“Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—MATT. 28:19.
SONG 60 It Means Their Life
1-2. (a) According to Jesus’ command recorded at Matthew 28:18-20, what is the primary mission of the Christian congregation? (b) What questions will we consider in this article?
THE apostles must have been full of anticipation as they gathered on a mountainside. Jesus had, after his resurrection, arranged for them to meet him at that location. (Matt. 28:16) That was perhaps the occasion when “he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time.” (1 Cor. 15:6) Why had Jesus called his disciples to this meeting? To give them an exciting mission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Read Matthew 28:18-20.
2 The disciples who heard Jesus’ words became part of the first-century Christian congregation. The primary mission of that congregation was to make more disciples of Christ.* Today, there are tens of thousands of true Christian congregations throughout the earth, and the primary mission of those congregations remains the same. In this article, we will consider four questions: Why is disciple-making so important? What does it involve? Do all Christians have a part in making disciples? And why do we need patience for this work?
WHY IS DISCIPLE-MAKING SO IMPORTANT?
3 Why is the disciple-making work so important? Because only disciples of Christ can be friends of God. In addition, those who follow Christ improve their lives now and have the hope of enjoying endless life in the future. (Read John 14:6; 17:3.) Certainly, Jesus has entrusted us with an important responsibility, but we do not do this work by ourselves. The apostle Paul wrote about himself and certain close associates: “We are God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:9) What a privilege Jehovah and Christ have given to imperfect humans!
4. What can we learn from the experience involving Ivan and Matilde?
4 The disciple-making work can bring us much joy. Consider the example of Ivan and his wife, Matilde, in Colombia. They witnessed to a young man named Davier, who told them: “I want to make changes in my life, but I can’t.” Davier was a prizefighter who used drugs, drank excessively, and lived with his girlfriend, Erika. Ivan explains: “We began visiting him in his isolated village, which meant riding our bicycles many hours along muddy roads. After noticing improvements in Davier’s behavior and attitude, Erika joined in the Bible study.” In time, Davier gave up drugs, drinking, and boxing. He also married Erika. Says Matilde: “When Davier and Erika got baptized in 2016, we remembered that Davier used to say, ‘I want to change, but I can’t.’ We just couldn’t hold back our tears.” Without a doubt, we feel intense joy when we help people become disciples of Christ.
WHAT DOES DISCIPLE-MAKING INVOLVE?
5. What is the first step in making disciples?
5 We take the first step in making disciples when we “search out” those with the right heart condition. (Matt. 10:11) We prove that we truly are Jehovah’s Witnesses by witnessing to all whom we meet. We prove that we are genuine Christians by following Christ’s command to preach.
6. What can help us to be successful in the ministry?
6 Some people are eager to learn Bible truths, but many we meet may seem to be indifferent at first. We may have to stimulate their interest. To be successful in the ministry, we need to have a well-thought-out strategy. Select specific subjects that will likely interest those you will meet. Then plan how you will introduce the topic.
7. How might you start a conversation with someone, and why do you think it is important to listen and show respect?
7 For example, you might ask a householder: “Would you mind if I ask your opinion on something? Many problems facing us today affect people around the world. Do you think that it would take a world government to solve the world’s problems?” Then you could discuss Daniel 2:44. Or you might say to a neighbor: “What do you think is the key to raising well-behaved children? I would like to hear your opinion.” Then discuss Deuteronomy 6:6, 7. Whatever subject you choose to discuss, think about the people who will hear you. Imagine how they will benefit from learning what the Bible really teaches. When talking with them, it is important that you listen to them and respect their viewpoint. That way you will understand them better, and they will be more likely to listen to you.
8. Why does making return visits require persistence?
8 Before a person decides to study the Bible, you may need to invest time and effort in making return visits. Why? Because people may not be available when we call on them again. Also, you may need to return several times before the householder feels comfortable enough with you to accept a Bible study. Remember, a plant is more likely to grow when it is watered regularly. Similarly, an interested person’s love for Jehovah and Christ is more likely to grow when we regularly discuss God’s Word with that person.
DO ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE A PART IN MAKING DISCIPLES?
9-10. Why can we say that every Christian minister is involved in finding honesthearted ones?
9 Every Christian minister is involved in helping to find honesthearted ones. We could liken this work to finding a lost child. In what way? Consider the real-life example of a three-year-old boy who wandered away from home. About 500 people were involved in searching for him. Finally, some 20 hours after the child went missing, a volunteer discovered the little boy in a cornfield. That volunteer refused to take credit for locating the boy. He said: “It took hundreds of people to find him.”
