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Disciple Making Shift #1: From Church Members to Disciple Makers

Here’s the introduction to this series on 5 shifts to return to Jesus-style disciple making. 

First, here’s our problem: We want to make disciples but we have a problem. We aren’t making disciples who make disciples.

Thankfully, we have a guide. We have someone who can teach us: the Master Disciple Maker, Jesus. Here’s Jesus’ plan for us.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20)

Three Questions

Throughout these six articles, we are going to ask three questions of Jesus to help us discover 5 shifts to return to Jesus-style disciple making. Here are the three questions…

  1. Who are we? (Identity)
  2. How do we live? (Lifestyle)
  3. What is our end goal? (Vision)

This article focuses on question 1: Who are we?

Based on this passage, who did Jesus say we are? He said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”

We are disciple makers

We are people who reach the lost, train them to obey Jesus, and empower them to reach, train, and empower others.

Why start with identity? After all, if we want to make disciples like Jesus did, then shouldn’t we get straight into what to do? However, it’s who you are that shapes what you do. Your identity informs your lifestyle. Being drives doing. In order to do what Jesus said to do, we need to be who Jesus said to be.

Here’s our problem: We don’t see ourselves as disciple makers. We primarily see ourselves as church members. If we want to return to Jesus-style disciple making, then we have to shift from being church members to being disciple makers.

Shift 1: From being church members to being disciple makers

Some of you might think, “Preston, that sounds heretical! All our lives we’ve grown up as church members. To change that is dangerous.”

But many of you already do this. When you talk about your identity, most of you don’t say, “I’m a church member.” Many of you don’t say, “I’m a Christian.” The way many of you describe who you are is by saying you are a follower of Jesus.

Why do you do that? Because you understand that in our culture at this time when people say “I go to church” or “I’m a Christian,” it might not necessarily mean anything about what they believe or how they live. By identifying as a follower of Jesus, you want to make it clear to people that who you are and the life you live is shaped by the person Jesus.

Current Reality

Others of you might be thinking, “Preston, what’s the big deal if we primarily see ourselves as church members? You don’t actually think that affects the way we live, do you?” In my opinion, decades of preaching, teaching, speaking, and thinking about ourselves as church members has unintentionally resulted in a truncated understanding of who we are and what we do.

Who are we? We are church members! What do we do? We go to church! We pray, sing, take communion, give money, and listen to a sermon!

Being church members has largely shrunk what it means to follow Jesus to a spiritual experience for me to consume, in a sacred space, for an hour a week.

The Dream

Others of you might be wondering, “Preston, let’s say we began to preach, teach, talk, and think about ourselves as disciple makers. What difference would that make? After all, those are just words.”

Words create worlds. And this is the world I believe opens up when we see ourselves as disciple makers.

Who are we? We are disciple makers! What do we do? We reach the lost, train them to obey Jesus, and empower them to reach, train, and empower others!

Being disciple makers would expand what it means to follow Jesus. All of our thoughts, desires, words, and actions would have to be surrendered to King Jesus. We would strive to love and obey Jesus every day of the week. And instead of a private personal faith, being a disciple maker now explicitly calls for introducing more lost people to Jesus.

Just imagine: what would happen if we all saw ourselves as disciple makers?

Being church members results in doing church. Being disciple makers results in making disciples.

So, how do we start to make this shift? If you want to make the shift to being a disciple maker but don’t know how to practically start, I want to give you one simple tool.

An Identity Statement

Why an Identity Statement? The purpose of the Identity Statement is to train your mind to see yourself as a disciple maker.

What is an Identity Statement? You simply write down who you want to be. In this case, write down or type out, “I am a disciple maker.”

How do I use the Identity Statement? You write it, post it, say it, envision it, and go live it.

Write it down on a sticky note, piece or paper, or type it. Post it somewhere you will easily see it daily. Make it a daily discipline to look at it and say it out loud. Take a moment to see yourself reaching lost people you know, training them to obey Jesus, and empowering them to reach, train, and empower others. Once you’ve trained your mind, now go live it!

Being church members results in doing church. Being disciple makers results in making disciples.

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Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

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