Who Are Making Disciples?
SCORES of religions claim to be Christian. Are they all truly such? How can we tell? One way is in the matter of making disciples.
A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. To be his follower means to be not just a believer but an imitator. From the time of his baptism until his death, Jesus spent much of his time in preaching and teaching the good news of God’s kingdom. He was, in fact, addressed as “Teacher.” (John 13:13; Matt. 23:8) He is also called “the faithful and true witness” for he faithfully witnesses to his Father’s will and purpose.—Rev. 3:14; John 18:37; 1 Tim. 6:13.
Jesus commanded his disciples to do as he did. Before ascending to heaven he told them: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” He further told them: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8.
Actually, without such witnessing there is no salvation for Christians. The apostle Paul clearly shows this, saying: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” Jesus made the same point when he said that he would confess before his Father in heaven only those who had confessed him before men upon earth.—Rom. 10:10; Matt. 10:32, 33.
Generally, church leaders acknowledge the Christian’s obligation to witness and make disciples. Well-known Baptist preacher Billy Graham acknowledges: “We should all be witnesses for Christ.” Ministers and priests of other religions have often expressed themselves similarly. But what is the actual situation among the churches?
Do church members in general witness for God and his Son, and are they making disciples by teaching others as Jesus said his followers should do? What of yourself? Has your pastor encouraged you to do this? Has he or your church taught and equipped you to fulfill this preaching and teaching commission?
If you were to witness to others, what would you say? How would you go about making Christian disciples of others? Do you try to witness to your neighbors or to your associates at work about the good news? Actually, very few who profess to be Christians do this. Doubtless that is why the book What Americans Believe and How They Worship (1962) states: “Stanley Jones was disturbingly close to the truth when he remarked that the modern church is more a field for evangelism than a force for it.” Why is this?
Many church members frankly admit that they do not feel equipped to make disciples. Many others simply have never felt that their church expected this of them. Yet Christ Jesus’ own words setting forth this commission for his followers are unmistakably clear. And there are persons today who are doing the very things he instructed and doing so as a united body. Consider some of the comments by religious leaders that show that this is so.
One of Denmark’s foremost dailies, Berlingske Tidende (August 9, 1969), editorialized: “One might wish that the church would work just half as zealously to spread information on what Christianity is as the [Jehovah’s] Witnesses do in propagating” their beliefs. And a leading Protestant pastor in Brooklyn told his congregation: “I admire the Witnesses for talking about their religion. . . . We indulge in a conspiracy of silence. Religion is the one thing we never talk about. . . . The Witnesses give evidence, verbal evidence, every day of their faith. They speak out.”
Paulist priest and editor J. B. Sheerin once wrote that the Witnesses “present a challenge to us Catholics.” Why? Because “they are taking certain features of true religion and practicing them to the hilt while we Catholics are neglecting these features of our religion.” After telling of the zeal of the Witnesses he asked: “Have you heard of any Catholic Convention whose members rose up early in the morning to give out Catholic pamphlets on the streetcorners of the convention city?”
When you hear that there are more than a million and a half of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the world, it does not mean that that many persons are associated with them at their meetings. No, it means that that many Witnesses shared in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and making disciples every month for the past “service” year, 1970-1971. Jehovah’s witnesses count as Witnesses only those who actually witness!
Granted it is not easy to witness to God and Christ and to their kingdom in a Godless wicked world. There are scoffers, ridiculers who absolutely refuse to listen to anything having to do with God and the Bible. Besides these, there are some whose ears and minds are closed to any religious message save that of their own Church. They inherited unquestioningly their religion from their parents and they do not like to be disturbed by anyone asking them to think about why they believe the way they do. So it is a test of one’s faith to be a true follower of Jesus, witnessing as he did.
Why is it that the Christian witnesses of Jehovah are able to do this hard work from which others shrink back? Because of their understanding of God’s Word and their being equipped for this ministry. They have come to know Jehovah God and love him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and they love their neighbors as they love themselves. Out of sheer gratitude to their heavenly Father and out of unselfish interest in their fellowman they engage in the work of making disciples.—Mark 12:29-31.
So as to be able to witness properly for God and Christ, to do so with wisdom, perseverance and courage, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah meet together three times a week for meetings. In these meetings they learn to understand Bible truths, see how Bible prophecies are being fulfilled, are taught how to apply Bible principles in their lives, and receive instruction on how to go about witnessing to others.
They go forth to preach on Sundays and at other convenient times, beginners being aided by more experienced ones. They come to the people with a friendly smile and endeavor to engage the householders in conversation about present conditions, mankind’s need for better government and how this will be provided by God’s kingdom about which Jesus spoke and for which he taught his followers to pray. Where interest is found, Bible literature is left and return visits are made for the purpose of establishing a Bible study in the home. Old and young, men and women, and even children share in this disciple-making activity.
The apostle Paul told the Christians at Corinth to “become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” Paul actively shared in making disciples, preaching and teaching publicly, as well as teaching interested ones in their private homes. Since the apostle Paul was outstandingly a preacher and a teacher, it follows that all who would heed his admonition would need to be likewise preachers and teachers. Do you wish to be such an imitator of Jesus and of Paul?—1 Cor. 11:1; Acts 20:20.
If your pastor is not equipping you for this, if your church is not teaching you how to be a witness for God and Christ, why not attend the meetings of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, where you can find such examples and help? You will be most welcome!