This is the fifth post in our series called “What Is Disciple-Making All About?” Click the links for our first four posts regarding sharing life with others, multiplication (scroll down to page 4), the role of the Bible, and disciple-making as a process.
Every culture has its own proverbs to express earthy wisdom. The continent of Africa, with a multitude of cultures that respect tradition, community, and that collective understanding we call “common sense,” has produced many memorable proverbs. Teddy Roosevelt was fond of the west African proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” The Somali people, who love proverbs, would say, “If the advice of the elders had been listened to, the hyenas would have nothing to eat.” Recently through the leadership study Transformational Leadership I became reacquainted with another African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
As we continue in our series called What is Disciple-Making All About?, it seems important to highlight the cooperative nature of effective disciple-making. This is yet another element of our mission (Matthew 28:19–20) that we Westerners find somewhat countercultural. Americans tend to be highly individualistic and self-sufficient. Increasingly we segment types of people and specialize functions. These values and trends have served us well in certain regards. If we are to be effective disciple-makers, however, we must grow to think more in terms of “We” than “I.”
The Bible’s repeated references to diverse gifts and cooperation within the body of Christ (Romans 12:3–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–31; Ephesians 4:11–16) form only part of the biblical witness to the collective nature of the disciple-making task. Consider also the examples of Jesus, whose public ministry involved many disciples, not simply the twelve apostles; and Paul, who constantly references his ministry partners in his letters (Philippians 1:1, 2:19–30; Colossians 4:7–17; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). Even when Paul had a dispute with Barnabas over taking John Mark on their second missionary journey, both Barnabas and Paul chose companions when they departed (Acts 15:36–41). It is through Paul’s partnership with Dr. Luke that we even have the books of Luke and Acts (see the so-called “We” passages in Acts for Luke’s eyewitness perspective).
By God’s grace, many of us are becoming attuned to the call to go and make disciples. As we do this, let’s make sure we don’t isolate ourselves from one another, particularly those closest to us. A good first step is to include our families whenever possible in ministry. Besides being a good disciple-making practice for those we are seeking to reach, it is a powerful means to enrich our families. We can tell stories of what God is doing through our relationships with people, and ask fellow believers to pray for us, and offer to pray for them in their disciple-making efforts. Another great idea is to search out fellow believers in our spheres of influence and pray for those in these spheres with whom we have relational opportunities. All of these practices will strengthen our missonal efforts and help us to go far, as the proverb says, engaging disciple-making as a process.
Now it’s your turn. How have you made disciple-making a cooperative endeavor? Please leave us a comment!
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