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  • Writer's pictureJoel Riehle

Made to Multiply

“There exists in every church something that sooner or later works against the very purpose for which it came into existence. So we must strive very hard, by the grace of God to keep the church focused on the mission that Christ originally gave to it." - C.S. Lewis

{Sermon from Community Christian Church for the audio of the entire sermon go here}

Jesus, Disciple Maker

Know Your Role

In high school I got to be a part of a student led small group. It was my role to prepare some of the lessons bring snacks and communicate with the group. Dang this was even before text messaging. It was a fun group. We had this guy in there who didn’t even go to church but he liked the group and had been invited through friends. So when this guy Matt volunteered his place for a meeting I took him up on it.

This was also before Waze and Mapquest people. He gave me directions and told me to turn before the ice cream stand and his house was the third on the right with a basketball hoop. So I walk up to his door. My Bible and lesson book in hand. Also two bags of groceries and two two-liters in tow. Thankfully they answer quickly and I introduce myself telling them I am Matt’s friend and his mom who answers seems nice if not welcoming. So I walk past her and Matt's younger brother to find the kitchen where I can drop these heavy bags off at. And I’m starting to get uncomfortable being around these people I’ve never met before without my friend coming to greet me and then the mom and brother and now dad are standing at the entrance to the kitchen so I ask “Where is Matt?” And that’s when the confused mother points to the little boy and says this is Matt.

So many thoughts were processed in that moment. But no joke, I don’t think I said another word, but I grabbed all my grocery bags and books and speed-walked right past that confused family and out the door. I got in my car, found Matt's house and when I saw him I was like "Dude you had one job."

You Need to Know Your Role

You know who knew His job really well? Jesus. Sure it's the church-y answer. But I don't think I have always appreciated how well Jesus knew and pursued His purpose.

My argument is going to be that we are struggling as individuals and as group because we are not focused on that which Jesus told us to be about.

Cause as Christ followers we aren’t in the the changing culture business anymore than McDonald’s is in the making people fatter business. Now if they do good business that will happen but that’s their business. They are in the business of business.

We are in the business of making more disciples of Jesus.

Jesus spent a majority of the gospels just pouring into his 12 disciples. He was a disciple-maker. And this was a very well thought out plan. So when Jesus left this earth he would have been branded by American standards an unsuccessful pastor.

That’s a pretty startling contrast given the recent death of Billy Graham and how many good eulogizes that wonder pastor has been given.

But yeah think about it. Jesus didn’t start a church, he made disciples, he knew the church would naturally happen if you had disciples. Jesus didn’t command them to hold rallies, Evangelism will naturally happen if you make disciples. He consistently and clearly left us His example and the call to make disciples why are we so hesitant to make that the focus of our lives?

You Catch More Than You Learn

I learned some parenting skills from Jason and Heather Kauffman. But not because they taught them to me. Or even because I wanted to learn them. In 2005, I was 11 years away from having my girls and I was new to this area and this job. But Jason and Heather and Melissa and I shared a love for Survivor so every Thursday, that’s right the show used to air on Thursdays. We’d eat dinner together and watch the show BUT Jason and Heather had a 3 year old and a baby. They were cute I liked seeing them, but they weren’t why we were there. And like I said learning how to be parents wasn’t why we were there. But in the process of doing life together I caught some of Jason and Heather’s tactics in parenting.

You see what I’m saying. You don’t need to set up an extra weekly Bible study where you meet someone younger than you at Starbucks to teach them the Bible. (I personally think that’s an effective start to discipleship, but…) You need to lead an authentic and real life attempting to Follow God and constantly be turning more and more stuff over to Him, and then cause someone else to see you doing it. Include and intentionally invest in someone else’s life. Learning and growth will naturally happen if you focus on your own relationship with God and sharing that with a select group of people.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

It's been God's plan from the beginning.

Gen 1:11 "These seeds will produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came"

Like produces like. And whether you like it or not you are producing fruit that is like you. In your families and in your work places and groups of friends and activities.

God created us in His own image and then told us to go out and multiply ourselves. Discipleship has been in our DNA from the beginning because it is part of who our infinite and mysterious father in heaven is.

Multiplication Has Always Been Part Of God's People

In my opinion it seems like the Israelites were not a very evangelical people. Like they were more likely to commit genocide on their neighbors then they were to proselytize them. But I am wrong in thinking that God's plan of multiplying His people wasn't in effect in the Old Testament.

