There can be a lot of reasons to make disciples and the reason we have can have a large impact on the results that we get. If we make disciples out of obligation we make lack real connection with those we disciple. If we make disciples out of fear of making God angry we might make disciples who have a view of God as overbearing and graceless.
We need a solid “Why” when it comes to making disciples.
So why make disciples?
In the book “The Disciple Maker’s Handbook” Bobby Harrington and Josh Patrick lay out seven reasons to make disciples. Here are the seven reasons they give:
- We obey Jesus’ final command
- We follow Jesus
- We help people receive eternal life
- We give people the personal help they need
- We change lives
- We truly love others
- We live out the ministry of all believers
Harrington and Patrick make an important distinction. They point out that the focus of our lives is not discipleship. The focus of our lives is Jesus. Without Jesus in the center, our discipleship will be an exercise in futility. Some disciple making practices put people in the center rather than Jesus in the center and that always end in abusive practices. Jesus was not abusive. If you haven’t read their book, I hope you will buy it, read it and put it into practice.
Can we determine why Jesus made disciples? I believe if we can ascertain that, that it should be our purpose as well (our “Why?”).
Why do you think Jesus made disciples?
The Main Reason
All seven reasons are solid reasons to make disciples. One of them stands out above the rest. That reason is #6 – “we truly love others.” Love must be the driving motivator of making disciples. You can take the other 6 and remove love and you end up in trouble. If I include #6 but miss one of the others I will still land in a good place.
Take #1 – “We obey Jesus’ final command” and add “without love” and see what you get.
Take #2 – “We follow Jesus” and add “without love” and see what happens.
Love is the *primary* motivator for making disciples. It doesn’t take much more than John 3:16 to understand that love is what drove both the incarnation of Jesus and his death, burial and resurrection. God truly “gave” Jesus to the world and for the world out of love. And now God is giving us to the world and for the world and it must come out of love on our end.
Many of us don’t start there. Many of us start in fear – fear that God said to do it and we aren’t doing it and what will God think of us?
The apostle John gave us guidance on this in 1 John 4:16-21. I was tempted to only give verse 18 (perfect love drives out fear) but you really need the whole thought to make the whole point,
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
If we love people we will reach out to them. If following Jesus is the best life that could ever be lived (and it is) then we will want that for all. When you experience the love of God it is a greater motivator than fear. Maturation in Christ moves our motivation to discipleship to love.
Discipleship without love is almost always abusive. It may turn into a heartless system. Or maybe it becomes a checkbox ministry. Love is the heart and soul of making disciples and we saw it first in Jesus’ approach to making disciples. He loved relentlessly and it impacted the way he trained his disciples.
What to do if you lack love
If you lack love you can pray and ask God to increase your love for people. Ask God to open your heart to others. Second, begin acting in love and as we see people respond, our love for them will grow. Then you will be a disciple who can really make loving disciples who can make loving disciples. If love is absent, we are spinning our wheels.