Updated: Apr 15, 2022
Jesus calls all of His people to go forth and make disciples, so why is it so hard to get others to obey?
Mobilizing others to join us in making disciples can feel a lot like the Parable of the Soils. Some aren’t interested, some initially get excited but quickly fall away, and others get caught up in life's many cares. A life of disciple making requires sacrifice, so it makes sense why people are hesitant to answer the call. In this episode of the CDM Podcast, Paul and Rebecca address some underlying reasons why people shy away from reaching the lost, as well as what it's going to take for us to be true disciples who make disciples.
Excuses, Excuses. . .
When we start taking seriously the call to go and make disciples, we can get so excited by the principles we’re learning and applying, but as soon as we invite other believers to join us, we often get a variety of excuses.
Two of the most common responses we get are:
People who don’t really listen to us or show any interest at all.
People who initially get very excited by the stories we share of what God is doing and readily join us, but within six months their interest wanes, they ghost us and abandon disciple making.
In the end, the main reason why people aren’t interested in, or don’t continue, disciple making is because eventually it changes everything.
It changes our hearts.
It changes our outlook on life.
It will most likely change how we do life.
It changes how we do ministry.
It's not that there's nothing that will look exactly the same, but disciple making can turn our lives upside down if we take it seriously.
Right now in our Christian culture we tend to view the Great Commission and loving our neighbor — i.e. the people outside of our family, immediate friends and church — as something that “super Christians” do.
In reality, when it comes to disciple making, the Great Commission is supposed to be normal for all believers. There's a reason why it's called the Great Commission; Jesus gave it to everybody, so when we don't do it, we're not passing up on an optional upgrade for overachievers, we're sinning.
The Parable of the Soils
The parable of the soils in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 is a perfect story for what is going on when it comes to people’s responses to disciple making.
In this parable, a farmer sows seed on four different kinds of soil. The first soil is so hard that the seed doesn't even take root. It's just plucked away. These are the people who, upon hearing about disciple making, are completely uninterested.
The second two soils have to do with people who initially like what they’re hearing and start down the path of disciple making, but soon quit. For some, their personal sins hold them back while others are consumed with worldly cares that choke disciple making out of them. In both cases, something arises that keeps us from being obedient.
The last soil is good and prepared. It doesn't have the same distractions and worldly cares and that allows it to bring forth much fruit. These are the people who hear about DMM, choose to make disciple making a lifestyle, and make disciples worth multiplying who make disciples worth multiplying.
What we see a lot of times is that people don't have the heart of a disciple maker yet. So what does it look like for us to actively develop a heart that will allow us to make disciples?
First, a disciple maker is willing to put in the hard work of daily obedience.
“When [disciples] read God's word they're not reading something to soothe and comfort their soul even though that might come. They're not reading something to inspire them to do great things even though that might come. They're actually reading it, saying, 'Hey this is God telling me His heart and I need to change my ways in order to align my heart with [Him],' and that we call obedience.”
If we really want to see fruit in our disciple making, it's going to take a lot of time, consistency and hanging in there.
Don't be discouraged thinking it's impossible because it's not impossible. It's just that we're going to have to do this when we're tired, not tired, happy, sad, in good times, in bad times and so on.
We don't have to be good at disciple making right away, but we should be preparing our hearts with a willingness to learn and be consistent.
No Sacrifice Too Great
A disciple maker is a willing to make sacrifices.
In the parable of the Pearl of Great Price from Matthew 13, a merchant in search of fine pearls comes across a magnificent pearl and sells everything he has in order to buy it. In passages like Mark 8, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him with all we are.
What this means is, as disciple makers, we should be willing to give up a couple nights a week and inconvenience ourselves to spend substantial time with people who don't know Jesus.
A lot of people quit because disciple making ends up costing them more than they thought, but the heart of a disciple maker shifts from a point of seeing what they do as sacrifices and instead sees them as an honor — as nothing in comparison to all that Christ has done and is doing for us.
“To give my coat away to someone on the street is an honor, to be able to go out and help someone fall in love with Jesus or lead a Discovery Bible Study is an honor. These are not sacrifices even though they may come with discomfort; rather, it is an honor to be able to be counted as someone who could be uncomfortable for the cause of Christ and His kingdom.”
Stand Your Ground Even When You Stand Alone
A disciple maker is willing to go against popular opinion and/or live in social conflict or isolation.
