Jesus’ final words to his followers before he ascended into heaven were:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Every Christian church and mission of the past two millennia are the fruit of this mandate to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” But what does that mean?
Jesus had a profound ministry and impact on the world.
- He taught about the Kingdom of God and presented the gospel (good news) that God wants to restore the relationship with humanity that has been broken by sin and failure to live up to God’s standards.
- Jesus taught that salvation is through him, and him alone.
- The climax of his ministry was his death on the cross for the sins of all mankind and his resurrection on the third day, demonstrating that sin and death were defeated.
- In his parting words to his followers, he instructed them to go and share this good news to people everywhere and make disciples.
A disciple is one who chooses to follow Jesus.
Ultimately, Jesus calls his disciples to make disciples, who will make disciples. It is through this factor of multiplication that Christianity has grown and spread into every nation of the world.
Making Disciples in our Current Context
Outreach Canada was formed with the vision of discipling our nation. As Murray Moerman has stated,
Discipling a nation to Jesus Christ does not envision all citizens and institutions in the nation turning to Christ. But it does envision a real and meaningful opportunity for the majority of its citizens and institutions to hear, see and understand the gospel, resulting in a significant proportion of the nation becoming devoted followers of Jesus Christ. (Moerman. Discipling Our Nation, Delta: Church Leadership Library, 2005.)
Discipleship has looked different in past generations. It has taken the form of catechisms, curriculums, result-based programs, self-guided studies, Bible study series, and much more.
No matter how well the church may have done in the past, the challenge of discipling our nation is new and fresh with each new generation.
His relationship with his followers was at the heart of Jesus’ disciple-making. They lived, ate, traveled, learned, and suffered together as they discovered Jesus, the son of God.
I believe that effective discipleship in our current context is dependent on strong relationships. Outreach Canada is pioneering new methods for accomplishing the original mandate to make disciples in our nation.
While there is an abundance of discipleship resources available, we are emphasizing the need for ongoing relationships with people who are discovering and learning to follow Jesus. One of the most effective new methods is one of the oldest methods. Discovery Bible Study is a simple method of introducing and studying the Bible while focusing on the message, application, and obedience.
Discipleship isn’t complicated. It can be pretty simple and effective if it is tied to meaningful relationships.
Over the next few months, we will be featuring a series of blogs on Disciple Making.
We will present different stories, methods, and strategies proving fruitful in Canada. We will also suggest some paradigm shifts that need to take place for effective discipleship in our culture and context. Finally, we will offer opportunities to equip you to be a disciple of Jesus who makes disciples of Jesus.
We hope we will challenge and encourage you as you respond to Jesus’ Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.
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Dr. Craig Kraft is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada. After 15 years of pastoral ministry in western Canada, Craig, with his wife Heather, served with OC in southern Africa before returning to lead the ministry in Canada. Craig is a graduate of Northwest Baptist Seminary at ACTS and a graduate of Asia Graduate School of Theology with a Doctor of Intercultural Studies. His study has focused on diaspora missiology in Canada. His dissertation explores the potential for revitalizing Canadian churches through the practice of biblical hospitality with refugees and immigrants. Craig loves to watch sports, work in the yard & spend time in the woods.