My boys recently asked me to make one of their favorite recipes… Cranberry Apple Crumb Pie. It continues to be a huge crowd-pleaser, with just the perfect ratio of sweet to tart. However, if I decided to replace the apples with, say, peaches, it wouldn’t actually be an apple pie, would it? Whether it turned out good or not wouldn’t be the point. It simply wouldn’t be what my boys had asked me to make.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples…. Matthew 28:18-19
Sometimes when believers try to carry out Christ’s final instructions given in the Great Commission, they often end up not achieving the desired outcome due to a critical substitution error. In place of presenting disciples, we serve up converts instead. Converts are necessary, but they are not what Jesus commissioned us to make. Of course, people need to understand the basic message of the Gospel, but once they get to the point where they “confess with their mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in their heart God raised Him from the dead” (Rom 10:9-10), the job is not done. It’s then that we need to roll up our sleeves and really get ready for some work.
Parents and child care workers can understand this process very well. No infant could survive very long on their own… even months or years after birth. A child needs constant loving, patient care and nutrition as he or she slowly grows, develops and matures. In the same way, it would be foolish for us to expect spiritual newborns to navigate the dangers of this world without patient interaction and wise guidance.
Discipleship can be a messy and sometimes lengthy process where the ‘disciplers’ need to be ready to endure with, pray for, walk along with, train, and be companions to new believers as God fashions the image of His Son within them. And yes, it’s hard… frustrating … slow … and sometimes very difficult. It’s also very rewarding when we are blessed to see them develop their own personal relationship with Jesus where they can, in turn, help birth, instruct and encourage other believers in their new found faith.
So, as we work at preparing what was requested by Jesus, let’s resist the temptation to take shortcuts or substitute ingredients for the sake of convenience or expediency. After all, He is the Master Chef, who knows how to best season a life so that through us, others can “taste the kindness of the Lord.” (1 Pet. 2:3)