Not everybody around you will like what you’re doing and it can range from casual indifference to serious opposition and trying to shame you into not doing it. Most people aren’t willing to pay the social cost required in order to live the life of a disciple maker, but they also don’t like the implication that they aren’t doing something they should be doing, so they fight back.
Now, not everyone is shaking in their boots or shaking their fists like this, but it is a possibility.
Part of the social cost of being a disciple maker may actually have to be paid within the church as well. Maybe you’ve actually been considered an unfaithful church attender because your disciple making efforts keep you away at times.
“My own father, [David Watson], who has helped thousands of churches be started and millions of people be baptized was actually looked at by a pastor who said, kind-of-funny kind-of-not, that he was the worst church attender that they had.” — Paul Watson
We’re not encouraging people to ignore church, but sometimes we don't get to fit in with what churches consider to be the avid church follower. Obeying the call to make disciples leads us down a different path at times.
Because you're out there making disciples, you may not have the opportunity to engage in the latest men's or women's retreat, Christmas play, or missions outreach over in Guatemala. These things are totally fine, but you might not have the money for them because you gave it away, and you might not have the time for it because you committed to other things that are more in line with making disciples and what God wants you to do.
For singles, people may look at us and say, “Oh no, I can’t do disciple making like you because I have a family,” as if to say, “Only people who haven’t been lucky enough to get married and start families have time for such things.”
That can sting a little even when you know that's not what they intended, but it also betrays a misconception that disciple making is only for clergy, overachieving Christians and people (mostly single) who have a lot of time on their hands.
That's not the case, and there are hardworking, disciple-making mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in my neck of the woods, and all over the world, who prove otherwise.
Put in the Time
Disciple makers are willing to put in the time to pray and have a deep walk with the Lord.
We’re not talking about one or two extra chapters of scripture or an extra ten minutes of prayer even though that's where it might start.
Many of the most effective disciple makers on the planet read five or more chapters of Scripture and spend upwards of an hour a day in prayer talking to Jesus. That takes time, which means that they’re saying ‘no’ to some good things so they can say ‘yes’ to others.
Now, you don’t have to start at more than an hour of prayer and five plus chapters of the Bible per day, but the idea is to grow in that direction, not because we’re legalistic and this is the arbitrary bar you have to meet in order to receive the blessing of the Lord. That’s nonsense.
We want to grow in this direction because we are going to experience seasons with high levels of spiritual warfare, spiritual, emotional, and mental drought, physical weariness, and ministry for the Lord, all of which require us to be deeply connected with God.
We may be at a level in our disciple making now where one or two chapters a day is enough to sustain us, but as God begins to give us more responsibilities and calls us into a deeper walk with Him, our need for time in prayer and God’s Word is going to increase.
It's not that we have a checklist for whatever level we're at in disciple making, it's that the more God gives us and calls us to, the more our desire and desperation to spend time with Him is going to grow.
If we’re unwilling to put in the time it takes to be faithful with what God gives us, He is going to be unwilling to give us the responsibility.
Abide In the Vine
Whether it’s personal sin, pressure from friends, family and church to stick with traditional ministry (or no ministry) — or something else entirely — there are things that can rise up and choke our obedience to God in disciple making.
There will be folks we think will be our partners for the long haul who succumb to the fear that this life is going to require more of them than they’re willing to give. Maybe even some who are reading this are feeling that way.
I too have days when I feel afraid of how much it’s going to cost of my comfort, time, money, habits and relationships to become a disciple worth multiplying who makes disciples worth multiplying. I doubt my ability to go on and I dread the prospect of being misunderstood and running afoul of my family, friends and ministry partners.
If that’s you, then be honest with yourself, with God and with the people He has brought alongside you to take this journey with. What’s going to get us through is not checking off a box, holding up a facade of having it all together, or meeting some arbitrary quota of prayer time and Bible chapters. God Himself and His glory are our goals. He is the starting point, the finish line and the means by which we reach it.
“ Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” — John 15:4-5 ESV
Christ is our vine. If we pursue disciple making in our own strength, for our own ends, and apart from His sustaining power, we will undoubtedly burn out and give up; however, if we abide in Christ and He in us, He will transform us little by little into true disciple makers and we shall be those who bear much fruit that lasts.
As Jesus says in Matthew 9:37-38, “ The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” Let us therefore pray for our own hearts, our churches and our brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Lord may grow in us, day by day, His heart for the lost.
Thanks for reading! If you found this blog helpful and would like to learn more about what it takes to be a disciple worth multiplying, be sure to listen to “Why Is It so Hard to Mobilize Others to Make Disciples?” here or on the CDM App under podcasts!