Right after the commandments are given the the newly freed Israelites. God gives them this advice on how to put these laws into practice.

Exodus 6:4 “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

God goes to great lengths to explain what this multiplication process should look like. It is clearly meant to be what we are all about. We should talk about it when we are waking up and when we are going to bed. When we are going to places and when we are returning home. We should make reminders on our bodies and pass by and through reminders in our house. If you do this then things will go well for you it promises the Israelites and multiplication…discipleship will naturally happen.

Thousands of years before the church ever existed God had instituted the family as the main disciple-making unit.

The Bible is chalked full of examples of discipleship. The fact that we have to go back and point them out is insane. It’s like someone studying American history 3,000 years from now and picking out examples of how we Americans liked our freedom. It’s just not something that should have to be pointed out.

Moses trained Joshua to take over and lead the Israelites into the promised land.

Elijah mentored and shared his ministry of prophecy with Elisha.

Paul took many younger men on his missionary journeys with them for the purpose of training them to pass it along to others.

And of course the ultimate disciple-maker, Jesus

When Jesus left His disciples and told them to go and make more disciples, you better believe they had a clear idea of what that looked like. They didn't have any gaps in their training. Yet they still had to wait for the Holy Spirit.

The same is true for us. We might think we have a gap of knowledge but the real gap that's a problem isn't the difference between what we know and what we don't know. The gap that is a problem isn't the distance between what we know and what we don't know but the distance between what we know and what we OBEY!

God through History

I believe the major thing that God is doing in His kingdom throughout the world is calling people back to these original methods of being a Christian.

Here’s a quick glance of different movements in Christianity

-The early church reclaimed a world that was lost. Like sheep without a shepherd.

It was a fast development from a sect of believers inside Judaism to the dominant force in the Roman Empire. It was a dizzying ascent and a lot of people think some of the core concepts were lost in the transition.

The church in the Middle Ages had become a large corporation full of corruption and missing the some of the heart of that multiplication through individual lives that had gotten it to that point. There were intermediaries between us and Christ. People didn't own their own faith, quite often because they didn’t have access to scripture. And God in His timing dramatically increased the written Word through the Gutenberg press. And Martin Luther and other reformers impress upon the world to need to learn the Word of God for themselves.

  • So the Protestant Reformations reclaimed the Word of God so that the sheep could hear their Shepherd

There’s all kinds of fallout from these developments. The rise of nationalism and wars between protestant and catholics. But Christianity has remained largely unchanged. It’s grown weaker especially in Europe and there’s been revivals in places. There has been underground growth in Asia...

But today throughout all the world I am convinced that God is moving in a big way through a movement of disciple making. And so..

  • The Discipleship movement is reclaiming the methods of Jesus so that the sheep can follow the Good Shepherd.

If you doubt this check out any church's website or any Christian organization's literature. Read any other Christian blogger and you will hear that cry for individual lives that are made for multiplication.

3 Challenges

Read One of Jesus' Biographies

Even if you've done this recently I promise you if you read through Matthew, Mark, Luke or John with eyes looking for how Jesus did ministry not just what he said, you will be exposed to new stuff.

Start by Starting

If I was going to plan to run a 10K (totally hypothetical, that sounds pointless). I have two courses of action. I could read a book on how to become a runner. I could tell myself that I needed to wait until my girls got to be in elementary school cause I would have time then. And I could start a diet and tell myself I needed to lose 15 pounds before I could start running. I could do a lot of things to “prepare” for a 10k.

But really, on top of all of those plans, I need to get out there and start by jogging. Doing the run/walk thing a couple times a week.

Don’t wait til you have perfect knowledge. Experience is the best way to learn anyway. In Jesus' training of the disciples he often sent them out. Then brought them back for edification.

You already have relationships in your life where you carry influence. Leverage that. Bring someone else alongside you in your journey to be more like Jesus. And don't make excuses.

Pray about it and begin by doing something this week to be pursuing a something that looks like a discipleship relationship.

Find an Encourager

This was always intended to be a process that was repeated rather than restarted. So the fact that you may never have been officially trained in this is not your fault. But surely if God called us to make disciples it is possible!

So find someone who will pray for you. Someone who will be your cheerleader and hold you accountable for following through with stuff? You got someone like that in mind?

If you get really lucky, they may be hearing from God as well that they need this and then invite you to be a part of their journey as well. Maybe they'll disciple you as you seek to learn this lifestyle.

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