10 Many people are like that child. They feel lost. They have no hope, but they want help. (Eph. 2:12) Over eight million of us are involved in trying to find these deserving ones. You may not personally find someone who will study the Bible with you. However, other publishers working the same territory may find someone who wants to learn the truth found in God’s Word. When a brother or sister meets someone who becomes a disciple of Christ, everyone who shared in the search has good reason to rejoice.
11. Even if you are not conducting a Bible study, in what other ways could you help to make disciples?
11 Even if you are not presently conducting a Bible study, you can assist in making disciples in other ways. For example, you can welcome new ones and befriend them when they come to the Kingdom Hall. In that way, you can help to convince them that love identifies us as true Christians. (John 13:34, 35) The answers you give during the meetings, though brief, can teach newly associated ones to express their convictions in a sincere and respectful manner. You can also accompany a new publisher in the ministry and help him to use the Scriptures to reason with people. By doing that, you will be teaching him to imitate Christ.—Luke 10:25-28.
12. Do we need exceptional abilities to make disciples? Explain.
12 None of us should think that we need exceptional abilities to teach others to be disciples of Jesus. Why not? Consider the example of Faustina, who lives in Bolivia. She could not read when she began associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since then, she has learned to read to a limited degree. She is now baptized, and she loves to teach others. Usually, she conducts five Bible studies each week. Although Faustina cannot yet read as well as most of her students, she has helped six people to the point of baptism.—Luke 10:21.
13. Even if we are very busy, what are some of the blessings that we can enjoy in the disciple-making work?
13 Many Christians are very busy caring for important responsibilities. Still, they make time for conducting Bible studies, and they get much joy from it. Note Melanie’s example. She was a single parent, raising her eight-year-old daughter in Alaska. She also had a full-time job and helped care for a parent with cancer. Melanie was the only Witness in her isolated town. She used to pray for strength to face the cold and go out preaching because she really wanted to find someone with whom she could study the Bible. Eventually she met Sara, who was thrilled to learn that God has a personal name. After some time, Sara accepted a Bible study. Says Melanie: “On Friday evenings, I would be exhausted, but my daughter and I both benefited by going out to conduct that study. We enjoyed researching answers to Sara’s questions, and we were so pleased to see her become Jehovah’s friend.” Sara courageously faced opposition, left her church, and got baptized.
WHY MAKING DISCIPLES REQUIRES PATIENCE
14. (a) How is disciple-making like fishing? (b) What effect do Paul’s words recorded at 2 Timothy 4:1, 2 have on you?
14 Even if your ministry seems to be unproductive, do not give up hope of finding potential disciples. Remember that Jesus likened disciple-making to fishing. Fishermen may spend many hours before they catch any fish. Often they work late at night or early in the morning, and sometimes they have to sail long distances. (Luke 5:5) In like manner, some disciple-makers spend many hours patiently “fishing” at different times and in various locations. Why? To improve their chances of meeting people. Those who put in the extra effort are often rewarded by meeting people who are interested in our message. Could you try preaching at a time of day when you are more likely to meet people or at a location where you are more likely to find them?—Read 2 Timothy 4:1, 2.
15. Why does conducting Bible studies require patience?
15 Why does conducting Bible studies require patience? One reason is that we need to do more than help the student come to know and love the doctrines found in the Bible. We need to help the student come to know and love the Author of the Bible, Jehovah. And in addition to teaching a student what Jesus requires of his disciples, we need to help the student come to know how to live as a true Christian. We must patiently assist him as he struggles to put Bible principles into practice. Some are able to change their thinking and habits in just a few months; others take longer.
16. What did you learn from the experience involving Raúl?
16 A missionary in Peru had an experience that illustrates the benefit of being patient. “I had studied two books with a Bible student named Raúl,” says the missionary. “But he still faced serious challenges in his life. He had a stormy marriage, used foul language, and had children who found it difficult to respect him. He came to the meetings regularly, so I continued visiting him to help him and his family. More than three years after I met him, he qualified for baptism.”
17. What will we discuss in the next article?
17 Jesus told us to “go . . . make disciples of people of all the nations.” To fulfill that commission, we often have to speak with people whose way of thinking is very different from our own, including those who do not belong to any religious organization or who may not believe that God exists. The next article considers how we can present the good news to people with different backgrounds.
SONG 68 Sowing Kingdom Seed
The Christian congregation has a primary mission—to help people become disciples of Christ. This article provides practical suggestions that will help us carry out our mission.
EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: Disciples of Christ do more than learn what Jesus taught. They put what they learn into action. They try to follow Jesus’ footsteps, or example, as closely as possible.—1 Pet. 2:21.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A man leaving on vacation accepts literature from Witnesses at an airport. Later, while sightseeing, he sees other Witnesses doing public witnessing. After he returns home, publishers call at his door.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: The same man accepts a Bible study. Eventually, he qualifies for baptism.