see,” “repent and believe,” and “follow me.” Each of these callings were steps on the journey to becoming disciples of Jesus.

shifts_quoteIt started with simple relationship and pre-evangelism (“come and see”). Then they gave their lives to Jesus through repentance and faith (“repent and believe”). As new believers, they were invited to grow in him by learning to be like him (“follow me”). In Mark 1, Jesus challenges them to take the next step: to move from followers to followers who fish. It’s no longer enough to simply grow in Jesus. It’s time for them to make disciples of others.

Jesus showed up at the Sea of Galilee that day and did something simple and profound. He told his disciples where they were, and where they needed to go next. He issued a challenge. He declared the next steps of the journey. And it changed their lives.

This raises two significant questions for us, as we work with young people:

1) Does your ministry include the whole disciple-making process? Do you have opportunities for lost people to be found (come and see, repent and believe)? Are new believers cared for and rooted in the faith (follow me)? Are believers being trained and equipped to disciple others (fishers of men)? Too often, we focus on just one of these areas. But true disciple-making involves each step of this process.

2) Are you inviting and challenging students to take the next step? This was the little shift that brought big results for me. I realized that we had disciple-making opportunities in each part of the process, but I wasn’t specifically challenging students to move. So I sat down, grabbed a pen and paper, and identified which students were in each of these areas. Then I met with them individually, and encouraged them to take the next step. This intentional step changed some of their lives. They started making disciples. They began mentoring younger believers. Some have even given their lives to working with young people. And all it took was a simple, specific conversation—sort of like the conversation Jesus had with his disciples.

Sometimes, small shifts change everything

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